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Byvanck, A. W.

    Full Name: Byvanck, A. W.

    Other Names:

    • Alexander Willem Byvanck

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1884

    Date Died: 1970

    Place Born: Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): ancient and archaeology


    Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History. Byvanck attended the Gymnasium at The Hague, in which city his father, W.G.C. Byvanck (1848-1925), was librarian at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library). Between 1902 and 1907, he studied classics at Leiden University, and he continued his study in Bonn, Germany, in 1907 and 1908. He was particularly interested in the history of the art of antiquity and made trips to Greece, Egypt and Italy. He received his doctoral degree at Leiden University in 1912, with a dissertation on the earliest history of Greek settlements in Italy and Sicily (Magna Graecia): De Magnae Graeciae Historia Antiquissima. At that time, he already had a position at the Meermanno-Westreenianum Museum in The Hague, where he rewrote the first volume of the Guide for Visitors (the Portraits and the Departments of Egypt and Classical Antiquities), which was published in 1912. He spent two months in Greece in 1913. In this year, Byvanck was appointed curator of the manuscripts at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, a position which he held until 1922. During this period, he made a catalog of Northern Netherlandish miniatures, together with his friend G. J. Hoogewerff. This three-volume standard work: Noord-Nederlandse miniaturen in handschriften der 14de, 15de en 16de eeuwen verzameld en beschreven, published between 1922 and 1925, includes a systematic description of 182 Dutch illuminated manuscripts along with 240 plates. Byvanck continued publishing on miniatures, mostly in the Bulletin van de Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond. In 1917, he had started his academic career at Leiden University, teaching classical archaeology. In 1922, he was appointed Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History and delivered his inaugural lecture on Het Hellenisme en zijn strijd in de antieke wereld (Hellenism and its struggle in the Ancient World). His research also included classical archaeology in the Netherlands during the Roman period. This interest can be traced back as far as 1913, when he began collecting and studying the sources of Roman history in his country. The result was his three-volume Excerpta Romana. De bronnen der Romeinsche geschiedenis van Nederland, published between 1931 and 1947, and his two-volume Nederland in den Romeinschen tijd (1943). Between 1946 and 1965 appeared De Kunst der Oudheid, a five-volume survey of Ancient Art, covering the art from early Egypt up to the Byzantine period. In 1946, Byvanck was elected a member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. When he retired as professor, in 1954, he was honored with a festschrift in the Netherlands Year-book for History of Art 5 (1954). Byvanck was an eminent scholar, but not a very inspiring teacher. The communication with most of his students was rather reserved and authoritative (Den Boer, 1971). On the other hand, he was a stimulating organizer of excursions to Greece and Italy. He is also known as a capable administrator, who headed several institutions and committees. At his 80th birthday, he retired as the chief-editor of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond (Royal Netherlands Association of Antiquities). He had been an active contributor to the above mentioned Bulletin for 50 years!

    Selected Bibliography

    For a complete list, see: Byvanck-Quarles van Ufford L. Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 5 (1954): 309-331 and the Supplement of the N.K.J. issue of 1971: 1-15; eadem Bulletin van de Vereeniging tot bevordering der kennis van de Antieke Beschaving 46 (1971): 9-22; De Magnae Graeciae Historia Antiquissima. The Hague, 1912; Het Hellenisme en zijn strijd in de antieke wereld. Rede uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van hoogleraar aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden op 1 Februari 1922 (inaugural lecture) The Hague, 1922; and Hoogewerff, G.J. Noord-Nederlandsche miniaturen in handschriften der 14e, 15e en 16e eeuwen verzameld en beschreven. 3 vols. ‘s-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1922 -1925; Excerpta Romana. De bronnen der Romeinsche geschiedenis van Nederland. 3 vols. (Rijksgeschiedkundige Publicatiën 73,81, 89) The Hague, 1931-1947; Nederland in den Romeinschen tijd. 2 vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1943; De Kunst der Oudheid. 5 vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1946-1965. Festschrift: Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 5 (1954).


    Hoogewerff, G.J. Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 5 (1954): VII-IX; Glazema, P. Berichten van de Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek 5 (1954): 5; Van Hoorn, G. a.o. Bulletin van de Vereeniging tot bevordering der kennis van de Antieke Beschaving 29 (1954): 1-3; Den Boer, W. ibidem 39 (1964): [II-IV]; Zadoks-Josephus Jitta, A.N. Bijdragen en mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden 85 (1970): 359; Poelhekke, J.J. Mededelingen van het Nederlands Historisch Instituut te Rome 35 (1971): 12-16; Den Boer, W. Jaarboek Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen 1970 (1971): 246-255; Waszink J.H. [a.o.] Bulletin van de Vereeniging tot bevordering der kennis van de Antieke Beschaving 46 (1971): 2-8; Van der Hoeven, H. in J. Charité and A.J.C.M. Gabriëls (eds.) Nederlands Biografisch Woordenboek 4. The Hague: Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, 1994: 41- 42.


    "Byvanck, A. W.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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