New Project: Rijksboeken

Thursday 1 October 2020 marked the beginning of the project Rijksboeken. Over the next three months I will research various book collections of the Rijksmuseum, with the help of curator Geert-Jan Koot and in cooperation with graphic designer Irma Boom.

The Rijksmuseum Research Library is one of the main art libraries in the world, with 450.000 books and periodicals about art and (Dutch) history. The special collections are extensive and are known to hold many rare and precious books, ranging from art manuals to guides for papercutting, and from colour theories to annotated auction catalogues. The project Rijksboken aims to explore the material history of books from the collections of the Rijksmuseum, and place them into a wider perspective of historical culture.

Rijksboeken Kick-off
Alex Alsemgeest, Geert-Jan Koot and Irma Boom, 22 June 2020 in the reading room of Rijksmuseum Research Library. Photo: Saskia Scheltjens.

Thousands of books from the collections of the Rijksmuseum already had an eventful past before they were included in the library. Books were once written and made, which is essentially a creative process; then they were published, typeset and printed, requiring paper, ink, letters, a press, typesetters, printers, engravers, and a great deal of knowledge and skill; in the third phase the books were transported, sometimes to the bookshop around the corner, by ship across the ocean, or in the case of banned books smuggled across the border; the books were sold by booksellers, in shops and fairs, or by book peddlers; they found their way to readers, universities, book clubs, collectors and libraries; much of what was once printed has now been lost, but large parts remain, and this inspires new users to a new cycle of creating, distributing, using, storing and recreating.

Al these acts in the life-cycle of the book left traces. We hope to find these in the coming months and explore the histories connected to these books. Read more about the start of this project in Dutch on the blog The Art of Information of the Rijksmuseum Research Library.

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