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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Wally Jansen

Walking through Amsterdam flea markets with my father in the 50s, I distinctly remember being curious about those small white vellum-bound books in the stalls. Generally merely text, but sometimes I discovered engravings with buildings, maps, plants, animals, or portraits.

In my teens my collecting mania expressed itself by my turning my bedroom into a Wunderkammer: cabinets filled with fossils, minerals, Roman coins and stamps; the walls covered with feathers, framed butterflies from the Brussels World Fair, a set of antlers from the Natural History Museum in London while the requisite stuffed crocodile hung from the ceiling.

In college I scoured Denver, searching for old illustrated books, soon acquiring a 1536 Parisian Book of Hours with interesting historic defacements, a 1598 Venetian Ptolemaic atlas, and a 19th-century book containing etchings by among others, Rembrandt and Callot, all printed from the original copper plates; my collection was off to a good start.

After discovering that a number of my forebears were authors or the subjects of a number of books I decided that I should collect books written by them, about them, or as is the case with the book I am showing here, dedicated to and/or facilitated by them.