Rolf Bremmer's father, also named Rolf Hendrik Bremmer (1917–1995), was a theologian and preacher associated with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and a student of Klaas Schilder. He married Lucie Gera Arina Lindeboom (b. 1918) in 1943 in The Hague; she was the daughter of a Reformed preacher (Cornelis Lindeboom). Rolf Jr.'s older brother J.N. Bremmer is professor of church history at the University of Groningen.
Bremmer received his master's degree in English language and literature from the University of Groningen in 1977. From 1976 to 1977 he studied at Oxford University as a Harting Student, with Anglo-Saxonists such as Bruce Mitchell, Tom Shippey, and J. M. Wallace-Hadrill. In 1986 he gained his Ph.D. from Radboud University Nijmegen, with a dissertation on a late Middle English treatise on the five senses, directed by F.N.M. Diekstra.
He taught English from 1977 to 1979 at Gomarus College in Groningen, and Old and Middle English and historical linguistics at Radboud University from 1979 to 1986. Since 1986 he has been with Leiden University. In 1994 Bremmer was the Erasmus professor at Harvard for Dutch Culture and History. He is a premier Dutch authority on Frisian language and literature, occupying a special professorship in Frisian studies.
Bremmer has published and edited books on a variety of topics in Old English language and literature, Middle English language and literature, and Frisian language and literature. He has published on the seventeenth-century scholar and collector Franciscus Junius, he has translated the work on Beowulf by Dutch Anglo-Saxon scholar P. J. Cosijn, and has lectured on J.R.R. Tolkien. His Introduction to Old Frisian (2009), according to E.G. Stanley, is "a book for the twenty-first century...a book of essentials, from which nothing essential has been omitted." In 2009 he published a kind of alphabet book with 26 terms from the Christian lexicon, Van Ambt tot Zonde ("From office to sin"), illustrated by Geert de Groot, which explains the Christian connotations of such concepts as sin and foreskin; the booklet collects articles originally published in the national daily Nederlands Dagblad.
Bremmer serves on the editorial board of the journals The Heroic Age, Neophilologus, and NOWELE, and on the advisory board of the journals Anglo-Saxon and Studies in Medievalism and of the series Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. In 2010 Bremmer delivered the Toller Lecture at the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies.
- An Introduction to Old Frisian: History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2009.
- Van Ambt tot Zonde: Een greep uit onze christelijke woordenschat. Heerenveen: Protestantse Pers, 2009.
- Manuscripts in the Low Countries. Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile 13 (with Kees Dekker). Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006
- 'Hir is eskriven'. Lezen en schrijven in de Friese landen rond 1330. Hilversum: Verloren / Ljouwert: Fryske Akademy, 2004.
- A Bibliographical Guide to old Frisian Studies. Odense: Odense UP, 1992.
- The Fyve Wyttes. A Late Middle English Devotional Treatise, Edited from BL MS Harley 2398 with an Introduction, Commentary and Glossary. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1987.
- Practice in Learning. The Transfer of Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages (with Kees Dekker). Paris, Leuven, and Dudley: Peeters, 2010.
- Advances in Old Frisian Philology (with Stephen Laker and Oebele Vries). Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2007.
- Signs on the Edge. Space, Text and Margin in Medieval Manuscripts (with Sarah Larratt Keefer). Paris, Leuven, and Dudley: Peeters, 2007.
- Foundations of Learning. The Transfer of Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages (with Kees Dekker). Paris, Leuven, and Dudley: Peeters, 2007.
- Rome and the North: The Early Reception of Gregory the Great in Germanic Europe (with Kees Dekker and David F. Johnson). Paris, Leuven, and Sterling: Peeters, 2001.
- In skiednis fan de Fryske taalkunde (with Anne Dykstra). Ljouwert: Fryske Akademy, 1999.
- Franciscus Junius F.F. and His Circle. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998.
- Companion to Old English Poetry (with Henk Aertsen). Amsterdam: VU Press, 1994.
- Approaches to Old Frisian Philology (with Thomas S. B. Johnston and Oebele Vries). Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998.
- Notes on Beowulf (trans. of P.J. Cosijn, Aantekeningen op den Beowulf, with Jan van den Berg and David F. Johnson). Leeds: School of English, University of Leeds, 1991.
- Aspects of Old Frisian Philology (with Geart van der Meer and Oebele Vries), Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1990.
- Veenhoff, Jan (20 September 1995). "R. H. Bremmer 1917 - 1995". Trouw. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
- Harinck, George (16 April 2010). "Van moed naar bevreemdend zwijgen". Nederlands Dagblad. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
- "Bremmer, Rolf Hendrik". Biografisch lexicon voor de geschiedenis van het Nederlands protestantisme. Institute of Dutch History. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
- "Prof.dr. R.H. (Rolf) Bremmer". Leiden University. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Jansen, Mathilde. "Toen het Fries nog op het Engels leek". Kennislink.nl. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Aaij, Michel (October 2006). "Rev. of Rolf Bremmer, Hir is eskriven". The Heroic Age 9. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Strijbosch, Clara (1 April 2005). "Weergeld voor homerhald en strichald". de Volkskrant. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Chickering, Howell. "Rev. of Notes on Beowulf". Speculum 68 (3): 737–38. doi:10.2307/2864984.
- Lucas, Peter J. (1994). "Rev. of Notes on Beowulf". The Review of English Studies 45 (179): 403–404.
- "Letteren". de Volkskrant. 26 September 2002. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Stanley, E.G. (2010). "Rev. of Rolf Bremmer, "A Grammar of Old Frisian, For the Twenty-First Century". Notes and Queries 57 (2): 159. doi:10.1093/notesj/gjq057.
- Sandersq, Ewoud (30 November 2009). "Taalboeken voor Sinterklaas (2)". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- "Boekpresentatie Van Ambt tot Zonde". Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Noë, Raymond. "InZicht - januari 2010". Genootschap Onze Taal. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- "The Editorial Staff of The Heroic Age". The Heroic Age. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- "The Toller Lecture 2010 Professor Rolf Bremmer, University of Leiden". Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies, University of Manchester. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- "The Toller Lecture". University of Manchester. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- Straw, Carole (2004). "Rev. of Bremmer, Dekker, and Johnson, Rome and the North". Speculum 79 (3): 742–44. doi:10.1017/s0038713400089971.
- Landtsheer, Jeanine De (2001). "Rev. of Bremmer, Franciscus Junius F.F. and His Circle". International Journal of the Classical Tradition 8 (1): 154–57.
- Liberman, Anatoly (1997). "Rev. of Henk Aertsen, Rolf Bremmer, Companion to Old English poetry". English Studies 78 (2): 190–93.
- Mora, María José (1995). "Rev. of Henk Aertsen, Rolf Bremmer, Companion to Old English poetry". Atlantis: journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies 17 (1/2): 337–44.
- "'Zelfs vindt de mus ...'", Bremmer's commentary on Psalm 84, in the Nederlands Dagblad
- "Adam en Eva en het moderne taalparadijs", lecture by Marijke Mooijaart at the presentation of Van Ambt tot Zonde