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The Collation

Winning the lottery

On Saturday 4 November 1617, the archdukes of the Southern Netherlands, Albert and Isabella, granted permission to the “gentil homme Lucquois” Matthias Micheli to organize a lottery for the foundation of the “Bergen van Barmhartigheid” or “Monts de piété.” First invented in Italy in the 15th century, the Monts were public pawnbroking institutes where people could give goods as collateral to borrow money at relatively cheap interest rates.

It seems that the initiators were eager to move on with this project, because only three days later—before the Conseil de Brabant even gave its permission for the printing—Micheli appeared before notary Willem le Rousseau to enter into a contract with the Antwerp printer Abraham Verhoeven to provide the necessary lottery booklets. 1 Micheli acted as the superintendent of the “blanque,” or general lottery, which was to raise money for the establishment of the Monts. The word “blanque” in the title of the ephemeral lottery book come from the Italian word for white, referring to the color of the majority of lots, which were blank, as opposed to the few black lots, which were the winning ones. 

  1. Verhoeven would become well-known in the coming years because of the publication of the first newspaper in the Southern Netherlands, the Nieuwe Tijdingen (“New Tidings.”)
  2. See P. de Decker, Études historiques et critiques sur les monts-de-piété en Belgique (Bruxelles 1844) p. 60.
  3. Respectively: Henricus Culens, Ivbilei veteris Hebræorvm et novi Christianorvm collatio, ex officina Plantiniana, apud Balthasarem & Ioannem Moretos, 1617, STCV 6633642, and Officia propria ss. Hispanorum pro breuiario [at present not yet recorded in the STCV].
  4. cf. Museum Plantin Moretus, Arch 39, fol. 24v.
  5. Paul Arblaster, Antwerp and the World: Richard Verstegan and the International Culture of Catholic Reformation (Leuven: Leuven University Press 2004) p. 116. De Decker refers to a Dutch edition, but he does not mention where that one is kept.
  6. See P. de Decker, Études historiques et critiques sur les monts-de-piété en Belgique (Bruxelles 1844) pp. 30–31, 34; see also Berg van barmhartigheid.
  7. Cf. Fr. J. van den Branden, Ontstaan van het nieuwsblad te Antwerpen. Abrabam Verhoeven zijn leven 1575–1652 (Antwerpen 1902) pp. 50-51, with reference to “Protocollen van den notaris G. le Rousseau, 1617, fol. 200.”
  8. Brussels, Royal Library, LP 5517 c [broadsheet]


It just occurred to me that the best-known piece of lottery ephemera in the Folger collection isn’t even cataloged as such, since it’s from 1770 and therefore technically out-of-scope: the unique Titus Andronicus quarto has an unused Swedish lottery handbill (sometimes wrongly identified as a ticket) for a cover. Apparently the lottery was to raise money for building canal locks at Trollhättan. See for the handbill. See the Google Street view of the locks for the end result.

Erin Blake — November 29, 2012



Thanks for this wonderfully illuminating post. I noticed that lots here are coordinated with an array of “posies” or short verses. It would be nice to know what these posies were.

Thanks again for this piece,


Michael Witmore — May 9, 2013


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