A magnificent collection of modern typography and fine printing
Martinus Benjamin Barend (Bob) Nijkerk (1894-1987) and his son Karel Joost Nijkerk (1926-2007) were prolific collectors of modern typography and fine printing. Bob Nijkerk’s friendship with many of the major authors, illustrators, printers and publishers of his time lead to the publication of various finely printed books. Many of these books bear witness to his friendship with for example Alexandre A.M. Stols, Arthur van Schendel, G.H. ‘s Gravesande, Jan Greshoff, John Buckland Wright and Jan van Krimpen: they come with an autograph dedication to him, or are printed on his name. In other cases, the provenance of these books can be linked directly to his friends: they were sold or presented to Nijkerk or bought by him from their collections at auction. Both father and son Nijkerk often searched for years to find the best copy available in the market, not only in terms of quality, but also in terms of exclusivity. Only the best editions were suitable for their collection, with equal attention given to the artist, illustrator, typographer, printer and binder involved. In this way, the collection can be seen as a fine survey of the state-of-the-art bookproduction of the twentieth century in continental Europe.
Father and son Nijkerk were active in various bibliophile societies, but they also acted as maecenas for a large number of private presses in the Netherlands, Belgium and in France. The books published by these societies and presses were sent to them on a regular basis. In many cases, Bob and Karel Nijkerk collected almost the entire oeuvre of the authors they knew personally, and were not satisfied until they got all their books in the best available edition.
It is difficult to underestimate the influence of Alexandre Stols on Dutch 20th century publishing, and Bob Nijkerk often contributed financially to the projects of Stols. His loyalty to Stols’s publishing house can be seen as the conditio sine qua non for the Halcyon Press series. Nijkerk not only bought all the books published in these series, but he even bought different copies of the same title, in increasing levels of luxuriousness.
The large quantity of deluxe copies in Bob Nijkerk’s collection and his personal enthousiasm to talk about his books soon led to the interest of museums and organizers of exhibitions of books in The Netherlands, but also abroad. Many of the books here offered have been exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (from 1930 onwards) or at the World Fair, New York in 1939. Nijkerk’s warm relationship with the Stedelijk Museum eventually lead to a permanent loan of many of his books to the museum. Nijkerk, who was of Jewish origin, managed to make a ‘fictitious donation’ of many of these books during World War II, in order to prevent their seizure by the German occupier. In the collection on offer, some copies still have the ex libris of the Stedelijk Museum in it. It was pasted in the books in order to mislead the Nazis: by presuming that Nijkerk had donated them to the museum, they couldn’t be confiscated. In fact, many of these copies were returned to him after the War.
When the War was over, the literary world in Holland had changed immensely. Bob and Karel Nijkerk remained active as bibliophiles, and continued their focus on typographie pure and its new representatives in Holland. It is with great pride that we present the second part of their collection in this catalogue.