The Royal Collections of the Netherlands include an extensive library. The collection contains books, magazines, brochures, DVDs and other publications in around 80,000 volumes. It was first established following the restoration of Dutch independence in 1813, the books of Prince William V having been declared forfeit after he fled to England in 1795. Most of these books are now held in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. This means that the library of the Royal Collections of the Netherlands holds relatively few publications dating from before 1813, although some older works have been added later.
The personal States Bible of Amalia of Solms is an example of an early family possession in the Royal Collections of the Netherlands. Shortly before her death in 1675, she gave the Bible to her court chaplain. More than two centuries later it appeared for sale at an auction, where it was bought by Queen Wilhelmina.
A large proportion of the book collection is made up of books that were presented to members of the Royal House during official visits in the Netherlands and abroad, or that were given by visitors to the palace. The library is also regularly sent books. In addition to this, there are books collected by members of the House of Orange. As a result the collection contains literature on a very wide of subjects, particularly concerning topics that reflect the particular interests of members of the Royal House.
To keep the collection up to date in certain areas, the library acquires books itself. Naturally, there is a large collection of literature about the House of Orange. Other topics actively collected include Dutch history since 1500 and, to a lesser extent, the histories of other countries. There are also many publications associated with other aspects of the Royal Collections of the Netherlands, such as works of the fine and decorative arts. These support the work of the Royal Collections and the Royal Household and can also be consulted by visitors.
The collection contains many remarkable books, for example some with very special bindings. Prior to the Second World War, when giving a book as a gift it was not unusual to have it specially bound to give it extra cachet. Many of these bindings are in leather or parchment, and they often bear the arms or initial of the royal recipient. When king William I visited the Barthélemy-Léopold Deflinne bookbinders in Tournai in 1829, he was presented with this book. The bookbinder created this book specially in order to show off all his skills. The pages inside are completely blank.
Initially the bindings in the collection were traditional in design, but this changed around the year 1900. Because of the many books given to Queen Wilhelmina to mark her investiture in 1898 and her marriage to Prince Henry in 1901, the library now contains some beautiful examples of the Art Nouveau style popular at that time. Subsequent designs also tended to be much freer artistically.
Another unique category in the collection is the books containing handwritten dedications from the giver. They show the handwriting of many well-known and less well-known heads of state, politicians, artists and scientists, and in a few cases original drawings as well.
Another special category of books is also worthy of mention: the books left behind in Amsterdam by Louis Napoleon after his abdication as King of Holland. Most of the books he owned are bound in identical brown leather and stamped with his coat of arms in gold.
Queen Wilhelmina’s contribution to the library includes more than two hundred children’s books and school textbooks which she read as a girl, plus a collection of resistance literature she gathered during the Second World War.