National Library of The Netherlands

The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, since 1982 the National Library of the Netherlands, is based in The Hague. As a National Library the KB coordinates the Dutch library world according to the following mission: “Driven by the power of the written word we further intellectual development, proficiency and creativity in the Netherlands. To this end, we seek collaboration with partners in the domains of public libraries, cultural heritage and academics. The KB promotes the visibility, usability and longevity of the Dutch Library Collection, defined as the collective holdings of all publicly funded libraries in the Netherlands. Unhindered access to these collections furthers the development of new ideas and allows researchers to build upon the ideas of their predecessors.”

The library was founded in 1798, out of the former collections of stadtholder William V, who had fled to England at the time because of the revolution of the Patriots in The Netherlands. Thereafter, under Napoleon, the Netherlands was incorporated into France. Under the reign of Napoleon’s brother Louis, the library was named “Koninklijk” or “Royal”. In the first years of its existence, the library grew enormously through the acquisition of major important collections. In 1807 about 24,000 printed works and 300 manuscripts were acquired from the lawyer and magistrate Joost Romswinckel, in 1818 important works from G.J. Gérard and the Nassau family donated about 7,000 items from the Dillenburg library in 1818-1821. Other collections followed. Since 1974 the KB functions as the Deposit Library for all publications published in the Netherlands.

Nowadays the KB holds about 7,000,000 items, which equal 115 km of library materials (books, newspapers, journals, microforms), 10,800 current periodicals, 500 licensed databases and e-journals. In 2016 the deposit print collection has grown by 40,950 books and 39,350 issues of periodicals, and 1,817 new periodicals. In 2016 2.6 million digital articles and 2,500 e-books were added, and 1,800 new websites were stored. In the Special Collections we can distinguish the following specializations:

  • Medieval manuscripts: ca. 1500
  • Modern manuscripts: 5,000 codices (incl. ca. 470 alba amicorum) & 130,000 written letters (correspondence)
  • Early printed editions (1450-1800): ca. 200,000 volumes (of which: incunabula (ca. 2,000); post-incunabula: (ca. 3,500); pamphlets: (ca. 30,000); occasional poetry: (ca. 4,000); official publications: (ca. 30,000); songbooks (ca. 3,000); popular prose: (ca. 2,000)
  • Modern bibliophilic editions: ca. 40,000 volumes
  • Bookbindings: ca. 10,000 items
  • Paper history: ca. 10,000 volumes and papers
  • Children’s books: ca. 200,000 volumes and 1,500 catchpenny prints
  • Chess: 30,000 volumes

The KB is involved in major digitization projects. ProQuest has digitized a number of the earliest printed editions of The Netherlands and since 2010 Google digitized many of the later printed editions (up to 1870). Besides that, many of KB’s newspapers and journals are digitized and available on the website Delpher.

The KB is the coordinator of a number of websites in the field of cultural heritage. First of all the Short-Title Catalogue Netherlands. From the 1980s a team of bibliographers worked on this bibliography; since 2006 the STCN is a service of the KB and is expanded through describing new acquisitions of libraries in the Netherlands and major collections abroad. The website Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections lists medieval manuscripts in the Netherlands and is also coordinated by the KB. For knowledge of the history of the printed book the KB developed the website Bibliopolis.



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