Exhibition at Allard Pierson


Over the course of the 17th century, Amsterdam expands to become the global centre of commerce, industry and the arts. Writers, poets, cartographers, illustrators and printers profit from the prosperity and the status of the Dutch Republic (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) as a tolerant society, in particular with respect to religion. But this broadmindedness applies in particular where there are profits to be made. Moreover, the prosperity benefits only the uppermost layers of the population, while the pursuit of profit leads to poor working conditions at home and slavery and exploitation abroad.

Research and science are accorded respect - new insights spread all over Europe, partly as a result of works printed in Amsterdam.

During the 18th century, Amsterdam sees increased competition from other European cities, and this period of economic boom comes to an end. The Enlightenment and rise of the bourgeoisie (burgher class) stimulate the arts: the elite exchange ideas in the fields of the theatre, literature, science and the arts in a wide range of societies.

The city begins to grow again over the course of the last part of the 19th century as a result of industrialisation. Residents have more free time to form socially engaged organisations; movements for emancipation and against slavery arise. The production of books and graphic design flourish, and the Athenaeum Illustre turns into Amsterdam's university.

The next three halls reveal the fascinating products of Amsterdam's 'creative industry', including manuscripts and letters by Spinoza, Vondel and Multatuli, among others, books that are devout as well as confrontational, astonishingly detailed pictures and typefaces, ancient atlases in strikingly fresh colours, cookbooks and a painted herbarium.


Items on paper and various other objects are switched every three months on account of their sensitivity to light and for research purposes.