To commemorate the 300th anniversary of Relandus’ death, the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University, and the Vossius Center, University of Amsterdam organise a colloquium on the work and influence of Adrianus Reland (1676-1718) on Monday 5 February. Part of the programme is an exhibition of his manuscripts in the University Library.
On February 5, 1718, Adrianus Relandus, professor of Oriental Languages at the faculty of Philosophy, University of Utrecht, died at young age of smallpox. His lifespan concurs with what Paul Hazard has labelled as La Crise de la Conscience Européenne. Relandus (1676-1718) was born in the same year as Gisbertus Voetius died, who was professor of theology in Utrecht and opponent of the new philosophy of Rene Descartes.
After being educated at the Atheneum Illustre in Amsterdam and the universities of Utrecht and Leiden, Relandus was appointed in the ‘Philosophische faculteit’, Faculty of Philosophy in Utrecht in 1700 to teach Oriental languages. In 1705, he published De Religione Mohammedica in which he advocated a more objective account of this religion. His De Religione Mohammedica was translated into different languages, including English and French. Besides, Relandus was an important figure in the geografica sacra. In 1714, he published Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata.
Travelling to the east from his closet in Utrecht
Relandus never left his home country. As Edward Gibbon wrote: […] ‘Reland, a judicious student, had travelled over the East in his closet at Utrecht’. Relandus was a passionate collector of material about languages in the colonies, i.e. the Netherlands Indies. He was in contact with travellers and collectors, e.g. the Dutch minister Francois Valentijn, Nicolaes Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam, cartographer, diplomate, and Gisbertus Cuper, mayor of Deventer.