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Dutch & Flemish Collection Development Policy

Our Dutch/Flemish collections are as good as any of the major libraries in the Netherlands or Belgium. The following policy operates under the Library's general policy statements on collection development. 

Some of the material acquired under this policy is available for loan or document supply through the Library's Document Supply service.


The British Library is justifiably renowned for its holdings of early printed material from the Low Countries. The collection is an excellent reflection of the rich history of printing and publishing in that geographic area, and can compete with those of any of the major libraries in the Netherlands or Belgium. The British Library's participation in the STCN-project (Short Title Catalogue Netherlands) in co-operation with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, underlines the often unique wealth of this collection.

The British Library's early Dutch/Flemish collections are recorded in:

Short title catalogue of books printed in the Netherlands and Belgium and of Dutch and Flemish books printed in other countries from 1470 to 1600 now in the British Museum (London, 1965)

Catalogue of books from the Low Countries 1601-1621, compiled by Anna E.C.Simoni (London, 1990)

All 17th century Dutch imprints held in the British Library (some 17,500) have now been recorded on the STCN. At present, pre-1600 titles from the British Library's collection are being added. 18th century imprints will be added at a later date.

Over the last century and a half, however, the Library has also built up a substantial collection of modern imprints from the Dutch speaking areas. All major literary authors, be it in fiction, drama or poetry, are represented, and their work is almost without exception available in complete or near-complete form. In addition, the collections are rich in material on all aspects of the history and civilisation of the Low Countries.

Collection Development Policy

The majority of relevant studies in the humanities and social sciences, and all reference books, irrespective of the language in which they are written, are acquired. About a third of the new books acquired from the Netherlands are in English. The aim remains to offer the readers in the British Library a highly representative selection of materials published in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Additionally, a programme of retrospective gap-filling is still under way, a particular focus being the history of the Dutch East Indies, and especially the Indonesian independence struggle of 1945-1950 (see Indonesia Merdeka Collection).


The British Library is particularly strong in its holdings of early Dutch dissertations. The collection of Leyden Medical Dissertations, 1593-1746 is acknowledged to be outstanding.

Another notable collection is held by the Newspaper Library. It concerns the huge microfiche collection of The Dutch Underground Press, 1940-1945, which offers an excellent overview of the extent to which the Dutch resisted German occupation during the Second World War. Very much of parallel interest is the excellent collection (only matched by the one in Amsterdam University Library) of clandestine books at the time of the Nazi occupation. Anna Simoni's catalogue Publish and be free: a catalogue of clandestine books printed in the Netherlands, 1940-1945, in the British Library was published in 1975 (Nijhoff), to which a supplement of later acquisitions was added in 1995 (AD&L Foundation).

Thanks to a substantial donation by the De Mont family, the British Library holds an excellent collection of works by Pol de Mont. There is also an outstanding collection of books and documents on the Flemish movement, from its very beginnings in the late eighteenth century up to more recent times.

Indonesia Merdeka Collection

A unique collection of primary material (Western languages only) on the Dutch-Indonesian conflict of 1945 to 1950. The size and scope of this collection is only matched by the holdings of the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde in Leiden. The British Library collection is not a mere repetition of the holdings at the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde in Leiden, but very much an extension and complement. In fact, many titles available in the British Library are not to be found in Klooster's Bibliography of the Indonesian Revolution (Leiden, 1997). The Dutch/Flemish Section maintains an active acquisition policy towards this type of material. The Indonesia Merdeka Collection forms an important addition to the materials at hand for the student of post-colonial Indonesian history or, equally, for the student of the post-colonial trauma in the Netherlands.

With the creation of the Indonesia Merdeka Collection the British Library aims to supply the reader with the widest possible background to the causes and consequences of the conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Amongst the 1,500 titles one will recognise a range of topics, from political and economic analysis to military accounts, or missionary reports. Many titles are diaries and/or descriptions of the suffering of Dutch citizens in Japanese concentration camps. The occupation of the Netherlands Indies is of the utmost importance to understand the turbulent period that followed the capitulation of the Japanese army. In this collection, furthermore, one finds fiction (even a number of juveniles) and poetry, sheet music, collections of photographs, etc.

As far as fictional work, diaries, etc. are concerned, there are two more catalogues of value, both published by Dorothée Buur: Persoonlijke documenten Nederland-Indië/Indonesië (Leiden, 1973) and Indische jeugdliteratuur. Geannoteerde bibliografie van jeugdboeken over Nederlands-Indië en Indonesië (Leiden, 1992).

Although most material in this collection is in Dutch, efforts have been made to acquire as many books as possible in other languages, notably in English (books published in the United Kingdom, United States of America and, above all, in Australia).

The British Library published an annotated catalogue of this collection in September 2001, under the title: The Indonesian question: the Dutch/Western response to the struggle for independence in Indonesia 1945-1950: an annotated catalogue of primary materials held in the British Library. Compiled by Jaap Harskamp. Introduction by Peter Carey. The catalogue contains a full range of indexes.


Dutch/Flemish Section
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7764
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7578