The collection: European hand-bound books: unique bookbindings from the fourteenth century, important for their historical or aesthetic aspects. The collection comprises archivalia, drawings, stamps and furniture as well.
Size: The collection consists of c.16,000 bookbindings, some 300 other objects and 13 cases of stamps.
Coverage: This is the largest collection of Dutch bookbindings; it is representative of European bindings (especially from Great Britain, Belgium, Germany and France); there are some bindings from other countries.
Access: A large part of the bindings have been described in the KB Catalogue.
More information: Rens Top 070-3140323

Boekband, ca. 1746 (om: *Instructiën vanden Hove van Hollandt* (1650-1746). [Aanvraagnummer: KW 136 D 6].

Bookbinding, ca. 1746 (for: Instructiën vanden Hove van Hollandt (1650-1746). [Request no. KW 136 D 6].

Collection profile

The bookbindings collection consists of c. 16,000 hand-bound books. They are nearly all European of origin and date from the period 1540 to the present. All bookbindings are unique and have been brought together in this collection because of their historical or aesthetic importance. There are an additional 2,000 special bindings in the collections of manuscripts, incunabula, post-incunabula and early printed books. In order to add modern bindings to the collection, the KB regularly commissions bindings.

The collection also comprises various objects related to bookbinding, such as detached furniture (clasps, cornerpieces) executed in various materials. Fragments of bindings and bindings without content are kept because of their historical interest. Finally, there are many designs, material samples and dummies of modern bookbindings that document acquired bookbindings. Other documentary resources include research aids, such as photographs and rubbings. The KB also owns a collection of archival materials of binders and binderies, among others containing stamps and plate stamps.

History of the collection

Many beautifully bound Dutch books stem from the collection of the eighteenth-century Stadtholders Willem IV and V, who received them as dedication copies. The thousands of especially French, Belgian, and French bindings from 1810-1850 were given to the library by Kings Willem I, II and III. They are dedication copies as well.

A third collection is that of the Amsterdam auctioneer Anton W.M. Mensing, acquired by the KB in 1909. It consists of more than 500 specimens from many countries and periods, among which many important examples of domestic and foreign binding styles. The lion’s share of the valuable clasps and furniture stems from this collection.

Documentation for researchers

A number of documentation systems have been compiled for researchers:

  • Reference library: the reference works can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. They can be found in the KB Catalogue.

The following documentation systems can be consulted through the curator:

  • Collection of off-prints
  • Bibliography of Dutch bookbinding
  • Photo collection
  • Slides collection
  • Card catalogue of bindings in the KB collection
  • Digital catalogue of binding descriptions
  • Indexes to the catalogues and inventories of the Stadtholders’ collection
  • Collection of rubbings adnd other visual documentation of bindings in the KB and related bindings
  • Central index of rubbings

Dutch bookbindings

The Dutch bookbindings collection offers an outstanding overview of Dutch bookbinding art. Such examples are also found in bindings for medieval manuscripts, incunabula and post-incunabula. Hardly any style, period or binder is lacking. A few categories may be distinguished:

  • Bindings with lozenge stamping
  • Bindings with panel stamping
  • Bindings from the early seventeenth century
  • Bindings by Albert Magnus and his followers
  • Eighteenth-century bindings
  • Classicist bindings and bindings in neo-styles
  • Bookbindings around 1900: Art nouveau and 1920s and 1930s bindings
  • Modern bindings from 1970
  • Prize bindings

Foreign bookbindings

The collection of foreign bookbindings gives an overview of the most important, often historical, foreign binding styles. Hiatus in the collection are filled whenever possible. The collection focusses on countries that have influenced the development of Dutch bookbinding: Belgium, France, England and Germany.

The collection shows the development of:

  • German Renaissance blindstamped bindings (sixteenth century)
  • French bindings from the Grolier period and bindings à la fanfare (sixteenth century)
  • English bindings from the Mearne period (seventeenth century)
  • French bindings from the time of the Padeloups and Deromes (eighteenth century)
  • French bindings from the classicist period and the early neo-styles(nineteenth century)
  • Belgian bindings from the classicist period and the early neo-styles (nineteenth century)
  • English bindings from the Arts and crafts movement to the preseent
  • French bindings from the twentieth century
  • Modern Belgian bookbindings from the twentieth century

Special bookbindings

The KB has always collected bindings in which special techniques or remarkable materials have been used, both historical and modern. Examples are books that have unusual quire-attachments or bindings that close in extraordinary ways.There are bindings with metals covers, in which the sewing is hidden in a metal pipe, or a binding where a row of leather covered mini-mountains can be slid into the top edge and so closes the binding. Other examples of special constructions are so-called twin bindings, bindings with edges all around and the modern ‘cross structure’ variety. Bindings in special materials include specimens in lizard leather, polycarbonate, wood and embroidered textile.

Objects related to bookbindings

The KB collects objects related to bookbindings. In the case of modern bindings, these are mostly designs In a few cases, there are drawings with detailed indications of colours, forms etc. Others have designs of pasted-on leather fragments. A special item is a block of wood used for applying a remarkable stamped pattern.

Other objects include fastenings, both sets and loose clamps and catchplates, pieces of leather from bookbindings (some of them found in excavations) and cut-out binding decorations. Most of these items come from the Mensing collection or were given to the library.

Binding stamps are a special category. They are hand and press stamps from the Proost & Brant firm (on loan), the stamps that belonged to the binder Willem Callenbach, and a collection of mostly eighteenth-century stamps.

Although the KB has a sizeable collection, there is no active acquisition policy.

See Dutch-language page for more illustrations of bookbindings in the KB.