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News & Updates Gert Jan Bestebreurtje

40 Years a Bookseller - Gert Jan Bestebreurtje in The Netherlands celebrates with an anniversary catalogue

... the passion for the old book still remains - Amor librorum nos unit
Gert Jan Bestebreurtje 4oth anniversary


Dear Gert, congratulations on the remarkable achievement of celebrating your 40th anniversary as a bookseller! We cannot not ask you to describe how the trade has changed since your early days?

40 years ago, in 1981, there were no computers and no internet. I have seen the introduction of the fax which was already great progress! The fax allowed you to quickly maintain contact with customers and colleagues all over the world. A lot has changed with the introduction of the personal computer and the internet. In the past I went on weekly buying trips in The Netherlands or abroad. It was exciting, you never knew what you would find. The regular contact with colleagues was amicable. Most booksellers these days no longer have shops but an office and work from home by appointment. No longer travelling but sitting behind a screen at home you can view the entire stock of a colleague. For customers it is very easy to find a book this way but it reduces personal contact as well.

Although much has changed in the antiquarian world in recent times, the passion for the old book still remains for most of us (Amor librorum nos unit!). Contact with colleagues and libraries is still very important. In that regard, nothing has changed.

My wife Wilma has been responsible for the accounts from the start and together we regularly attend book fairs. We still enjoy it very much and hope to do so for many years to come!

You are currently serving as President of the Dutch antiquarian booksellers’ association, NVvA, and have been engaged in the work of the association for many years. When did you become a member yourself and therefore an ILAB affiliated bookseller?

In 1983 I became a member of the Dutch Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (NVvA) and ILAB. I thought that was an important step in my career because from that time on I was able to participate in ILAB book fairs and come into contact with new customers and colleagues.

Our first fair was in Amsterdam in 1983, European and American fairs soon followed. We also enjoyed participating in ILAB fairs in Australia and Japan. These fairs have been instrumental in forming many professional friendships.

Since 2018 I have been president of the NVvA. This position brings me in a more intensive way in contact with the Dutch members and through the presidents’ meetings I also regularly meet my foreign colleagues. The Dutch association has organised for a long time, an annual book fair in Amsterdam with great success. The number of members of our association is stable and currently consists of about sixty members.

Where will we meet you next - are you planning to attend any upcoming fairs?

We are finally able to meet again at book fairs all over the world. We are looking forward to our first fair after a long time in early December in Mechelen, Belgium. Not a big fair but a nice and interesting fair.

Printing and book culture is a vital part of everyday life in The Netherlands. What do you enjoy most about your job?

Fortunately, in The Netherlands there are still many bookstores with new books where people like to walk in despite the great competition from Amazon and other internet providers. I don't expect that to change soon.

Fairs are a very good way to meet my clients, old and new. For young booksellers, the fairs are an excellent opportunity to see many books and important to gain knowledge.

Coming home with new acquisitions and then describing them is by far the best part of our profession. After research the books are offered to regular customers. First in - first out still applies here!

Please name us a few highlights from your anniversary catalogue and why you have chosen them?

Early Dutch travel accounts have always been of great interest to me. For instance an early edition of Bontekoe's popular shipwreck (cat. no. 10). It is a wonder of seaman-ship and became a classic and went through many editions and was translated into nearly every European language. The travel report by Ottsen (cat. no. 72) is one of the rarest books of travel about South America and one of the first printed accounts of a Dutch voyage to South America. The trip around the world by Spilbergen and Le maire (cat. nr 99) are the most successful Dutch circumnavigations to date. These books are among my favorites in my anniversary catalogue.

Dear Gert, we thank you for the interview and wish you and your wife Wilma all the best on the occasion of your anniversary.

Interview: Angelika Elstner
Images courtesy of Gert Jan Bestebreurjte