Book binding by Dirk Nicolaas Esveld

Jaarboekje van den Algemeenen Nederlandschen Typografenbond
Donation by Dirk Nicolaas Esveld jr.
Acquired: 1991
Date: 1912
Size: 17 x 12 cm.
Shelf number: 1771 G 60

Brown-carmine straight-grain skin, gold-tooled. French binding with false bands; block sewn on five recessed cords. The covers are tooled with five partly overlapping ‘spear- heads’ horizontally oriented from the spine (from the middle of each compartment) to the front. The title of the book is given in the second and fourth spearhead of the front cover.

After the nearly fatal decline of hand-made bookbinding in the Netherlands in the third quarter of the nineteenth century there was a revival of interest in the craft in the last two decades of that century. Artist-binders tried to combine the English ideals of form with rendering the book titles on a prominent place on the binding. However, they never got beyond the experimental stage, for commissions for de luxe bindings lagged far behind the enthusiasm of the binders. What did happen was that some large companies set aside a special place in their workshops for hand-made binding. These companies were able to produce a great range of bindings, varying from the completely machine-made binding in large numbers, through the partly machine-made bindings in small numbers, to the wholly hand-made, individual bindings. An example of such a company was that of Elias P. van Bommel in Amsterdam. On 27 October 1892 Dirk Nicolaas Esveld, only just fifteen years old, entered their employment. He received in-house training according to the old traditions still sustained at Van Bommel's. He started working on machine-made bindings and turned into a good craftsman. Soon he was allowed to assist in the making of de luxe bindings, usually done by Van Bommel himself, and thus became a master of his craft, a staunch support to the company. As his work was not sold under his own name, Esveld was only known as an excellent craftsman and a talented gilder to a small group of people. Even before his death in 1960 he had been completely forgotten.

It was his son who took the initiative in obtaining posthumous recognition of his father as one of the major bookbinders of his time. He still had bindings which his father had made at home at the living room table, testing new techniques and, above all, enjoying the pleasure of working on an object according to his very own ideas. An important part of this collection was donated by Esveld's son to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, which is now the proud owner of fifteen bookbindings by a binder, who was more influenced by the current English bookbinding than any of his contemporaries.

Bookbinding, made by Dirk Nicolaas Esveld. Amsterdam. Contents: Jaarboekje van den Algem. Nederlandschen typografenbond voor 't jaar 1912. Amsterdam, [1912]. - 1771 G 60

Bookbinding, made by Dirk Nicolaas Esveld. Amsterdam. Contents: Jaarboekje van den Algem. Nederlandschen typografenbond voor 't jaar 1912. Amsterdam, [1912]. - 1771 G 60

The source of inspiration for Esveld's work is unclear. The born and bred citizen of Amsterdam rarely left the city, never travelled abroad and did not participate in discussions with his fellow craftsmen. It is likely that the sample books on hand at the firm had the most influence on him. Between 1890 and 1930, several series of designs for book bindings were produced in order to serve as examples for workshops and binderies, especially in Germany. The absence of copyright at the time meant that anyone could freely imitate the designs or borrow them for inspiration, somewhat similar to the traditional ornament print. In 1904 the Knapp publishing house in Halle introduced a series of modern designs by the renowned German bookbinder Paul Kersten. Esveld was undoubtedly familiar with this series; plate eightteen features the same design as his binding of the A.N.T.B. yearbook. (RT)


Zeldzaam en kostbaar. 's-Gravenhage 1992, no. 166
J. Storm van Leeuwen, ‘Een verloren zoon of een belangrijke schenking boekbanden’, in: De Boekenwereld 9 (1992-1993), p. 25-33.