Mr Bestebreurtje, you have recently been elected as the new President of the Dutch Antiquarian Bookseller's Association, Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Antiquaren (NVvA). Please tell us a little about your background and your business?
After six years of working for two different rare bookdealers in Utrecht, my wife Wilma and I started trading from home in Nieuwegein in January 1981.
By the end of 1981, we moved to the center of Utrecht. There we opened a shop with an office. Over the years, the amount of work from the office increased so much that after 12 years we decided to move to smaller premises, a historical building downtown on the canal. Since 2003 we have been based in Vianen, a small city close to Utrecht where visitors are welcome by appointment. We still specialize in old and rare books on voyages and travel and colonial and maritime history. Customers are welcome to visit our website www.gertjanbestebreurtje.com to browse our frequently updated inventory and we exhibit at major international book fairs.
The history of the book trade in The Netherlands is fascinating, rich and complex. Printing arrived early in the Low Countries. Cities like The Hague, Leiden, Haarlem, Utrecht and of course, Amsterdam were home to printers and booksellers for over 500 years. You are based near Utrecht, what can one find here today?
The region of Utrecht was home to printers and publishers such as Het Spectrum, whose paperback Prisma series of classical works would see print runs up to 250,000 copies in the 1950’s. Utrecht has been a university city since 1636. Famous academic publishers such as Elzevier had branches here and relatively high literacy levels helped fuel the book trade from early on.
The Special Collections Department of the Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht holds a particularly important collection of illuminated manuscripts, some dating back to the 11th century, assigned to Utrecht masters. It's a charming city with a beautiful medieval center.
At this moment two further NVvA members are located in the city of Utrecht: André Swertz and Iris van Daalen, and four are located nearby: Jeroen Zaal in De Bilt, Laurens Hesselink & Julius Steiner in ‘t Goy and myself in Vianen.
What are your plans for the trade and your new role in the next few years?
The Dutch book trade has relatively many members and has become very international. I have been a member of the Dutch Association since 1983 and have acted as a member of the board for many years, performing several functions. Now as President, I hope to strengthen the position of the Dutch Association in the media and to encourage a good understanding between the colleagues.
The connections between the Dutch rare book dealers and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers have been strong from the beginning. Dutch rare bookseller Menno Herzberger took the initiative to found the Dutch Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association in 1935 and after WWII, it was him who drove the idea of an international dealer’s association which was then decided to be formed at a Preliminary Meeting in 1947 in Amsterdam. The idea of ILAB was born! Three ILAB Congresses have since been held in The Netherlands and you have just announced some very exciting news?
Every year, we organize the Amsterdam International Book & Print Fair. In 2016, a newly elected book fair committee developed a new concept and the fair was held at a new location in the heart of the book-loving city of Amsterdam. This was a great success! The spectacular location of the Marriot Hotel in the center of Amsterdam is a stone’s throw away from the recently reopened Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Marriott is easily accessible for both exhibitors and visitors. The Amsterdam Book Fair is an eminently suitable occasion for Dutch and foreign antiquarian bookdealers and visitors to meet and to do business with each other.
In 1994, the Dutch Association organized the ILAB congress and book fair with great success. We are very proud to announce that we will host the 44th ILAB Congress in September 2020 in Amsterdam followed by the Amsterdam International Book & Print Fair. A committee is working already to make these events successful again.
We look forward to your visit at the fair this year and we also hope to see you at the congress in 2020!
To contact Gert Jan Bestebreurtje or the Dutch Antiquarian Booksellers' Association NVvA, please follow this link.
Image 1: Gert and Wilma Bestebreurtje at the Olympia Book Fair in London 2017
Image 2: Website of NVvA www.nvva.nl