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The book illustrators Jan & Casper Luyken
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From 20 May till 2 July 1999

Portret of Jan Luyken with link to bigger size (320 Kb) The University Library has organized an exposition featuring the work of the illustrator and poet Jan Luyken (1649-1712) and his son Casper (1672-1708). The exhibition coincides with the publication of the catalogue Jan & Casper Luyken te boek gesteld, compiled by Nel Klaversma, (Amsterdam Historical Museum) and Kiki Hannema, published by Verloren in Hilversum. At the beginning of this century the children of the previous owner, Christiaan Pieter van Eeghen, donated the Luyken collection to the Amsterdam Historical Museum. The catalogue gives a description of this collection, which consists of about 1,000 volumes. For the compilation of the catalogue the computersystem of the Rare Books department of the University Library was used.

Together with Romeyn de Hooghe, Jan Luyken was the most important illustrator at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. He lived and worked in Amsterdam. Jan Luyken was born on April 16,1649. At quite an early age it was already obvious that he had a talent for drawing, but even so he started his artistic career as a poet. In the course of the years Jan worked for at least twelve different printers in Amsterdam and for 29 other printers elsewhere in the Netherlands. He did hardly any free-hand work, because he quickly earned himself a name and soon became so much in demand that he never had to wait for a new commission. His main patron in Amsterdam was the publisher Jan ten Hoorn.

'The trades of man'

De Backer, illustration by Jan Luyken Jan taught his son Casper the art of drawing, etching, and engraving. Apart from his own, independent work, such as illustrations for travel books, placards for plays, and a special volume with costume prints, Casper cooperated with his father on the illustrations of a number of books. He was involved in making engravings of his father's drawings for 'The Trades of Man', a book from 1694. It is this work that made him widely known. The illustrations are still used for all kinds of advertising, wrapping papers, and business cards. Almost everyone knows the prints, but hardly anyone knows who made them. The book showed 100 different trades, accompanied by a short text. The illustrations were intended to make reader reflect on the deeper meaning of 'the trades of man'. We see, for example, 'The Lantern Maker', 'The Pastry Cook', 'The Gravedigger', and 'The Engraver'. In those days Amsterdam was the international centre for the book trade, so it is hardly surprising that so many of the illustrations deal with the art of printing and the book trade.


In Baptist circles Jan Luyken is best known for the 104 'gruesome' pictures he made for 'The Bloody Tragedy, or the Martyrs' Mirror of the Baptist and Defenceless Christians' written by Tieleman J. van Bracht in 1685. Jan and Casper Luyken have made a total of almost 4,500 prints, and Jan Luyken wrote and illustrated 13 books by himself. He also illustrated mostly religious and historical works, travel books, emblem books, and vignettes on maps in atlasses. His books were popular with a large public. The Luyken exhibition shows the work of both father and son, and in some cases also the preliminary sketches. The exhibits are from the collections of the Amsterdam Historical Museum and the University Library Amsterdam.

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Last modified: 12 May 1999
Editor: Monique Kooijmans