Welcome to this exhibit featuring some of the rarest and most beautiful Netherlandic books and manuscripts held by the University of Michigan Library. This Library's collection of materials from The Netherlands and Belgium is among the strongest in the United States, and reflects the close ties to the Low Countries the University of Michigan has maintained. The strengths of the collection, including a vast array of old and new books, serials, maps, and music, have been built up over more than a century, thanks to the hard work of library staff and gifts of materials and money from many generous donors. Part of the impetus for collecting in this area came from the strong Dutch heritage within the state. Because of this proud heritage, there were calls to include the study of Dutch language and history within the institution, and the University responded to these calls with both course offerings and the library materials to support them.
The Library's direct ties to the Netherlands have also been a factor in the growth of Dutch collections. As documented in Karla Vandersypen's essay "From Many Strands a Thick Rope," the University Librarian forged close ties with the famed Dutch book company of Nijhoff nearly 90 years ago. Other ties have included those with private collectors of materials from the Low Countries as well as with the Dutch government and cultural foundations. In December 2001, the Library forged another relationship in the Netherlands when we accepted the generous gift of some 1200 duplicate volumes from the Library of the Catholic University of Nijmegen. This collection of rare books (published before 1800) forms an unusual addition to Netherlandic studies since they document the minority Catholic viewpoint in the Low Countries at that time.