Museum Meermanno is the oldest book museum in the world! It was founded in 1848, occupying the former residence of Willem Hendrik Jacob Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt (1783-1848) on Prinsessegracht in The Hague.
Baron van Westreenen van Tiellandt was an avid collector. His second cousin, Johan Meerman (1751-1815), was an important source of inspiration. Meerman also owned an extensive collection of manuscripts and rare books inherited from his father. Upon Meerman’s death, Van Westreenen acquired some of his collection at an auction.
Van Westreenen bequeathed his house along with all his collection of books, Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquity to the state. He stipulated that it should be preserved as a museum and should be opened on the first and third Thursday of the month
The Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum (Huis van het Boek/House of the Book) was eventually opened on Thursday, 7 October 1852 to the public.
The museum collection comprises of medieval manuscripts, incunables (books printed before 1501), art objects and antiquities. It is filled with Egyptian papyri, inscriptions, Italian panel paintings, hand-colored maps, coins, medals, letters, prints, ancestral portraits, Italian majolica, sculpture, etchings, ex libris (bookplate), books of hours, bibles, miniature books and rare travel souvenirs.
Museum Meermanno is entirely devoted to the art of the book. The books’ external aspects, not its literary contents, are the determinant of the collecting policy. It actively collects unusual books from the period 1850 up to present days. It has the oldest wallpaper in the Netherlands, The Réveillo, dated from around 1788, preserved in situ. All within a rare example of a 19th-century Herenhuis (English: Manor House) museum interior. A rare treasure for those interested in the history of books and printing press.
Kids friendly? Museum Meermanno itself is not tailored for kids. However, they do provide kids friendly activities such as Open Atelier on Sundays to check out professional printers at work on the printing press, Open scriptorium on Saturdays for a chance to write with a goose quill pen, creative workshops for kids birthday parties, an activity room brimming with books and coloring stuffs in the basement and an outdoor Letter Garden play area.
PS: Look out for the gravestones in the garden. The Baron had four of his deceased beloved four-legged friends buried in a small dog cemetery. The Latin epitaphs are full of spelling mistakes because the memorial mason was unable to read the baron’s handwriting properly.
Address: Prinsessegracht 30. 2514 AP Den Haag.
Opening Hours: Tuesday till Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
Entrance Fees: €9.50 for 19 years and above, €4.75 for students and youth age 13-18 years old and €3.75 for all under 12 years old. Free entry for Museumkaart holders.
Getting There: About 15 minutes walk from Den Haag Centraal Station. You can also take tram 9 and alight one stop further at Malieveld.