Friends of Leiden University Libraries generously support acquisitions for the Nieuwe Kunst collection
Gifts by the Friends, both financially and physically, are essential in the enrichment of our special collections. The support of the Friends is often crucial in enabling the University Library to purchase certain desiderata that otherwise would not be within our reach.
In recent years several important and beautiful acquisitions have been added to Leiden University Libraries’ collections with the generous support of the Friends of the Leiden University Libraries Foundation. Gifts by the Friends, both financially and physically through the donation of collections or parts thereof, are essential in the enrichment of our special collections. The support of the Friends is often crucial in enabling the University Library to purchase certain desiderata at auction that otherwise would not be within our reach.
Between 22 March and 23 June 2019, Museum Meermanno/Huis van het Boek held an exhibition named ‘De Bijzondere Band. Art Nouveau-boeken van Dijsselhof, Lion Cachet en Nieuwenhuis’. On this occasion, some fine acquisitions, generously supported by the Friends of Leiden University Libraries, were added to Leiden University Libraries’ Nieuwe Kunst collection (Dutch contributions to Art Nouveau). This collection of books and graphic design from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is considered the most important and most complete in The Netherlands.
During the exhibition in The Hague, a complete set of five volumes of the Verzamelde opstellen (collected essays) by Lodewijk van Deyssel (Amsterdam, Scheltema & Holkema, 1894-1907) was purchased at the Leiden-based auction house Burgersdijk & Niermans. The decoration and typography of these books were designed by the artist Theo Nieuwenhuis (1866-1951) in 1907. The bindings were produced by artisan bookbinder Jan Mensing (1869-1952). It is remarkable that Leiden University Libraries was able to purchase the work as a complete set, as Ernst Braches recorded only one volume of this publication in his Bouwstoffen, after discovering the volume in the library of collector Dick Veeze (and currently in The Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami). Only one other complete set of this work is known to exist, a set bound for Klaas Groesbeek (1858-1936), the director of Scheltema & Holkema's Boekhandel in Amsterdam. Sadly, the current whereabouts of this volume are unknown. The complete set is an important addition to the already remarkable collection of book-art designed by Nieuwenhuis in the collection Nieuwe Kunst.
Another important acquisition during the same period, although not sponsored by the Friends of the UBL, was a rare copy of Het leven van het echtpaar Simon van den Bergh en Elisabeth van der Wielen, voor hun nageslacht geschetst door hun jongsten zoon S. van den Bergh Jr. (Rotterdam, privately printed 1908) to the Nieuwe Kunst collection. This volume is skillfully bound in parchment and decorated in gold. It has gilt edges and contains photos and various vignettes by, amongst others, Cornelis ‘Kees’ Koppenol (1866-1924). The front of the binding is decorated with a border, containing an intricate pattern of oak leaves and acorns, symbols of immortality and eternal life. Tendrils of climbing, evergreen Clematis are arranged around the central title as a reference to inner beauty. This kind of symbolism based in nature matches the designs that Theo Nieuwenhuis and several other artists produced at the beginning of the 20th century. The decoration is more firmly attributed to Nieuwenhuis based on the typography used on the binding. The design closely resembles the decoration and letters by Nieuwenhuis on, for instance, the Verzamelde opstellen by Van Deyssel.
A Batik portfolio by Emilie van Kerckhoff
Pier Terwen, a loyal Friend of Leiden University Libraries, donated a particularly beautiful batiked parchment portfolio designed by the artist Emilie Van Kerckhoff (1867-1960). This binding was hitherto privately owned but is now available for research and educational purposes at Leiden University Libraries. In the periodical, De Boekenwereld 34/1 (2018, pp. 52-55) Jaap Versteegh published an interesting article on Van Kerckhoff’s life and work: “’Pruikeling’ op reis. Emilie van Kerckhoff, illustratrice, grafisch ontwerpster en schrijfster”. In the thesis Vrouwen in de vormgeving in Nederland, 1880-1940, Marjan Groot devoted attention to various aspects of Van Kerckhoff's artwork, including the design of several book bindings. Sadly, there is no complete overview of the graphic work and book design by this remarkable artist. Thanks to Terwen’s donation, we are now able to learn more about Van Kerckhoff’s oeuvre.
Immediately after the founding of ’t Binnenhuis, a studio for home decoration and furnishing in 1900, Van Kerckhoff and her companion, sculptor Saar de Swart (1861-1951), joined the studio as artistic employees. In this capacity, Van Kerckhoff designed several hand-dyed batiked parchment portfolios for the studio. The portfolios sold poorly, however, due to their high selling price. The portfolio in the Nieuwe Kunst collection has the initials EvK inscribed on the front. We are therefore assuming that this specific specimen was intended for Emilie herself and was not commissioned by ’t Binnenhuis or a private client. Furthermore, the binding is not marked with a monogram or other mark by the designer, as was common practice with this type of luxury products. The initials EvK therefore not only refer to the owner but also to the designer of the binding.
The binding is divided into several bays by double lines in gold and is decorated with floral motifs in light and dark blue. The initials on the front cover are further decorated by five small circles and two stars in gold and small brown dots. The back of the binding is less exuberant in decoration. The decoration is most likely to be influenced by the work of Nieuwenhuis, who designed several similar luxury objects.
Do you enjoy our collections and do you sympathise with our activities? You can become a Friend of Leiden University Libraries (UBL) to support the purchase of special books, manuscripts and maps for the benefit of research and teaching at Leiden University.