In the exhibition “A dream of a book”, which was on view in Museum Meermanno in The Hague until the beginning of 2007, the unique book from the library of Willem van Oranje has been exhibited for the first time in the Netherlands. Central to that exhibition was the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which was printed in Venice in 1499 by Aldus Manutius. The Prince owned the French translation of this book, which soon after its publication was praised for its execution with the beautiful woodcuts. The copy of Willem van Oranje has been given on loan by the owner.
It is known that the book was printed in Paris in 1554 and bought by the Prince there in 1559. He had his coat of arms painted in color on both sides of the tape. The Prince was attached to the book. When he fled to Dillenburg in Germany in 1568 to escape persecution by the Spanish King Philip II, he took with him a small collection of books, including this Poliphile. After his violent death in 1584, his library became scattered in all directions, including through relatives. Thanks to the cooperation of the owner, this copy from the possession of the “Father of the Fatherland” can now be seen in the Netherlands for the first time. It is still unclear whether the book will remain in the Dutch possession.
Just as the Prince was tempted to purchase this book in the middle of the 16th century, so many wealthy collectors have set their eyes on the book over the past five centuries. In translated public editions, the mysterious book is still popular worldwide today; also because of the “lead role” that the book plays in the very successful thriller Een Venetiaans Secret (The Rule of Four).
Visually very attractive exhibition
Museum Meermanno wants to further stimulate interest in this exceptionally typographed and illustrated book from 1499, especially since a Dutch translation has recently become available. This resulted in a visually very attractive exhibition. The copy in the possession of Museum Meermanno (the original Italian edition from 1499) had been taken out of the binding for restoration, so that twenty-four famous woodcuts from it could be displayed. Furthermore, there were beautiful works on loan from various copies of various editions (a.o. from the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek). Visitors could therefore compare specimens and admire the impressive layout.