A Place like Heaven for Bibliophiles
A good design makes a good book even better. (It doesn’t make a bad book good, but a bad design does make a good book bad.) It usually not only improves a book’s readability, but often adds to its collectability. There is no harm in collecting books, but at some point you die & what happens to your collection then? In the case of the 19th-century bibliophile Willem Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt his estate in The Hague became a museum, named after his great-uncle Johan Meerman whose books formed the basis for his collection: Museum Meermanno. Originally the museum went by the name of Meermanno-Westreenianum, but that’s too long & too complicated in this day & age, and I believe they’re now trying to turn its subtitle ‘House of the Book’ into its official designation; I hope that this soulless name won’t last long. The Baron collected antiquities as well, so it’s inaccurate anyway.
The highlight of the museum is the book room upstairs, which has hardly changed during the last 168 years, but we’re dealing with a museum here, so you are not allowed to touch anything, let alone browse the stacks. The antiquities in the adjacent room are hardly of interest to us bibliophiles, but the permanent exhibition ‘From lead to LED’, which shows the development of the book from 1850 to the present, is enthralling, and so were many of the temporary exhibitions hosted by the museum over the last years, all related to book design & illustration, and the history of the book. On weekends from 12 noon to 4½ p.m. there are special activities for children; on Saturdays they can learn to write with a quill pen at the scriptorium, and on Sundays it’s possible to print bookmarks on an old hand press in the workshop. (According to my children the scriptorium is more fun than the workshop.)meermanno.nl