Alba amicorum of Homme and Hiskia van Harinxma

Acquired with financial support from various foundations from antiquarian bookshop Theo Laurentius, Voorschoten
Acquisition 1999
Date 1581-1598; 1587-1627
Size 15 x 19 cm.; 15 x 20 cm.
Signature 79 J 45; 79 J 42

The collection of alba amicorum [friendship albums] of the Van Harinxma thoe Slooten family has been one of the most important additions to the Koninklijke Bibiotheek's collection during Wim van Drimmelen's directorate. This collection of eleven albums dating from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries has been preserved in excellent condition. One interesting aspect of the collection is that it shows what a common practice it was for young people in wealthy circles to keep an album amicorum. That these albums functioned quite differently for women than for men, is showed clearly by the albums of brother and sister Homme and Hiskia van Harinxma.
The albums themselves, to start with: Homme's album has a parchment cover; on the front his motto, name and year are shown and the family coat of arms is embossed on the front and back covers. For educational purposes, the album is an interleaved copy of a printed book with pictures and poems based on the work of the Latin historian Livy. Hiskia's is a blank book; not only is its sumptuous brown leather cover adorned with the family coat of arms, but the front and back covers are studded with tiny golden flower buds.

The contents are also very different. Homme's album is a 'scholarly' album which was mainly filled when he was a student in Leiden, with contributions written in Latin by fellow students, professors and other important individuals. The contributions which appeal to the imagination most are a fine inscription written by the renowned academic printer Plantijn, a very early example of a sonnet in Dutch by Janus Gruterus which sings the praises of their friendship and - absolutely unique - a birth horoscope from which the exact day and hour of Homme's birth (16 August 1563 at 10.30 p.m.) can be deduced!
Hiskia did not take so much trouble to get her book full. The people who contributed to her album included not only men (some of whom were in love with her) but also plenty of women, Dutch and French are the predominant languages, no note was made of where the inscriptions were added, and a few amorous songs are also included. The finest contribution was by Hessel van Ostheim: a very skilfully executed paper cut-out against a red background painted on the next page, with a funny poem in which the horseman, chasing his love, vows not to stop until he has caught his 'prey'.

(KT)