What is the essence of a life? Which elements merit selection by
a biographer? Which should be discreetly left out? To what extent
can an intellectual’s thoughts and actions be captured in
schemes and structures, without distorting or reducing the richness
of a multifarious personality? These are the questions which
underlie the contributions to the volume The Quintessence
of Lives: Intellectual Biographies in the Low Countries presented
to Jan Roegiers. More than twenty-five historians have written
intellectual biographies of figures who created a ‘second
life’ for themselves on paper. All persons discussed are
firmly rooted in the intellectual life of the Low Countries and
were active there between the sixteenth and the twentieth century.
The volume is offered on the occasion of the retirement of Prof.
Dr. Jan Roegiers as full professor at the K.U.Leuven.
As head librarian and archivist, also in charge of the
university’s art collections, Jan Roegiers played a
pivotal role in collecting, preserving and making available the
documentary and artistic inheritance of the University of Leuven.
His main interest is in the intellectual and ecclesiastical history
of the Low Countries in the Modern period, but his curiosity also
made him venture far beyond the boundaries of the research group in
which he was active as professor ordinarius. Whatever the topic,
all his texts show how much he valued the craftmanship of
historiography, his great consideration for the wider context which
codetermines the acts and writings of committed intellectuals, and
his relish for erudition. These same features are variously
reflected in the biographical contributions in this volume. They
illustrate how social and cultural trends in the surrounding
environment affect the actual course of action chosen by
individuals who helped shape the intellectual life of our region.
Academically trained lay people and clerics, as well as academics
from many disciplines are to be encountered here. The authors look
at how they react to the Zeitgeist, how they often go against the
current and leave their mark on a whole era; or how individuals who
enjoyed the same education eventually go opposite ways and proclaim
The book will be published in the series Bibliothèque de
la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, in
recognition of the important part Jan Roegiers has played these
many years as director of this international academic journal,
which has recently started a formal cooperation with Brepols
Publishers. The contributions, mainly in English and French, but
also in German and Dutch are written by Erik Aerts, Bruno Boute,
Rob Brusten and friends, Luc Courtois, Pierre Delsaerdt,
Jean-Pierre Delville, Wim François, Willem Frijhoff, Lieve
Gevers, Craig Harline, Guido Hendrix, Marion Huibrechts, Staf
Janssens, Eddy Louchez, Jeroen Nilis, Ernest Persoons, Eddy Put,
Toon Quaghebeur, Ludo Simons, Violet Soen, Gilbert Tournoy, Michel
van Meerbeeck, Dries Vanysacker, Johan Verberckmoes, Tom
Verschaffel, Dries Welkenhuyzen, and Kaat Wils.