Special subjects in the Koopman Collection: bookbindings

Bookbindings in the Koopman Collection

By Rens Top

The appearance of a book was an important aspect for Anny Antoine and later for Louis Koopman. Many beautifully executed editions are to be found in the collection, as both preferred to expand the collection with copied from the 'tirage de luxe'. The bookbindings also play a role in this, albeit a minor one.

Elegant bookbindings from the Koopman Collection
Elegant bookbindings

Elegant bookbindings from the Koopman Collection

Unsigned binding (for André Salmon. *Le calumet*, 1920)
Unsigned binding (for Le calumet, 1920)

UUnsigned binding (for André Salmon. Le calumet, 1920)

Unsigned binding (for Comte de Lautréamont, *Les chants de Maldoror*, 1927)
Unsigned binding (for Les chants de Maldoror, 1927)

Unsigned binding (for Comte de Lautréamont, Les chants de Maldoror, 1927)

Anny Antoine and the binding

Anny Antoine was accustomed to have the books supplied to her by publishers in paper covers fitted with deluxe bindings, which was a rather expensive habit. A specially designed leather binding would cost about 35 guilders in the Netherlands in 1935. In France, a half-leather binding in morocco leather cost about 135 francs. A full leather binding would be priced around 460 francs. No binding bills were kept for this collection, but in the 1920s and 1930s, the expense for a young collector like Anny Antoine must have been enormous.

Other data also confirm that Anny place a lot of value on the bindings in her collection. Koopman remembered their discussions in which they talked about the relationship between the binding and the contents of a book. He also mentions her preference for a certain type: the Jansenist binding. These full leather bindings, without any decorations on the upper and lower board, pleased her due to their sober, simple appearance. Approximately twenty beautifully coloured leather bindings from the studio of Semet & Plumelle in Paris may be counted among them.

In a 'Journal intime' written by Anny, she spoke of 'one bound in handsome morocco, similar to marble, the other in polished calfskin'. She also mentioned the strikingly beautiful colours in which some bindings were executed.

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman also maintained a kind of alphabetical list of acquisitions, which indicates that nearly every title is followed by a note about the binding. Frequent notes concern the colour of the binding and the name of the kind of leather (for instance: '1/2 chagr. bleu', which means that the half-leather binding is of blue goatskin, featuring a certain kind of artificial pressing called 'chagrin').

Binding by René Kieffer (for Paul Fort, *Pontoise ou La folle journée*, 1920)
Binding by René Kieffer (for Pontoise ou La folle journée, 1920)

Binding by René Kieffer (for Paul Fort, Pontoise ou La folle journée, 1920)

Bookbinder's ticket of the Kieffer firm
Bookbinder's ticket of the Kieffer firm

Bookbinder's ticket of the Kieffer firm

Binding by René Kieffer (for Blaise Cendrars, *Les Pâques à New-York*, 1926)
Binding by René Kieffer (for Les Pâques à New-York, 1926)

Binding by René Kieffer (for Blaise Cendrars, Les Pâques à New-York, 1926)

Unsigned binding (for Jean de Tinan, *La petite Jeanne pâle, suivi de La petite sirène du Pont des arts*, 1922)
Unsigned binding (for La petite Jeanne pâle, 1922)

Unsigned binding (for Jean de Tinan, La petite Jeanne pâle, suivi de La petite sirène du Pont des arts, 1922)

Many binding studios are also listed. Besides famous names such as René Kieffer and Semet & Plumelle in Paris, binders known mostly for their artistic one-of-a-kind editions, we also find editions from publishers such as Gamber, Nelson and Garnier, companies that have also supplied quite a lot of binding work, or fully bound books, for the Koopman Collection according to the list.

Besides the great number of half-leather bindings, often featuring beautiful decorative paper, the collection also contains many examples of more deluxe bindings. These are full leather bindings that have been decorated with stamp work and sometimes by inlay work, and which were produced in limited editions, by René Kieffer’s business for instance.

The collection holds only a limited number of wholly unique items. A number of remarkable works (which weren't produced by commission for Anny Antoine or Louis Koopman) include a neo-Grolier binding by Chambolle Duru (KW Koopm P 9), a handsome binding by Canape et Corrier (KW Koopm C 866), and a gorgeous, conspicuously unsigned binding in blue morocco with leather inlay work in two shades of green, pink and red (KW Koopm A 48).

Louis Koopman and the binding

After Anny Antoine's death in 1933, Louis Koopman continued to collect books, also taking care of the binding. In a letter from 1935, he wrote to Molhuysen that he had all of his books bound (in demi-chagrin), asking his advice on materials that are difficult to bind, such as letters. He also reported that books that he had bound weren't cut in any way: books were put into their bindings as they were. Before the war, many sewed volumes were bound in Brussels, but it is unclear by which binder. His correspondence only notes 'at Jefke’s place'.

Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Raymond Radiguet, *Les Pélican*, 1921)
Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Les Pélican, 1921)

Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Raymond Radiguet, Les Pélican, 1921)

Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Emmanuel Bove, *Mes amis*, 1927)
Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Mes amis, 1927)

Binding by Pierre J.M. Thielen (for Emmanuel Bove, Mes amis, 1927)

No specific information regarding the binding process remains from the 1950s, many books would have been bound in Amsterdam in those days. Koopman also received certain titles fully bound from Paris. But binding on commission clearly remained important, as Koopman wrote (30 January 1967): 'Please make sure you don't forget how difficult it is nowadays to find someone who know how to bind French books as they are supposed to, the binders are overworked due to lack of staff. Furthermore, Dutch bookbinders ruin French books irrevocably, as they usually work in their own stubborn way and start cutting the pages on all sides'.

The KB and bindings for Koopman Collection

After Louis Koopman's death in 1968, the responsibility for the bindings in the collection fell upon the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands. This library's binders were highly qualified for the work, but bindings were also supplied by other companies, such as bookbinder Schrijen, located in Limburg. This company supplied several tasteful carboard bindings and surprised with striking and artistically sound bindings by Jos Schrijen, and Pierre Thielen, who worked at the same company. The bookbinding company Verschoor has also been commissioned for regular binding work.

In order to give Dutch bookbinding work a new impulse, the Koopman Bookbinding Award was presented for the first time in 2005. Later, individual assignments were given to Dutch bookbinders, such as Anne Bossenbroek, Pau Groenendijk, Loek de la Haye, Berdien van Lieshout, Anneke Linssen, Machteld Meeter and Marja Wilgenkamp.

Binding by Berdien van Lieshout (for Zéno Bianu, Michel Mousseau, *Lisière d'infini*, 2000)
Binding by Berdien van Lieshout (for Lisière d'infini, 2000)

Binding by Berdien van Lieshout (for Zéno Bianu, Michel Mousseau, Lisière d'infini, 2000)

Binding by Marja Wilgenkamp (for Micaëla Henich, Jacques Derrida, *Mille e tre, cinq*, 1996)
Binding by Marja Wilgenkamp (for Mille e tre, cinq, 1996)

Binding by Marja Wilgenkamp (for Micae͏̈la Henich, Jacques Derrida, Mille e tre, cinq, 1996)