This week I was deeply immersed in the world of books, curating and facilitating an exhibition of antiquarian books on the life of the Albanian national hero Scanderbeg, dating from 1500- 1800 in the Hague.
The thrill of touching (carefully and with love) something that was printed 500 years ago was special, the paper, the fonts, the illustrations, the different feel if the book was published in 1510 or in 1730 and the imaginary trip you had from one printing house in Augsburg to another in Madrid, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Stockholm.
The collection has been created with a lot of love and enthusiasm by Patricia Nugee an eccentric English lady who became fascinated by the character and deeds of Scanderbeg and started a collection, which has been growing over the years. There are a couple of incunables ( books printed before 1500) she has in her list next.
I was full of anticipation who would turn up to see the collection. As the exhibition was hosted by ambassador Adia Sakiqi, a lot of ambassadors attended, and so did historians, scholars, lecturers, librarians, book collectors, artists, journalists, students. Their nationalities were as varied as where the books were printed.
One of the visitors was Rick Tax, director of the Museum Meermanno, or the Museum of the Book design and history, who kindly invited us to visit his books. That was a real treat!
Located centrally on The Hague’s stately Prinsessegracht, the museum houses a large collection brought together by the baron W.H.J. van Westreenen van Tiellandt (1783-1848), a typical 19th century collector, an eccentric baron with a passion to be a bookworm from a very early age.(It seems you need to be eccentric to qualify as a book collector!).
The museum has several highlights, the collections of medieval manuscripts and early printed books, among which more than 1500 incunables, the collection of William Morris' books, which were deemed as revolutionising the world of printing, the collection of miniature books, and the journey "from lead to led" where you walk along a timeline beginning with ‘lead’, the period when books were printed with lead type, to ‘LED’, the present day when e-books are becoming ever more popular.
After a marvellous two days, I am back on the plane, with a lot of reading to do (on my laptop), with a question lingering in my mind What is it that makes books cause such a fascination even when most of the reading we do these days is digital? (to be continued)
Have a lovely week