May 4, 2019

Big trompe l’oeil eye-catcher in Utrecht

Filed under: Art by Orangemaster @ 3:20 pm

Last month Dutch street artists Jan Is De Man and Deef Feed completed a large trompe l’oeil mural on the side of a residential building in Utrecht on the corner of Mimosastraat and Amsterdamsestraatweg. It depicts a big shelf of books on a three-story flat building, packed with a selection of their favourite books from their own collections. There’s one about Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Le Petit Prince and other Dutch and English books.

If you look closely, you can also see a few made-up titles featuring their own names.

(Link and photo:

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November 5, 2018

Dutchman wins Welsh bookshop in raffle

Filed under: Literature by Orangemaster @ 2:08 pm

Not only will Cies-Jan van Heerden, a Dutchman originally from Wijk bij Duurstede, Utrecht get the keys from the second-hand Welsh bookshop he recently won in a raffle, but the BBC has also decided to make a film about it.

The BBC will be there to film the hand-over of Bookends in Cardigan, Wales where Van Heerden now lives from retiring owner Paul Morris to both Van Heerden and his new business partner, Sveinejorn Stefan Einarsson from Iceland who has moved to Wales to help run the business. Both new owners were online friends for eight or nine years and only recently met face to face, which can only make for an interesting story.

And in keeping with always mentioning the price of things, Van Heerden only had to buy some 20 euro worth of books to be in the running to win the whole shop.


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May 31, 2018

Priceless books found in Dutch Parliament

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 3:24 pm


While cleaning up the book attic of the Dutch Parliament to get ready for a big move in the near future, hundreds of priceless books have been discovered, including a first edition of Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith’s ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ aka ‘The Wealth of Nations’ worth a few hundred thousand euro, published in 1776. Although it is said not to be that rare, it is very much in demand by rich folks as a showpiece in their offices.

Among the hundreds of books published before 1830, 10 percent of them are unique, with no existing second edition. The rest of the books are mostly from the second half of the eighteenth century. Many of the books will need to be restored and will possibly be exhibited at some point in time.


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November 1, 2017

Utrecht, first Dutch Unesco City of Literature

Filed under: Dutch first,Literature by Orangemaster @ 10:18 am


Yesterday, Utrecht was named Unesco City of Literature by the cultural branch of the United Nations in Paris, and has the honour of being the first ever Dutch city to receive this title.

Utrecht, along with many other cities around the world, is being praised for its impressive literature history, as well as its literature festivals, writers, bookshops, libraries, studies and publishers. As well, the wonderful title can be used until the end of time, which is great for city marketing.

As of 2019, the former post office on De Neude will also be the face of the new City of Literature, a ‘cathedral’, for books and a meeting place for all things literary. “The Netherlands is a small language area and it’s not easy to get international recognition for our authors”, explains Michaël Stoker, director of Utrecht’s Het Literatuurhuis (Literature House). Stocker says this title will break the ice, so that worldwide people will be able to see that the Dutch have good writers and poets.


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October 27, 2017

First ever Frisian translation for Book Week

Filed under: Dutch first,Literature by Orangemaster @ 4:52 pm

The city of Leeuwarden together with the province of Friesland will be one of the Cultural Capitals of Europe in 2018. To mark the occasion, during Book Week in March, the traditional free book handed out will be available in a Frisian translation for the very first time.

Best selling Flemish author Griet Op de Beeck will have the honours of contributing a book to Book Week, entitled ‘Gezien de feiten’ (roughly, ‘Having seen (given) the facts’ in English and ‘Mei it each op de feiten’ in Frisian). Dutch and Flemish authors read each other all the time, but it’s television that tends to ‘localise’ Dutch and Flemish television shows. Fans of Dutch-language literature, which includes any kind of Dutch, is read by all without a fuss.

And a free book is a free book.

(Link:, Photo by Rupert Ganzer, some rights reserved)

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March 5, 2016

Book exchange in Nijmegen made of dead trees

Filed under: General,Literature,Nature,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 9:57 pm


This charming little street library was spotted today by us in the Lindenholt neighbourhood of Nijmegen. It’s made of tree trunks with added plastic curtains shielding books from the elements. Patrons are supposed to swap books, which means take one out, put one of your their own back in. The tree was placed there in 2014. Two other book trees have been added to the neighbourhood since.

The idea of using real dead trees to house the proverbial ones is not new. A German project that aims to promote women in construction, Baufachfrau, has been adding similar kiosks to the streets of Berlin since 2006 as part of the international Bookcrossing project.

In our neck of the woods, Amsterdam, it’s actually a bit trendy for houses to feature ‘outdoor bookcases’ (‘buiten boekenkasten’), but then Google shows us it’s cool throughout the country.

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February 1, 2014

Stormy weather for world’s “most beautiful book store”

Filed under: Architecture,Literature by Branko Collin @ 1:10 pm

bookstore-maastricht-teemu-maentynenThe twenty Dutch book stores of the Polare chain have closed their doors—temporarily, they say.

Initial reports said that the closure came about because Centraal Boekhuis, the shared depot of most book stores in the Netherlands, refused to deliver any more books until Polare paid its bills. According to however Central Boekhuis has resumed delivery of books to Polare. The closure came as a surprise to the distributor.

Whatever the real reason behind Polare’s action is, it seems clear that the chain is in trouble.

Punters have started producing explanations for the bad weather Polare has found itself in. The Internet is a big bogeyman according to Z24’s Thijs Peters. Regular customers are buying books on the Internet and students who were automatically referred to Polare’s predecessors at the start of the academic year, now buy their text books on-line.

In NRC competing book store Athenaeum gets plenty of space to explain Polare’s alleged downfall. Manager Maarten Asscher calls Polare “too big to succeed”. “If you want ‘the complete book store’, you go online. When customers go to a brick and mortar store, they go there for the inspiration and for professional and thoughtful advice. You don’t need 3,000 square metres of floor space for that.”

Polare was born last year out of the merger between Selexyz and De Slegte, the latter being a chain of second hand book stores. If you ask me, what got Selexyz into a spot where they had to merge with another floundering chain was its late entry to the Internet, not helped by having a name that is difficult to spell and therefore to google.

One of Polare’s constituent stores is situated in a former Dominican church in Maastricht and was called the most beautiful book store in the world by a British newspaper in 2008. If you are having trouble recognising the irony: the word is more popular than ever, but the pulpit? Meh.

(Photo by Teemu Mäntynen, some rights reserved; more pics of the church turned book store can be found here)

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January 15, 2014

Bookshop owner to go to court for selling Hitler’s memoirs

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 8:42 pm


Michiel van Eyck, owner of the Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam was questioned by police for an hour recently on the sale of Adolf Hitler’s memoirs Mein Kampf.

You see, the sale of Mein Kampf is banned in the Netherlands under anti-discrimination laws. Sure, you can just score it online instead, which is legal and makes the ban absurd and not very useful.

Van Eyck feels that selling the famous memoirs is not inciting hatred, as he also sells books written by Stalin, Mao and the likes. He hopes to go to court to have what he feels is an outdated ban overturned.


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October 3, 2011

Illustrated atlas of the afterlife

Filed under: Art,Design by Branko Collin @ 12:17 pm

Last year Guido Derksen, Martin van Mousch and Jop Mijwaard published a book about how different cultures and religions view the hereafter.

Rather than limiting themselves to a dry summing up of various theories, the authors actually made an illustrated atlas: eighteen drop dead gorgeous maps! There are maps of Dante’s hell, the Egyptian Duat, the Islamic, Jewish and Hindu heavens, and many more (shown here: Valhalla). The book drew positive reviews from both the religious and secular press.

Reformatorisch Dagblad (protestant) wrote:

The chapter about the medieaval folk tale of Cockaigne is a welcome change of tone, being comical in nature. The map contains a Tokkelroom Dale with a town called Advocaat. We also find a mountain range called Top Fermenting with a peak called Two Fingers. […] In conclusion it is an original, fascinating and informative book.

Holly Moors added:

To some people this may be a confrontational and sobering book, but it thought it was lovely. A piece of folkloric religion becomes pure literature again—back to the realm of Tolkien.

And VPRO radio: “Real maps […], so you’ll know exactly where you need to be.”

Moors has several samples of the maps, as does the authors’ blog, which discusses (in Dutch) how the maps were made.

De Geïllustreerde Atlas van het Hiernamaals, by Guido Derksen, Martin van Mousch and Jop Mijwaard, Nieuw Amsterdan, 2010.

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December 13, 2010

Literary classics from the Low Countries as one page comics

Filed under: Comics,Literature by Branko Collin @ 8:43 am

Dutch comics intendant—yes, that is an official title—Gert Jan Pos asked 57 comics artists from the Netherlands and Flanders to create abstracts of classic Dutch literature in comic form. There was one catch, each comic had to encompass the entire work in a single page.

The resulting coffee table book was published last month by De Vliegende Hollander and is called ‘Mooi Is Dat!’ (That Is Just Dandy!). It is sold for 35 euro.

Artist Holly Moors of Moors Magazine is happy with the result: “The book not only shows that there are a lot of very talented comics artists out there, but also that the comic has been an adult medium for a while now. The artists hardly ever merely regurgitate the work they are dealing with, but give completely personal impressions of each text.”

Comics script writer Peter Moerenhout is more critical: “If comics have literary value in and of themselves, why then do we need to base comics on literary classics to prove our point? […] The need is understandable, we require bait to lure the unbelievers. At least if we used sex as bait, we could only be accused of crass commercialism, and that is no longer just an insult.”

See also:
An interview with Gert Jan Pos by Michael Minneboo.

(Illustration: cover by De Vliegende Hollander / Ruben Steeman)

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