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 Pointing out typography: the Typographical Library
at the library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam

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Exhibited from 15 June until 17 August 2001

This summer the library dedicates an exhibition to the 'Typographical Library', also known as, Tetterode collection, which it owns since 1971. Visitors will be shown rare and interesting editions that have many things to offer when it comes to types, designs and graphic techniques. This collection is a must for book historians and (graphic) designers. It coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Tetterode firm.

The Tetterode collection, based on nineteenth and twentieth century works, was compiled with utmost care and previously only to be visited on appointment at their premises. The library of the Type-foundry  'Amsterdam', formerly known as N. Tetterode, opened its doors in 1913. An awe-inspiring and spacious hall, designed by the famous architect K.P.C. de Bazel, was dedicated to their collection. The Tetterode complex was located at Bilderdijk street. The wonderful interior of the 'Typographical Library' has since then been moved to the great hall of Amsterdam University at 'het Spui'.

Interior of the typographic library

S.H. de Roos
A worthy librarian for Tetterode was found in the socialist decorating artist S.H. de Roos, the foremost innovator of Dutch typography. Having been in their service since 1907, De Roos had typefaces designed and reworked. As a designer he also worked on all their printed matter. As such he made the first modern Dutch type, the Dutch Mediaeval (1912), which remained popular for decades. When setting up the library De Roos emphasised typography but he also collected printed ephemera such as calendars and waysgoose-prints. When in 1941 he retired, Dick Dooijes (designer) and G.W. Ovink ("aesthetic adviser") took over his duties.

S.H. de Roos in his living room at Jacob Marisstreet Amsterdam, around 1910

The Athias-chest: center of attention
When visiting the exhibition, one's attention is quickly drawn by the so-called Athias-chest. This antique chest of drawers was given on permanent loan last spring by the Tetterode firm. It contains punches and matrices with which Hebrew type was cast for more than two centuries. Important printers and type-founders were the Proops and Athias families. Joseph Athias (1634-1700) was one of the world's most prolific Jewish printers. Thousands of Hebrew and Yiddish books have been made while using materials from this chest.

Specialist literature and sources of inspiration
Also shown at the exhibition are some printers manuals (printed from as early as 1683) and guides for compositors and designers. Furthermore: drawings, sketches, proofs and the company's correspondance dealing with dozens of new types Type-foundry  'Amsterdam' marketed in the last century. The firm was hot on the heels of the latest trends in the field of graphic design. Not only did it develop types such as the Nobel, Lectura and Amazone, but it also took material from foreign companies. Type-specimens are among the most beautifully executed printed matter. The University Library owns a collection of international importance.
Four hundred specialist journals are at the heart of the 'Typographical Library': the company wanted to receive the latest information about all things graphic.
In addition to these they also collected printed matter that would serve as a source of inspiration to those interested and specialists from both the foundry and their competitors. These sources ranged from (specially designed) advertising brochures to very luxurious books. Very wealthy aficionados were usually the driving force behind these bibliophile editions. They often wanted to put their ideas about book-art into practice.
Advertisement from Nijgh & Van Ditmar N.V. (1931), designed by Piet Zwart

Prints and illustration techniques
This collection also has some beautiful prints, showing a large variety of illustration- and reproduction techniques and pictures from type-foundries and printing establishments. With the financial aid of the government, over fifteen thousand prints have been catalogued and preserved over the past few years. This was done by the University Library. When looking for a portrait of a famous engraver from the seventeenth century, a drawing of a type-foundry or a photogravure, nature print or mezzotint, it is now easy to see what the library has to offer. The techniques of reproducing - preferably in colour - pictures has been occupying numerous artists and artisans through the ages. The Tetterode collection shows all techniques possible: be it in books, posters, prospectuses and other advertising material. At times a number of examples pieced together forms a complete puzzle showing the history of an illustration technique.

Catalogue made at the graphic fair
The exhibition is accompanied by a fullcolour brochure called 'Een punt voor Typografie: de Typografische Bibliotheek in de Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam' will appear . During the graphic fair at the RAI from 24 until 28 April 2001 Tetterode demonstrated the latest Heidelberg press by printing this brochure.

From a lithographed children's booklet, around 1850


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Last modified: 1 June 2001
Editor: Monique Kooijmans
More information: Mieke Beumer, coördinate