Five Fine Bindings from the Library of the House of Representatives

The collection of the House of Representatives in the Hague is a historical reference collection that has been used by generations of Dutch parliamentarians. That means that government publications in practical paper wrappers are the dominent type of books. Surprisingly, there are also a number of fine bindings in the library. Here is an overview of five of my favourite items from the collection.

1. Gold-tooled vellum containing Financial Reports of Holland

These two folio volumes contain reports on the finances of the province of Holland in the late 18th century. Not the type of literature you keep on your nightstand, but the bindings are worth a closer look. The gold-tooled vellum has the emblem of the Batavian Republic on the boards. The plate stamp used to decorate the bindings has been preserved and is now part of the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Five copies were sent to the Uitvoerend Bewind (‘Executive Authority’) of the Batavian Republic. They decided to send one copy to parliament, one to the National Library, one to the National Chanselary, and keep one for the Uitvoerend Bewind. It makes you wonder what happened to the fifth copy!

2. Donated books in red morocco

These books seem to have been grouped together only because of the colour of the bindings. In fact, that is true! Forget the adagium that you should never judge a book by its cover. The red moroccan bindings with extensive goldtooling to the boards and spines, edges gilt and marbled endpapers have a story to tell. Most of them originate from the 1830s and 1840s, when the library of the House of Representatives was a modest collection of just under a thousand items. Books were often donated to the library by politicians, jurists and legal theorists, and they spared no expense to add some style to their gifts.

3. Description of The Hague

The Dutch historian Jacob de Riemer (1676-1762) is best remebered for his work Beschryving van ‘sGraven-hage (Description of The Hague). The copy in the House of Representatives is bound in three volumes by the ‘Dubbelwiegevoet bindery’ in Amsterdam. The ‘hunting rol’ used for decoration around the edges of the boards contains musicians, animals and fable creatures.

4. Taxation sheets in Paper boards

These very elegant and slim folio bindings add some style to the otherwise not very appealing genre of taxation sheets. The bindings contain double folio sheets with the taxation reports from 1750 until 1806.

5. The Library Catalogue of 1855

The first printed catalogue of the library of the House of Representatives was published in 1855, with supplements from 1856 to 1865. The volumes are uniformly bound in blue cloth with gold-tooling to the boards by bindery P.C. Matthijs Jr. & Comp. in The Hague. Several of the mid-19th century bindings in the library still bear the binder’s ticket on the inner boards.

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