The British Library’s collection of over 170 million items encompasses multiple unique and globally outstanding strengths. Reflecting Britain’s close historic ties with the Low Countries, it holds significant material for the study and appreciation of Netherlandish written culture and artistic heritage, including illuminated manuscripts, early printed books, prints, drawings, maps and views. Originating in the collections of the British Museum founded in 1753, the British Library’s holdings of Dutch and Flemish prints, mainly in sets and illustrated books, are extensive. Other notable items include the Klencke atlas of wall maps presented to Charles II in 1660 and drawings for Poissons, écrevisses et crabes presented by Louis Renard to Sir Hans Sloane. Several hundred illuminated manuscripts from the southern Netherlands reflect centuries of British collecting, both personal and institutional, ranging from that of Edward IV in the late fifteenth century to Dyson Perrins and Yates Thompson in the twentieth. Outstanding works include the Hasting Hours, Huth Hours, Hours of Bona Sforza, Breviary of Isabella of Castile, the Hours of Joanna of Castile, the Golf Book and the Genealogy of Dom Fernando of Portugal. Artists represented include not only such remarkable anonymous illuminators as the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book, but also Simon Bening, Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout and Simon Marmion. Many of these books are accessible in full online.
Dr Scot McKendrick FSA, Head of Western Heritage Collections (May 2021)