Alba amicorum

The collection: Alba amicorum and poetry albums from 1556 with contributions by scholars, artists and authors from the Netherlands and abroad.
Size: C. 770 alba (of fragments). The collection is by far the largest in this field in the Netherlands.
Access: Short descriptions of the alba can be found in the KB Catalogue. The records of almost all alba offer links to scans of the individual contributions.
More information: Ad Leerintveld - 070-3140320.

Carolus Clusius, contribution to the album amicorum of Ernst Brinck.
Carolus Clusius, contribution to the album amicorum of Ernst Brinck.

Carolus Clusius, contribution to the album amicorum of Ernst Brinck. Leiden 4 mei 1606. Shelfnumber 133 M 86. Fol. 67v-68r.

Rembrandt van Rijn, drawing (Simeon's ode) in the album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq
Rembrandt van Rijn, drawing (Simeon's ode) in the album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq

Rembrandt van Rijn, drawing (Simeon's ode) in the album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq. [Amsterdam], 1661. Shelfnumber 131 H 26. Fol. 61.

F.W.E. Hennequin, pieces of embroidery in the album amicorum of A.C. Bouvin.
F.W.E. Hennequin, pieces of embroidery in the album amicorum of A.C. Bouvin

F.W.E. Hennequin, pieces of embroidery in the album amicorum of A.C. Bouvin. [Sluis, ca. 1815]. Shelfnumber 135 J 15. Fol. 16r.

Collection description

An album amicorum is a booklet used by its owner to collect contributions from friends, acquaintances and/or famous persons. The album is closely connected with an academic environment. It developed in a period when many students did not restrict themselves to one university, but made an academic tour throughout Europe. The album was a faithful companion that in the course of time was filled with contributions by the professors they visited and their fellow students.

The genre originated in Germany, but it became popular in the Netherlands from 1560 onwards and into the seventeenth century. After a period of decline, the album experienced a strong revival from the mid-eighteenth century, again especially in academic circles. In the course of the nineteenth century, the album became popular among younger girls in upper class circles, and its character changed from that time on. In students’ albums, the inscriptions were well-chosen quotes from classical or Christian authors, paired with a dedication. In nineteenth-century albums, there are mainly poems in the modern languages together with all kinds of home crafts: drawings, emboideries, cuttings etcetera. By the end of the century, the album became a matter for primary school girls, giving rise to the ‘Poesie-album’ filled by close family members, teachers and school friends, usually with standard poems illustrated with stickers. The KB collection includes examples from all periods.

History of the Collection

The collection originated when 32 items from the collection of G.J. Beeldsnijder van Voshol were acquired in 1887. Ever since, alba amicorum have been a special interest in the KB’s collection policy. Especially around 1900, many valuable old albums were acquired. After 1975, many albums from the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century were added to the collection.

Inventory of alba amicorum from the Netherlands before 1800

Since 1984, the KB has worked on a documentary system devoted to alba amicorum in the Netherlands or related to the Netherlands from before 1800 in both public and private collections, i.e. alba amicorum owned by people from the present Netherlands and Belgium, or owned by foreigners who collected inscriptions in (among others) the Netherlands. The system contains records of albums, literature and provenance data. The database not only has records of extant albums, but also of albums that are known to exist or have existed, for instance on the basis of entries in auction catalogues or records in primary or secondary literature. At present, the database contains some 2,000 entries.

Literature

  • F.A. van Rappard. 'Overzigt eener verzameling alba amicorum uit de XVIde en XVIIde eeuw'. In: Werken van de Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letterkunde nr. 7 (1856), p. 1-138.
    Alba amicorum. Eindred. K. Thomassen. Maarssen/Den Haag 1990.
  • W. Schnabel, Das Stammbuch. Konstitution und Geschichte einer textsortenbezogenen Sammelform bis ins erste Drittel des 18. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen 2003

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