By Joanna Rozendaal
This page features just a name: “Maria Elisabeth de Wale,” the ‘W’ written with a rather peculiar flourish. That is all information this eighteenth-century woman book owner inscribed in one of her books. Normally, the story would have ended there, but as it turns out, Maria Elisabeth de Wale is known to us still.
Maria Elisabeth de Wale (1691-1753) was the Lady of Ankeveen, a small Catholic enclave in the predominantly Protestant Dutch Republic. In her role as patroness of this village she made sure to protect and help her Catholic “flock,” among others by building almshouses for the local poor, supporting Catholic preachers, and providing local workers with ample employment. Works of Christian charity made up an important part of her life, it seems.
Her strong sense of religiosity is reflected in her book ownership as well. Her book collection was brought to auction in 1755, two years after her death. It must have been quite an impressive library: the auction catalogue announcing the book sale is 234 pages long, offering well over 6,000 books. At first glance her library reflects an interest in a wide variety of subjects, but (practical) religious books comprise the most important part of her book collection.
The book discussed here, the Christeliicken Waer-seggher (The Christian Truth-teller), is a Catholic emblem book on religious life written by the Jesuit author Jan David and thus it fits well within De Wale’s large collection of religious, devotional books. It is one of the early publications in a relatively new genre of moral, religious literature in the Southern Netherlands: the Jesuit emblem book. Adorned with a hundred engravings by Antwerp engraver Theodoor Galle, this emblem book contains questions and answers on the principal truths of Catholic faith.
This particular book is mentioned on page 39 of her sale’s catalogue and was sold to a new owner for either 1 guilder and 16 stuivers or 2 guilders (De Wale owned 2 copies of this particular edition). After the sale, the book disappeared from sight, but over a hundred years later it resurfaced when the book collection of the Flemish professor J.F. Heremans was gifted to the Ghent University Library, where it remains to this day.
Source: David, J. Christeliicken waerseggher, de principale stucken van t’christen geloof en leuen int cort begrijpende. Met een rolle der devgtsaemheyt daer op dienende. Ende een Schild-wacht teghen de valsche waersegghers, tooueraers, etc., Antwerp, Plantijn, 1603. Copy: Ghent University Library, BIB.HER.000909. Photos reproduced with permission.
 Geheym-schryver van staat- en kerke der Vereenigde Nederlanden [..]. Utrecht, J.C. ten Bosch, 1759. Vol.1, pp. 376-77. Municipal Archives Gooi & Vechtstreek (SAGV). Registers van transporten, hypotheken en taxaties, 1648-1791. 155.1.3369 and 3370.
 Bibliotheca Ankeveniana. Sive Catalogus Exquisitissimorum & Rarissimorum Librorum. Latinorum, Gallicorum, Belgicorum &c. Amsterdam, H.W. van Welbergen, . Middlebrow Enlightenment: Disseminating Ideas, Authors, and Texts in Europe, 1665-1830 (MEDIATE) database. https://test.mediate-database.cls.ru.nl/dashboard/ (the public version of the MEDIATE database sandbox will be available in late 2019 or early 2020)
 Corbellini, S.; Hoogvliet, M.; Ramakers, B. (eds.). Discovering the Riches of the Word: Religious Reading in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Leiden, Brill, 2015. p. 342 and further.
 Van Duyse, Johan. Heremans, Jacob F.J. (1825-1884). UGentMemorie. Edited on 10.03.2015. www.ugentmemorie.be/personen/heremans-jacob-fj1825-1884