Where does “Elzevir” come from?

The main library room in our home in Outremont. There are two other rooms almost as full of books. How does this tie in to the name of Elzevir Township? Read on …

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.)

Now that is a sectional couch! Or should I say sectional chesterfield?

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.

11 thoughts on “Where does “Elzevir” come from?

  1. I’m not so sure it’s a stretch, or at least not an unbelievable one. My own home town (insofar as I had one – we actually lived in the country), Ypsilanti, Michigan, was named for a hero of the Greek war of independence, which was goingon when the town was founded in 1825. I am not aware of any strong presence of Greeks in the area at the time; the earlier names of the surrounding burgs show no trace of it that I know of (I’m not an historian though). Later there could very well have been some, since a strong Greek community developed at some point in Detroit. All I am thinking is that educated people in those days (i.e. the leaders) were perhaps aware of history and the world in ways that we wouldn’t expect.

    In any case, you might be interested to see the bust of General Ypsi standing in front of a verrry interesting water tower which is across from the Eastern Michigan University campus. You will not be surprised if I tell you that this water tower has given rise to a fair number of student legends and jokes.


  2. Ummm, speaking of books… that pic of your ‘library’ looks like a promo for ‘Hoarders – Buried Alive’. If I was blog-savvy I’d be inserting a link to Intervention here. Are you two going to turn into a crazy old pair of country folk with little pathways between piles of books and newspapers in every room of the house? The Sedgwicks are genetically pre-disposed, but Raymond, don’t let her drag you under. You don’t need to keep both hardcover and soft cover versions of Harry Potter series. Just sayin.

    • OK let me just say that I am now one of the worlds foremost experts on dealing with book hoarders. It ain’t fun and it only gets worse.
      Ask Emmet.
      The first step is to admit you have a problem.
      The second step… wait for it… (I’m prepared to endure your slings and arrows here) get an iPad. And when I say get an iPad I mean use it to download books.
      The LP, the CD, printed photographs, VHS movies, even DVD’s are all obsolete. I have 9.3 days worth of music 14,620 photos, 117 movies and about a dozen (so far) books on my computer. With the new ubiquity of the cloud you don’t even need to keep them on your computer.
      What a boon for hoarders! You don’t even need to use excel to keep track, just rank by Author, or Publisher, or Alphabetically by subject …click …click.
      I’m not saying all books, maybe just novels, but think of the benefits. Vast soaring forests untouched by our upward spiraling need for ever larger quantities of pulp. Printing presses no longer fouling our air or dumping ink down the drain. Highways free of book and paper transports, coffee tables that can accommodate coffee, end tables freed up for knick knacks, basement tables piled high with tools and old chainsaw parts just like the lord intended.
      And let’s face it, at the end of the day no one else will ever love your books as much as you do.
      I currently have custody of over 2000 books sitting in a trailer collecting dust and insect exoskeletons that will probably, when all is said and done, fetch almost a penny on the dollar. Add it up; 2000 books average purchase price maybe $25 apiece. A whole lifetimes collection. And no one will ever read “The Conspicuous Fungi of Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario: A Preliminary Flora.
      Leave them to pile up and they just become a problem (usually someone else’s )
      Deal with your problem before a stack of them falls over and sends you to the hospital, or you break a hip falling off a stool trying to get just one more onto the
      A one terabyte hard drive can hold 6,108,398 average books and fit in your hip
      pocket. Do the world a favour.
      More importantly let me put my coffee cup down so I don’t burn my fingers without feeling guilty about leaving Emily Bronte with a brown halo.
      Maybe this Norma thing has made me a little evangelical.

      • Um…whoa….

        If you are in any way,and I mean in ANY way disrespecting “The Conspicuous Fungi of Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario: A Preliminary Flora”, I will personally come over there and kick your techno-savvy arse. I rush home every day just to pick it up and lose myself in it. I can’t WAIT to see how it ends!!

      • Personally I prefer the second one in the series “The Inconspicuous Fungi of Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario: A Flora Force of Nature” I just find it little less self conscious and yet somehow more contemplative.

  3. Raymond’s sister hoards books too…!! I am soon getting ready to start the Excel spreadsheet again. I’ve been remiss the past few years, but now that I am retired, I have time for such frivolities. Oh, to sit on the floor and go through 1,500 books. Is there anything more exciting?? Remember, I told you I would come and catalog yours too!!

  4. Bruce, that rant left me w a tear in my eye. Notice how the intended targets are conspicuously ignoring this string…right from my first cheap shot about the original picture. I guess you me and Mel will just have to continue to persevere and put some teeth in this blog. And Mel, my home computer died and I’m getting the family mac – so soon I will have a FOURTH square. huh.

    • Oh, hell, I’ve just realized it’s turquoise….

      Serves me right after disrespecting such an awful colour. Such a sickening, horrendous, garish, stomach-turning, putr……..What’s that?………Oh. Right.

      • Turquoise square totally serves you right. Why can’t you just be happy with things the way they are?

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