The Rijksmuseum’s splendidly restored library, part of the museum’s original interior designed by architect P.J. Cuypers, accommodates some 350,000 books, periodicals and sales catalogues. The collection originally focused on the history of Western European painting, printmaking, drawing, and applied art and sculpture from the Middle Ages to the present. More recent areas of collecting are photography and Dutch (cultural) history. In addition, there are numerous publications on iconography, the history of collecting – collection catalogues – and Asian art. In the course of time, various private collections of books and periodicals have been incorporated into the library, such as the A.N. Godefroy bequest of architecture books, and the (Dutch) National Photograph Collection.
Obviously, the nature of the books is highly diverse and the library abounds with gems: a rare 16th-century German formula book for the preparation of paint, a copy of Jacob Cats’ emblem book Proteus and a curious guide about the style of living of various peoples from the 18th century. And not to be missed are the illustrated lily florilegium by Redouté, and the 19th-century manual for photographing religious monuments in Jerusalem.