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Grolier bindings in the Netherlands

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After the death of Jean Grolier in 1565 his library was kept intact in his house, the 'Hôtel de Lyon', in Paris until 1676 when it was publicly auctioned. Even before that sale a number of Grolier bindings had come onto the market from the estates of his friends. In France there was little demand for these bindings, for the style of bookbinding had changed entirely. English collectors, however, passionately devoted themselves to collecting precisely these older bindings as specimens of the art of bookbinding in earlier times. In many cases, however, the English bibliophiles did not purchase these bindings in France but rather in The Hague, where important French libraries were sold by auction in the 'Ridderzaal' [Great Hall] under the direction of Abraham de Hondt. The author discusses the auctions of the libraries of the marquis de Ménars (1720) and Pétau père et fils (1722), both rich in Grolier bindings, the greater part of which was bought by English collectors. The auction of Baron von Hohendorf's Grolier bindings which was planned for 1720 did not take place because Emperor Charles VI had bought the entire collection. Some years afterwards the Hague bookdealers Vaillant Bros. and Groenewegen & Van den Hoek settled in London where they sold Grolier bindings among others. The crisis that affected the Hague book trade in about the year 1740 was to bring an end to these activities. The last antiquarian bookdealer from The Hague to have a Grolier binding sold by auction was Jean Néaulme in 1765. The history of the eighteenth-century 'Grolieriomania' in England was concluded by the eccentric William Beckford. The author next discusses the Dutch collectors who had Grolier bindings in their possession. The first of these is the notorious classicist and pornographer Adriaan Beverland (d. 1717), who had sold his library, including a Grolier binding, to the Duke of Sunderland. The second is the great collector Pietro Antonio Crevenna, of Amsterdam, whose treasures-which included three Grolier bindings-came up for sale in 1790. In the famous 'Bibliotheca Meermanniana', sold by auction in 1824, there were two Grolier bindings one of which, a plaquette binding, was bought by Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt. One had to wait for over a century before encountering further Grolier bindings in the collection of a Dutchman- until 1936 when the magnificent library of the art dealer Anton W. M. Mensing (of the firm of Fred. Muller & Co) came under the hammer at Sotheby's. Mensing possessed two Grolier bindings, one of which originally belonged to Leiden University Library, which had sold it as a duplicate. The plaquette binding in the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum in The Hague was then the only Grolier binding in a Dutch public collection. This situation changed in 1967 when the Koninklijke Bibliotheek managed to buy Grolier's famous Chrysostom in five volumes-each bound to a different design-at the third Abbey sale. In 1975 the University Library of Amsterdam acquired a 'white' Grolier binding from the Edmée Maus collection-one of the three white kid bindings known to exist.


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