7 December 2001 until 15 February 2002
The impressive history of the Cohen publishers entitled:
'De zolders kraken! De uitgeversfamilie Cohen
("the attics crack! Cohen publishers Nijmegen-Arnhem-Amsterdam, 1824-1951")
is on display at the Amsterdam University library.
This exhibition coincides with the publication of a book by the same name (ISBN 90 6125 1141) by Esther Z.R. Cohen (deceased 1998) and Marja Keyser (Amsterdam University library).
The Cohen publishers history starts with the Nijmegen-based library/bookshop owned by Godert Ezechiël Cohen II (1803-1876) and continues to follow the seven publishing companies that emerged from that small venture. With a publisher's list of approximately 3500 titles, massive turnovers and, even in those days, budget prices, it was E. & M. Cohen bros. which had a huge influence on Dutch reading habits. Listed were bestsellers such as Uncle Tom's Cabin and Little Lord Fauntleroy as well as works by Dickens and Walter Scott. Several other grandsons initiated companies themselves: Cohen sons, Cohen bookseller's, Literature and Art co. and Martin G. Cohen heirs.
Millions of books
Godert E. Cohen was born into a family of well-to-do tobacco traders who were impoverished during the French occupation. The Nijmegen-based library he started in 1827 at 419 Ganzenheuvel soon developed into an important company called: E. & M. Cohen bros. of Nijmegen, Arnhem and Amsterdam. This was done under his guidance and that of his two sons and two of his grandsons. In addition to supporting regional (Gelderland) authors the firm was also known for publishing outstanding Dutch works and translations. They also provided the public with scientific works and handbooks. The educational value of those can not be underestimated: over the years millions of E. & M. Cohen bros. books have reached the Dutch audience.
In 1905 the compay moved to Amsterdam, by then already capital of the Dutch booktrade. Until 1941 it would be housed at 326 Herengracht. During World War II the Jewish company was liquidated. After the liberation Esther Cohen, great-granddaughter of the company's founder, continued under the 'Phoenix publishers'(E. & M. Cohen bros.) name. After only seven Phoenix publications, a century and a half of Cohen publishing history ended with a takeover by G. van Reemst.
From her retirement in 1986 onward, Esther Zipporah Rosa Cohen (May 27 1925 - May 10 1998) thorougly investigated her ancestral publishing history. In 1995 she published a make-shift and abbreviated version of her story entitled: Van leesbibliotheek tot uitgeversbedrijf (from library to publishing company) in Uitgelezen boeken. Next to her archival work she was able to draw lots of data from her uncle dr David E. Cohen's work De geschiedenis van de familie Cohen (the Cohen family history): a typoscript from 1932. Whe Esther died in 1998 her work was not yet completed, but her family tried to tie it up for publication. They succeeded because of Marja Keyser, former librarian of the Royal Dutch Book Trade Society and connected to the Rare Book Department at the Amsterdam University library. She enthusiastically finished the project, with the support of drs F.J. Hoogewoud
(Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana), G.G. Cohen, Esther's brother Z.R. Cohen, H.J. Cohen, Esther's nephew, and prof. dr H. Daudt. Those mentioned also organised this exhibition.