In our museum are a lot of visits to groups, such as cultural circles, choirs, associations, church councils, families (sometimes consisting of even three generations), historical groups/ associations, interested in the influence of the Bible in the Dutch language and culture, Probus groups, Rotary groups. Of course you are also individually during regular business hours welcome.
The bible throughout the ages. The Bible Museum at Leerdam offers you a special, interactive program for groups. This program will take a bit more than one hour, including a tea and coffee break.
Our truly unique collection includes an important part of Dutch cultural and religious heritage (very) old Bibles. The museum illustrates 450 years of Bibles (1500-1950). Some are sometimes adorned with colorful illustrations, tiny details and glittering gold leaf.
The display at our museum consists out of some hundreds of old, mostly Dutch bibles, including Roman Catholic as Old Catholic, Lutheran, Baptists, Reformed Dutch Authorized Versions printed from 1500 till 1950. Part of the collection consists of bibles that still need to be restored. This restoration is done in the museums' workshop.
Meanwhile we have received visits of bible study groups, women's groups, leaders of political parties, groups from health organisations, but also from board of church councils with home front.
There are a few unique copies in our collection, which are not on display in any other collection in the Netherlands. One part of the collection is on display under hire contract, and our own collection is constantly extended by the addition of missing copies.
Among the different types of Bibles was especially the KJV major impact on the Dutch people's lives. After 1950 it lost influence. During your visit, among others acquainted with:
- Pressure methods Bible and Bible printers
- States Bibles
- Lutheran, Baptist, (former) and liberal Catholic Bibles
- Print Bibles with woodcuts, steel / copper engravings, etchings, lithographs and color lithographs
- Bibles with historical maps of famous cartographers
- Bibles with locks of brass, copper, silver and gold fittings
- Children's Bibles
Bibles with pictures
Some Bibles have beautiful wood carving, etches, copper engravings, steel engravings and lithographs, and give a good insight into the exteriors of homes and gardens around 1600 – 1800, set in the landscape of that time.
Famous artists from this time are:
Hondecoeter, Marten de Vos, Maarten Heemskerk, Christoffel van Sichem and Jan Luiken. During this time their fame reached far outside the borders of the Netherlands.
The Dutch Authorized Version and the Dutch language
Bibles with marginal notes are also on display. Did you know that the expression "I will make a note of it” in the Dutch language came from the marginal notes of the Dutch Authorized Version? Marginal notes are located next to the text of the Bible and gives an explanation of difficult words.
The Dutch language has numerous expressions which originated from the Bible. Think: "not falling in good earth”, "covered with the cloak of love”, "no cockerel will crow about that”, ” to sit in sack and ashes”.
Looked afterFrom the display it is unfortunately also obvious that over time not every bible has been well looked after. Water damage, ink damage, mould, and even mice have destroyed these old books. In the workshop, above the museum, these aged old books are lovingly restored and brought back to their original condition as close as possible. In the museum you will get an idea of how this work is performed with old instruments and you will see examples of several stages of the restoration.
Age oldDuring your visit to the museum the Bibles with historical maps will take you back to earlier stages in history. Parts of the world were still undiscovered at that time. These areas were discovered later, sometimes by accident, and mapped during journeys.
Bibles speaking to the imaginationBibles with up to date family trees, and with notes of life changing events: e.g. a shipwreck, a catastrophic fire in the village.
In the museum's collection there is a bible that belonged to a family member of Paul Kruger in South Africa. There is also a copy in which the first entry reads: ‘Minister Molenaarsgraaf.' Once stolen by one of Napoleons soldiers, it travelled through France and Canada to end up in Leerdam, eventually.
Our earliest children's bible, the little print-bible was printed in 1772.
By doing pictogram puzzles, the children acquired a good knowledge of biblical texts.
The Liesvelt Bible and other fore runners of the Dutch Authorized Version. Liesvelt was decapitated by the Inquisition because of the heretic ideas, expressed in his bible translation.
History of the Dutch Bible
The first complete Dutch Bible was published in 1480, called the Cologne Bible. Look at the picture from a page of this Bible.
This Bible was printed by Heinrich Quentell, and was probably based on a translation from the Carthusian Monastery of Herne in Flanders, printed in Delft in 1477. This was the first book printed in the North of the Netherlands.
This part of the Latin Vulgate Bible, translated into Flemish and Low German, was probably modified by a number of the followers of Geert Grote in Deventer. Immediately after this publication, the pope took strict action against the printer, and against the people who owned or read this Bible.
In 1516 Erasmus of Rotterdam published a New Testament in Greek (his statue shows him with a book in his hands . . . or is it a Bible?)
The first Dutch Bible after the Reformation is the Liesveldt Bible from 1526, which was based on a German translation of Martin Luther's Bible. These Bibles were banned by the Spanish government and Liesveldt's entire stock was burned in 1535.
In 1545 however, he was sentenced to death and the day after the verdict he was beheaded by the Spaniards.
A new law was declared under which the assets of people who where found to have a Protestant Bible in their house were forfeited. Half of the proceeds were paid to the informer who had betrayed them to the government. Tens of thousands of Protestants fled to other countries, mostly England, Germany and Switzerland.
There were Dutch refugees in various foreign municipalities. In one of them (Emden, Germany) Protestant Bibles were printed for the Netherlands. These Bibles were printed in a very small size, so that they could be easily transported and hidden, and not be found when the government was searching houses. One of these small Bibles can be seen in the museum.
The persecutions against the Protestants increased in intensity after the arrival in the Netherlands of the Duke of Alva under the Spanish King Philip II in 1566. He was called the Iron Duke.
He proclaimed a special court, called the Council of Troubles. This was soon nick named the Blood Council, due to the many death sentences that were pronounced. Many men and women, were burned on suspicion of heresy by the Roman Church.
When Alva simultaneously increased the taxes (to pay the Spanish soldiers in the Netherlands) and trampled the ancient privileges of cities and states, the people revolted.
The leader of the revolt was the Prince of Orange, later known as William I, who sold all his possessions in order to recruit soldiers. The freedom struggle that erupted in the year 1568 was the beginning of what was later called “the Eighty Years War”. The first years of the revolt were bad for the Prince. The brother of the Prince, Count Adolf, was killed in the fight against the Spaniards in the Battle of Heiligerlee.
A reversal came when the fleet of insurgents, known as the Geuzen Fleet (Beggars), commanded by Admiral Lumey, on April 1, 1572, conquered the town of Brielle. The city was not retaken by Alva.
In June the Geuzen Fleet left Brielle and sailed to Dordrecht, the main commercial city of Holland of that time.
They sealed off the three rivers entirely and all trade via Dordrecht came to an end. The town had to make a choice between fighting on the side of the Spaniards, against the Geuzen Fleet, or fighting for the revolt and the Prince.
They chose to fight for the Prince and in the same year, 1572 the first complete Protestant Bible was printed in Dordrecht in the Dutch language. This was in large format, because there was no longer a need to hide this bible from the Spanish Inquisition.
Dutch Bibles in those days were translated from German or French or Latin, and include both translation and printing errors.
There was a need for accurate translations directly from the original languages, which is Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. In the year 1594 the States of Holland designated Marnix van Sint Aldegonde (the poet of our Wilhelmus) as Bible translator. But when he died in 1598 were only a few fragments completed. Thereafter, as successor- translators were appointed Cornelius Arnoldus and Wernerus Helmichius. After a short time it came clear they were unable to accomplish this great work. After this the church decided to address it differently.
At first The National Synod (of the Dutch Reformed Church???) was held in Dordrecht, during the years 1618 – 1619. 37 Dutch pastors, 19 presbyters, 5 professors of Theology and 26 representatives of foreign churches together with 20 representatives of the Dutch State-General were present.
The 13th session was held on 26 November 1618. A large number of translators were designated and exempted from their own pastoral work.
Translators for the Old Testament were John Bogerman (who presided over the Synod) Gerson Bucerus and William Baudartius.
Translators for the New Testament and Apocryphal Books were Jacobus Rolandus, Herman Faukelius and Peter Cornelisz.
After extensive discussion it was decided not to place the Apocryphal Books between the Old and New Testament, as in past practice, but to locate them at the end of the Bible, preceded by a clear “Waerschouwinge” (Warning).
As well as translators, auditors were appointed, to check the work of the translators and where necessary to improve their work.
Each province would supply one pundit, except Drenthe, which indicated that it lacked the necessary knowledge.
All in all it took until 24 November 1626 before the work could start. The State General would pay the costs; therefore the Bible was named “de Statenvertaling . These costs were estimated to be 50.000 guilders. For that time, that was a lot of money, especially for a country at war.
Compare this with a monthly wage of a worker, which was at that time approximately 16 to 20 guilders. (After completion of the overall translation it turned out that these costs came to 75.000 guilders)
The translators settled in Leyden, so that they could use the University library. The Prince of Orange had donated a University to this city, as a reward for the heroic perseverance of its citizens during the siege of Leyden by the Spaniards in 1574. The translators worked together in order to keep uniform language and style. The deceased translators H. Faukelius and P. Cornelisz were succeeded by Festus Hommius and Anthonius Waleus. The correction of the Old Testament was completed in September 1634 and the New Testament had been completed in August 1634.
From the first edition onwards the translators received a patent from the States. This lasted for a period of 15 years. But in the year 1635 the translators sold their rights to the mayor of the town of Leyden. The translators of the Old Testament received 1500 guilders and the translators of the New Testament 1200 guilders. When the Bible was printed they were also to receive a full size Bible.
The mayor sold the patent to the widow of publisher Van Wouw, with the condition that the Bible had to be printed in the town of Leyden.
Widow Van Wouw ordered Paul Aertsz van Ravesteijn to print the Bibles. The enormity of this work required him to use three printing presses.
At the bottom of the title page is a picture of the cityscape of Leyden.
The first edition was completed in 1636 and solemnly presented to the State General in 1637.
For 160 years the delegates from the Staten General together with delegates from the Synods of the church went in a solemn procession from the government buildings in The Hague by barge to Leyden. In Leyden they compared the newly printed copies with the original first edition.
The box with the original text written by the translators was kept in the City Hall of Leyden till 15 November 1800.
Today these so called “autographs” are in the archives in Utrecht. A number of first editions of the State-Bible printed in 1636 are signed by the representative of the State General, Barend Langenes, and can be seen in our collection.
Below are two pictures of the first edition from 1636. However, the cityscape is different.
Widow van Wouw had agreed with the city of Leyden that the printing office of Paulus Aertsz van Ravesteyn would move from Amsterdam to Leyden, and that the State Bible would be printed there.
However, in the year of 1641 she printed Bibles in her own printing office in The Hague.
Widow van Wouw was a powerful figure. She was the daughter of the mayor of The Hague (her late husband was also the son of a mayor) and her company was the official printer of the State Government.
A few years after her death her son apparently turned out to be not a suitable manager of the company.
None other than the Pensionary of the Republic of Holland, Cornelis de Witt sought a buyer for the printing office.
He found it in the person of Jacob Scheltus. Below is a copy of a Bible printed by the widow in The Hague (‘s-Gravenhage).
After the patent of the Widow van Wouw ended, the States determined by order of 1-03 1655 that henceforth city councils would be granted permission to print and publish Bibles.
Soon after the first edition it became clear that there were typographical errors in the Bible.
A committee of proofreaders was appointed in order to make corrections and in 1657 the “CORRECTION BIBLE” appeared, printed by Ravesteyn.
In the last three pictures a luminous triangle is visible, the so called “Tetragrammaton”, the symbol for the Trinity of God.
In the following Bibles this symbol is not present anymore, and neither in later editions.
A visit to the museum provides a good overall picture of the importance of the Bible and the impact it has had on the Dutch people throughout the ages.
Advice for Statenbijbel restoration are provided for free as well as biblical restoration, is recommended by mail send the necessary pictures. An appointment for a viewing of your Bible for Bible restoration can be made without obligation.