My friend Brian in Abu Dhabi said in a comment he posted a little while ago: ” ‘Elzevir’ sounds alarmingly foreign by Hastings County standards, doesn’t it? What’s the story on the name?”
Well, Brian, I’m glad you asked, because that is a darn good question. And one I had never thought about before, but it’s a good point. Then again, in a county where some of the other townships are named “Dungannon” and “Grimsthorpe” (“They sound like they come out of a Harry Potter book,” Raymond said the other day), maybe it’s not surprising to find the exotic-sounding “Elzevir” as the name for the township where Queensborough is located. (Although, as I noted in my previous post, Queensborough and the former Elzevir are now part of the GTA: the Greater Tweed Area.)
Anyway, here’s what my newly arrived and already-treasured copy of Times to Remember in Elzevir Township (by the late Jean Holmes, longtime clerk-treasurer and tax collector for the township, wife of Leslie, and mother of Billy, Ronnie, Matt and Heather Holmes – the latter a childhood friend of mine. I remember going to play at their house, and being stunned by the sheer modernity of a navy-blue sectional couch they had. The be-all and the end-all in couches – or chesterfields, as we tended to say. Of course, this would have been about 1966. But I digress) has to say on the subject:
“Legend has it that there was a group of Dutch immigrants settled at or near the village of Troy (Actinolite) [from Katherine: Actinolite being the only other hamlet, besides Queensborough, in Elzevir Township] prior to the 1820 survey [of Elzevir]. Certainly there have existed in the township such Dutch names as Voort, Vanmeer and Vandervoort. After the survey of 1820, these Dutch settlers supposedly moved and settled on the land. From them came the name, Elzevir which means elm, or hardwood or firewood. [I do not have a Dutch-English dictionary ready to hand, but from what I can find on the internet, this is not correct – though it would have made great sense to give the township a name that meant that, given its forestation.] However, the name Elzevir apparently came, not from the forests, but from the famous Dutch printers. Lodewijk Elzevir of Holland was the first [in the Netherlands, presumably; not the whole world] to begin the business of book-selling and printing. He started business at Lydon [I think Leiden] in 1580 and had published 150 works before 1617. His five sons followed in his footsteps. At least 1600 works were published by the Elzevirs, including a masterpiece, the Greek New Testament. In 1820, an Elzevir was Governor of Curacoa [presumably Curaçao]. A book printed by the Elzevirs was considered a real prize to own.”
Here is a link to the entry about the Dutch printing house of Elzevir on Wikipedia.
I don’t know about you, but I find it a little bit far-fetched to think that a township in the backwoods of Canada in 1820 was named for a 16th- and 17th-century Dutch printer, no matter how celebrated. Anybody got any other ideas?
On the other hand, when I’d finished reading aloud that entry from Jean Holmes’s history to Raymond this afternoon, we looked at each other and grinned. How appropriate that the place where we’ve bought a house is named for a publisher of books!
Because, you know, we’ve got a book or two.