The Struik collection
THE STRUIK COLLECTION
Up to the end of the 18th century, a book was generally not bound when it was published. One would buy a pile of loose printed sheets from the publisher or printer, and take them to the binder to have them bound into a book according to one’s own taste (and at one’s own expense). Once the book had been bound, the binding was decorated by hand.
It only became possible to produce largely machine-made bindings from about 1820 onwards, thanks to the arrival of the steam engine. From the 1830s onwards heavy presses came onto the market with which large relief blocks could be applied to the binding in one operation. Bindings made in this way are known as industrial bookbindings. After the Second World War they were less called for on account of the growth in popularity of the paperback. The Netherlands boasts two great collectors in this field: Fons van der Linden (1923-1998) and A.S.A. Struik (1926-2006). Albert Struik collected industrial bookbindings for 35 years. In 1991 he donated well over 8,000 specimens of Dutch industrial bookbinding to the University Library of Amsterdam; the Museum Meermanno was presented with more than 3,000 foreign bindings.
This splendid collection, unique in the world, includes bindings from Germany, England, France, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Anyone studying this collection will notice, among other things, the extent to which successful binding designs were imitated throughout Europe – especially when illustrations of these designs had been shown in art magazines such as The Studio. Therefore we regularly come across very similar covers on books which otherwise bear no relationship to one another whatsoever. The imitations were by no means always accurate: sometimes even beautiful designs were completely messed up by their imitators. This also happened in Holland. Luckily the museum has many fine examples of Dutch bindings that can be arranged next to the ones from other countries.
While the books were still in his home, Struik did everything to protect them: the bookshelves were trimmed with felt – a protection against dust – and directly in front of them curtains were installed to protect the designs on the dust-wrappers against sunlight.