The extent of holdings of Dutch imprints in the University Library represents the hectic printing activity in the Netherlands during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Books were printed in a variety of languages dominated by Latin and French. The Dutch were also masters in early Oriental and Arabic printing (Arabic is the only living language to have been taught almost continuously in the Netherlands for more than four centuries). In 1696, Dutchman Cornelius Cornefelt [Crownfield] was appointed manager of the newly established Cambridge University Press (he retired as late as 1740). He selected types that probably came from a foundry in Delft run by the widow of Jan Jacobsz Schipper and additional types may have been purchased from Dick Vosken’s widow. Both Presses (Oxford and Cambridge) profited from Low Country specialisation in Hebrew, Greek and Oriental types which did much to enrich scholarship at the universities.
The Dutch take pride in a rich history of printing and publishing. The most comprehensive collection of typographical materials in the Netherlands can be found at the Museum Meermanno (House of the Book – The Hague). This delightful museum is located in the former house of the book collector Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt (1783-1848), who was close to his cousin Johan Meerman (1751-1815), a book collector, traveller, and diarist. The museum is (in part) a memorial to Meerman. Today, the development of the design of antiquarian and modern books is its central focus. Museum Meermanno’s online catalogue provides access to its extensive collections: books, manuscripts, prints, coins and medals, and letters. There is a substantial holding of materials specifically dealing with book design and bookplates. This includes a wide variety of graphic designs, letters, posters, proofs, and prospectuses. Remarkably, the museum also holds a complete collection of William Morris’s Kelmscott Press.
Prospectuses (Proef / Proeven) were ‘working documents’, a way of presenting the skill and ability of an individual printer in an attempt to attract new customers. Relatively few such items survive, because they were not produced with the idea of preservation. These are mostly found in single copies in a variety of libraries. It is in many cases thanks to the effort of individual collectors that these documents continue to be available for consultation. Diamond broker Albert Ehrman, trading from no. 18/20 Holborn Viaduct, London, was a significant book collector. In memory of his father, John Ehrman of Trinity College, historian (celebrated for his life of Pitt the Younger) and Honorary Treasurer of the Friends of National Libraries, presented the British Library in 1977 with a number of fine incunabula and sixteenth-century printed books. The Bodleian received the book-binding collection. The remainder of his father’s collection was sold at Sotheby’s in two sales in November 1977 and May 1978.
Cambridge University Library also profited from the family’s generosity. It holds the excellent Broxbourne Collection (named after Ehrman’s place of residence) on mainly British book and type design. The collection includes a small but significant number of French, German and Dutch language components. Amongst the items from the Netherlands there is the following unique example, i.e. not mentioned in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands: Proef van letteren, ter boekdrukkerye van Warner te Nuyl (Deventer: 1762 – classmark: Broxbourne.d.36). *
Deventer, a city in the east of the Netherlands on the river IJssel, developed in the eighth century around a chapel established by St Lebuinus. During the Middle Ages it prospered economically as a member of the Hanseatic League and became an intellectual hub where Thomas à Kempis, Desiderius Erasmus, and Pope Adrian VI studied at its renowned Latin school. In the fourteenth century, Geert Groote (Gerardus Magnus) formed his religious movement of the Brethren of the Common Life here. The town was the most important Dutch printing centre about 1500, producing large numbers of grammars and didactic books, especially from the press of Richard Pafraet (a native of Cologne who had started printing in Deventer in 1477). The oldest scholarly library in the country was founded here in 1560. By the eighteenth century Deventer had lost much of its earlier glory but printing remained part of the city’s DNA. In 2011 the Library acquired a substantial and lavishly illustrated 2 volume set on the history of Deventer by Henk Slechte, Geschiedenis van Deventer (S950.b.200.4717-4718).
To this day, the family name Te(n) Nuyl – in a variation of spellings – is closely associated with the city of Deventer. Its most famous representative was scholar Samuel ten Nuyl who used the latinised version of his name, Samuel Tennulius. From 1667 he was Professor of History and Eloquence at the Academy at Nijmegen (the library holds five of his publications). Born in Deventer in 1635, he was father-in-law to the great classical scholar J.F. Gronovius who, at the beginning of his career, taught at the Athenaeum in the city before accepting a professorship in Greek at Leiden University. Tennulius is appreciated as an excellent linguist and mathematician. Was our printer related to the scholar? Little is known about him. The STCN mentions two figures with the same name. Warner te Nuyl (I) is identified working as a printer and bookseller from Lange Bisschopstraat, Deventer, between 1712 and 1718. A total of twelve publications (religious works, plays and farces) have been identified, all in Dutch. Warner te Nuyl (II) is mentioned as working from Papenstraat in 1759. Although located in one of the most prominent streets in the city, only two documents from his press (a study of veterinary medicine and a sermon) have been recorded. It makes the unique presence of his Proef in the Broxbourne collection all the more intriguing.
Aspects of French eighteenth century typography: a study of type specimens in the Broxbourne collection at Cambridge University Library. Cambridge: University Printing House, 1982. [The final chapter, on the uses of type specimens, is followed by a handlist of twenty type specimens in the Broxbourne Collection covering the period 1740 to 1800 compiled by David McKitterick].
Typographical specimen books in the Broxbourne Library.
In: Book Collector 5 (1956), pp. 236-272.
Nixon, Howard M.
Broxbourne Library: Styles and designs of bookbindings from the twelfth to the twentieth century / selected and described by Howard M. Nixon; with an introduction by Albert Ehrman. London: Maggs Brothers, 1956.