With a history that stretches all the way back to 1926 the annual selection of the Best Dutch Book Designs is Europe’s oldest such event. That is not to say there have been no interruptions. We distinguish three periods: 1925-32, 1948-71 and from 1986 up to and including the present. The first keurcollectie (choice selection), as the collection of the fifty best-produced books in the Netherlands was initially known, was an initiative of the then Nederlandsch Verbond van Boekenvrienden (NVB) (Netherlands Federation of Friends of the Book), and in particular the designer S.H. de Roos. That initial period was brought to an end by the slump and the economic malaise of the thirties. Annual selections resumed in 1948 and continued under the auspices of the CPNB until 1971, when it became impossible any longer to find the money for a catalogue: the most important and tangible vehicle for the contest. When Henk Kraima became director of Stichting CPNB in 1986 he embarked on a campaign for the return of the Best Dutch Book Designs. An annual competition, and the impetus it would give to demonstrating developments in the constantly self-reinventing field of industrial design in printing and publishing, now found itself with sufficient support in publishing, the printing industry and related cultural institutions such as the Stedelijk Museum. Thanks also to financial support from the ministry of Welfare, Health & Culture, after fifteen years’ absence it was again possible to present a new selection of the Best Dutch Book Designs – once again under the auspices of the CPNB. When government funding ended, it was decided that in 1998 the contest should be operated by a separate foundation, which would make it possible to seek sponsoring. The new foundation was a collaboration between three organizations: the Stichting CPNB (Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek), the BNO (Association of Dutch Designers) and the Grafische Cultuur Stichting. Day-to-day management was in the hands of director Just Enschedé, with financial support from Pictoright (Amsterdam), paper manufacturer Antalis and L. van Heek Textiles in Losser. In 2015 Enschedé retired and was succeeded by Esther Scholten, who also works at the CPNB. Today the Best Dutch Book Designs is still partly funded by Pictoright, but Antalis has made way for paper supplier Igepa Nederland; financial support is also still forthcoming from L. van Heek Textiles.
The Foundation’s mission is in the widest sense to promote the importance and to further the interests of qualitatively excellent book design and production from the Dutch industry.
The Netherlands has a long tradition of outstanding book design and production. This applies not only to the quality of the country’s design and publishing tradition but also to the technical mastery of lithography, printing and binding. The somewhat old-fashioned term ‘best verzorgd’, which covers more than design or production alone, has always been used in the knowledge that what the judges select are books, and not simply book designs. In every really well-made book content and form come together: each and every well-produced book is the product of a collaboration between a client (usually a publisher), a designer and the book production industry, the last of these being a part of what in Dutch is called the grafische industrie, which comprises the whole complex of design, printing, bookbinding and so on – in fact almost everything bar publishing. The division of roles between the various partners varies constantly.