Overview of the History of Paper Collection

  • Contents: large collection of ornamental paper, sample books, recipe books for the production of paper, watermark papers, ream covers, deckles and other objects, as well as an extensive collection of books on the history of paper and its production.
  • Size: around 45,000 objects.
  • Access: most of the collection can be found via the KB catalogue. Available for inspection in the Special Collections reading room; cannot be lent out.
  • More informationErik Geleijns.

About the History of Paper Collection

The KB's History of Paper Collection is one of the biggest collections on this topic in the world. It includes all kinds of objects that can teach you about the history of paper, such as early precursors of paper (like papyrus, parchment and palm leaves) and books that explain how to make paper. The collection also contains Japanese paper, watermarks and sample books that belonged to paper mills and paper merchants. Other things you will find include thousands of sheets of ornamental paper, as well as objects that were used in paper production, such as deckles and ream covers.

History of the collection

In 1972, Henk Voorn's collection about the history of paper was transferred to the KB, with Voorn himself becoming the collection's first curator. In the years that followed, the KB acquired various other collections, such as the collection of Japanese papers from the Museum voor Volkenkunde (Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden and the collections of Western ornamental papers of the Amsterdam-based antiquarian S. Emmering and Guido Dessauer, from Düsseldorf.

The latter collection also contained sample books from the former paper mill Buntpapierfabrik Aschaffenburg. These are albums with glued samples of ornamental paper. In addition, the collection contains manuscripts with recipes for ornamental paper. Other, smaller acquisitions were also incorporated, such as the collection of 20th-century watermark papers of S.L. Hartz, deckles and the antiquarian Max Israel's collection of brocade papers.

Accessibility of the collection

The History of Paper Collection can for the most part be accessed digitally via the KB catalogue. The remainder will be processed in the coming years. Objects and reference works from the History of Paper Collection are available for inspection in the Special Collections reading room. They cannot be lent out.


Until 2016, the collection had a curator and an active acquisition policy. After 2016, the KB's main focus shifted to cataloguing the collection so that it remains accessible for everybody.


  • Cockx-Indestege, E. Sierpapier & marmering. Een terminologie voor het beschrijven van sierpapier en marmering als boekbandversiering. Koninklijke Bibliotheek/Koninklijke Bibliotheek Albert I, 1994.
  • Krause, S. Sierpapier: een gids. Dr. Ernst Hauswedel & Co. KG, Verlag, 2016.
  • Monro, A. The Paper Trail. An Unexpected history of the World’s Greatest Invention. Allen Lane, 2014.
  • Porck, H.J. ‘De papierhistorische collectie van de Koninklijke Bibiliotheek/The Paperhistorical Collection of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.’ Voelbaar papier. Ekspress.zo, 1996. 12-53.
  • Porck, H.J. ‘Henk Voorn’. Verzamelaars en verzamelingen. Koninklijke Bibliotheek 1798-1998. Waanders, 1998, 178-184.