Matrices of the Zilverdistel Press
MATRICES OF THE ZILVERDISTEL PRESS
In 1909 Jan Greshoff, J.C. Bloem and P.N. van Eyck established the first Dutch private press, De Zilverdistel, following the English example. However, before long a new member of the board became the leading man behind this press: the lawyer Jean François van Royen (1878-1942). Van Royen, who had been employed at the Dutch PTT since 1904, held strong views on government printing, which he expressed in the bibliophile journal De Witte Mier [The White Ant] in 1912: ‘Let’s put it in three words: Government Printing is ugly, ugly, ugly, i.e. thrice ugly – in letter forms, in type matter and in paper, the three chief elements which make up the character of printing.’
In 1914 Van Royen commissioned the well-known typographer S.H. de Roos to design a typeface for De Zilverdistel, the Zilvertype, which was completed in 1915. Van Royen’s intense concern with this design is apparent from their surviving correspondence – 152 letters and cards, later published. A second type design, the Disteltype, was commissioned by Van Royen from the Franco-British artist and printer Lucien Pissarro. It was also completed in 1915.
Van Royen directed De Zilverdistel until 1922, when he changed the name of the press to Kunera Pers.
The last book printed by Van Royen, on 1 March 1942, is In den keerkring [In the Tropic], a collection of poems by P.C. Boutens. Four days after the completion of this book Van Royen was arrested by the Germans and imprisoned in the Amersfoort Nazi camp, where he died of exhaustion two months later.
By then Van Royen’s press had already been dismantled and brought to the Nederlands Postmuseum [Dutch Postal Museum]. The press was subsequently stored for years in the warehouse of the National Library, until in 1964 it was moved with all its accessories to the Museum Meermanno, together with Van Royen’s complete archive. By now the Meermanno also has the matrices for both typefaces.