Arthur der Weduwen has been awarded the James D. Forbes Prize of the University of St Andrews. The prize is awarded to a student collector who has assembled a collection of books, printed ephemera, manuscripts or photographs, tied together by a common theme. This is one of eight such collecting prizes now offered in British universities.
Arthur was awarded the prize for his developing collection of the everyday books of the Dutch Golden Age. Here he describes his collection, in conversation with Project Director Andrew Pettegree.
Arthur der Weduwen began collecting when he came to St Andrews to begin his M. Litt. in book history. He had twice visited St Andrews before this to join our summer internship programme, and it was this that had ignited his interest in rare books. His first purchase was a 1650 Dutch-language pamphlet, Protest van den Brabander, an indignant contribution to a complicated literary spat defending authorship of a popular political best-seller. Arthur bought it to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. Since then he has accumulated thirty-one pre-1700 items, almost all of them Dutch. Naturally enough, as he has been working on a bibliography of seventeenth-century newspapers, Arthur was keen to have an example: the issue of the Amsterdamsche Courante from 1691 that he now owns (one of only two surviving copies) was one of the more expensive items in his collection.
Collecting Dutch material gives Arthur some advantages, since this is a less competitively intense area than buying English, Italian or French books. Most of his purchases fall in the range of 20 to 40 euros, with the cheapest buy a 1647 news pamphlet for which he paid seven euros in the weekly book market in Amsterdam. Arthur visits the book market on the Spui whenever he is in Amsterdam, and connects regularly with the weekly auction website Catawiki. The Amsterdam market has turned up some real gems, including a 1650 Elzevier edition of Quintus Curtius Rufus’ History of Alexander in 24mo. Most of the pamphlets are from Catawiki. “Catawiki works well if you are prepared to let things go when the bidding gets too hot – but there are a lot of surprisingly good buys; August is a good time, when the Dutch collectors are mostly on holiday.”
And the book he most covets? “Well, a copy of the 1644 compendium of the ordinances of the States General (a two-volume folio) would be great. At the other end of the scale, how cool it would be to own a copy of the special newspaper issue Broer Jansz published to mark the execution of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in 1619. The execution took place on a Monday, and Broer Jansz knew he could not wait until the regular issue of his newspaper came out on Saturday. Five copies survive, and when examining them for my newspaper bibliography I found that these represented two separate editions. Broer Jansz was a man who knew his market.”
Arthur der Weduwen’s Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, 1618-1700 was published by Brill and launched in Amsterdam on 11 May 2017.