The collection: Approximately 770 (remains of) alba amicorum and verse albums from 1556 onwards. It is by far the largest public collection in the Netherlands.
Collection history: The foundations of the collection were laid with the acquisition of the collection of 32 copies gathered by G.J. Beeldsnijder van Voshol in 1887. From that year onwards collecting alba has been part of the activities of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Particularly around 1900, many valuable older alba were acquired, whereas in the period since 1975 the number of alba from the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries has been extensively increased.
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. 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. [Amsterdam], 1661. Shelfnumber 131 H 26. Fol. 61.
F.W.E. Hennequin, pieces of embroidery in the album amicorum of A.C. Bouvin. [Sluis, ca. 1815]. Shelfnumber 135 J 15. Fol. 16r.
An album amicorum is a booklet in which the owner collected contributions by friends, acquaintances or famous contemporaries they knew. The album is closely associated with academic circles and originated in a period in which many students did not confine themselves to one particular university, but made a so-called academic "grand tour" which led them through major parts of Europe. The album was a loyal companion during these trips and was filled with contributions by professors who taught them and, obviously, by their fellow students. The genre originated in Germany, but from 1560 it also achieved popularity in the Low Countries, which it sustained well into the seventeenth century. After a period of declining popularity, the album experienced a strong revival from the middle of the eighteenth century, again mainly in academic circles. In the course of the nineteenth century the album became popular particularly among young girls from the upper-classes. In this period the album completely altered its nature: whereas in the students' album the contributions consisted of quotations carefully chosen from classical or christian authors, accompanied by a dedication, the nineteenth century album, besides verses in the modern languages, contain various samples of home industry: drawings, embroidery, piercings and cuttings. By the end of the nineteenth century the album was gradually becoming a thing for primary-schoolgirls of all ranks and all classes and thus the "Poesiealbum" (verse album) came into existence. This is an album filled with contributions by close relatives, school teachers and (school) friends with standard poems which are generally embellished with all sorts of pictures.
Inventory of pre-1800 alba amicorum from the Netherlands
Since 1984, a documentation apparatus has been under construction at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek for alba amicorum dating from before 1800, in public or private possession, that are of interest to the Low Countries.
That is to say:
- either commenced by individuals originating from the present Netherlands and Belgium,
- or commenced by foreigners who (amongst others) collected contributions in the Low Countries.
The documentation apparatus contains descriptions of alba, literature and information about the provenance and has been made accessible by means of a database. This database not only contains descriptions of alba whose current allocation is known, but it also contains references to alba for which can be ascertained in some way that they do or did exist, for example on the basis of descriptions in auction catalogues or on the basis of references in primary and secondary literature. The database at present comprises c. 2000 records.
- 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