Occasional poetry

Acquired at Sotheby's, Amsterdam
Acquisition: 1998
Date: 1755
Size: 55 x 35 cm.; 28 x 22 cm.
Call number: Gel. Ged. Pl. 168; 1756 B 102

A special event calls for a special poem! Apparently, that was the motive behind the composition of many of these verses. The occasion in question might have been a marriage, a death, an accession to office, or a silver wedding anniversary, but births, recoveries, promotions, awards, birthdays, etc. also prompted people to compose poetry. Nearly 4000 of these commemorative poems are to be found in the collection of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. The foundation of the collection was laid in 1866, when the Koninklijke Bibliotheek purchased a collection of 2000 pieces at an auction. In 1972 another 750 were added and from that point onwards the genre became a focal point in the expansion of the collection. In 1982 a printed catalogue of the commemorative poems up to 1700 appeared; twenty years later an enlarged version of the catalogue - covering the seventeenth century as well - was published on cd-rom, along with microfiches of the texts.
Most of the poems are in Dutch, although Latin is also well represented. The size varies from one page in broadsheet to fairly thick volumes of originally separate poems written to mark one occasion.

In most cases the poems are printed on paper, and often they were placed in a fine marbled cover. Sometimes something very special was made of them, as we can see from these two pieces which were bought at an auction in the year 1998, the 200-year jubilee of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. To mark the occasion of the marriage of George Wilhem Nieman and Elisabeth Duisenberg on 22 April 1755 in Amsterdam, a grandiloquent poem was printed on a piece of pink silk measuring no less than 55 x 35 cm.! It was full of praise for the bride and groom and good wishes: 'O gy, die als verëende menschen, Twee Zielen smelt inëen, ô Paar! ...' ['Oh, may you as joined people, two souls merge in union, oh Couple!...']. And as though that were not enough, the bride's family and friends also had a splendid book produced for the occasion, with a beautifully coloured symbolic title print, four poems and a song in one volume. To crown it all, the cover was decorated in ribbons with figures of Cupid in silver thread.
A farewell can also be a reason to write an occasional poem. Perhaps a poem to mark the occasion of the departure of Wim van Drimmelen as director of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek can be added to the collection in 2008. (MVD)