Alba amicorum

Table of contents

Overview of the alba amicorum collection

  • Contents: alba amicorum and friendship books
  • Size: some 700 alba (or remnants thereof) 
  • Access: The alba can be found in the KB catalogue. They can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room, but we do not lend them out. For virtually all alba, the contributions of friends are described in the catalogue, with links to digital scans of each contribution. All alba amicorum are digitised in their entirety at, allowing you to view them outside the KB. 
  • More informationJeroen Vandommele.

History of the alba amicorum

An album amicorum is a friendship album containing handwritten texts by friends and acquaintances. Sometimes they were even famous contemporaries.

Alba amicorum have existed since the 16th century. They were first used at universities in Germany. Dutch students adopted this custom of keeping albums. They used such albums especially while touring Europe, as many of them did during their studies. In the albums, they collected contributions from professors and fellow students. Keeping such an album soon became a popular activity. Not only students, but also literary scholars, statesmen and artists were increasingly asked to contribute to the albums.

Although the alba amicorum became less popular for a while, there was a resurgence in their use from the mid-18th century. And the general public started using the friendship albums from the 19th century onwards. In the alba amicorum, in addition to scholarly quotes you will find poems in modern languages and drawings, embroidery and paper pricking and cutting work. It increasingly became a pastime for girls. By the end of the 19th century, the “Poetry Album” (Poesiealbum) also emerged, filled in by family and friends and decorated with gummed stickers.

  • Contribution with paper cutting art by Hessel van Ostheim (1589), for the album amicorum of Hiskia van Harinxma thoe Slooten.

History of the collection

The KB acquired the collection of G.J. Beeldsnijder van Voshol in 1887. This collection consisted of 32 alba amicorum and formed the basis of the KB’s collection. Since then, the album amicorum has been part of the KB’s collection area. The KB acquired many valuable old alba particularly around 1900. The number of alba from the 19th and early 20th centuries has increased since 1975.

Accessibility of the collection

The alba collection can be viewed in the KB's Special Collections reading room. You can also view the collection digitally at home via the KB catalogue, Europeana and

Inventory of alba amicorum in the Netherlands

Since 1984, the KB has been working on a database of all alba amicorum from before 1800 in public or private ownership, which are important for the Netherlands and Belgium. The alba may have been collected by people from the Netherlands and Belgium, but also by people from other countries. This inventory includes descriptions, information on origin and literature about the books. The database now contains about 2,000 books and also includes alba that are known to have existed but whose current location is unknown.



  • Rappard, F.A. van. ‘Overzigt eener verzameling alba amicorum uit de XVIde en XVIIde eeuw’.  Werken van de Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letterkunde 7 (1856). 1-138. 


  • Reinders, S. De mug en de kaars. Vriendenboekjes van adellijke vrouwen, 1575-1640. Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2017.
  • Schnabel, W. Das Stammbuch. Konstitution und Geschichte einer textsortenbezogenen Sammelform bis ins erste Drittel des 18. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003.
  • Thomassen, K. (red.), Alba amicorum. Vijf eeuwen vriendschap op papier gezet: het album amicorum en het poëziealbum in de Nederlanden. Maarssen/Den Haag: SDU, 1990.
  • Thomassen, K. Aan vrienden gewijd. Alba amicorum in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Amersfoort: Bekking & Blitz, 2012.