Wednesday, August 3, 2011

3. Early Dutch collectors

The history of the private press movement in the Netherlands (1910-2010) was recently the subject of an exhibition and a book. There is also a website, hosted by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands: The Ideal Book. The publication contains more information than the website which does not include the chapters about the origin of the term 'private press' or the emergence of the private press movement in countries such as England, Belgium, Germany and the United States. This last chapter mentions a few names of Dutch collectors of private press books, but not much is known about their intentions, the fate of their collections, or their personal life.

There is one J. Visser from Rotterdam, for example, who lent books to the 1904 exhibition at the Plantin Moretus museum in Antwerp where a multitude of modern books was on show. Visser loaned Kelmscott and Vale Press books among others. The collector N.J. Beversen (who also owned a few Ricketts items) provided books by the Doves Press and Essex House Press. Beversen (1860-1932) is better known, he was a classicist and a rector of the Rotterdam grammar school. Edward Koster (1861-1937), another classicist, was a teacher at the Haganum grammar school of The Hague. He possessed books by a variety of private presses, including Ricketts's Vale Press. 

A newspaper clipping brought another collector to my attention: it mentions the property of 'a gentleman at Harlem' (the Dutch city of Haarlem, near Amsterdam). His collection was auctioned by R.W.P. de Vries in Amsterdam on Tuesday 23 February 1926. More than his place of residence is not known. There is no introduction to the catalogue, nor a photograph. Almost two hundred English private press books were on sale. The catalogue lists six pages of Vale Press books, revealing that the collection was almost complete, lacking only a copy of The Blessed Damozel (Rossetti), The Centaur, The Bacchante (GuĂ©rin) and the Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs (Ricketts). The newspaper reported that the complete works of Shakespeare in 39 volumes were sold for ten Dutch guilders. All books had the original vellum, paper or buckram bindings. There were no special copies on vellum (such as the one illustrated below), however, this may well have been the largest Vale Press collection in the Netherlands at the time. Unfortunately, the collector is not identified. 
The Vale Press edition of Tennyson's Lyric Poems (1900), one of ten copies on vellum, from the collection of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague. [Photo by Jos Uljee. © Koninklijke Bibliotheek.]