The Best Dutch Book Designs

Dating back to 1926, the annual judging of the Dutch Best Verzorgde Boeken is the oldest of its kind in Europe. Due to several interruptions, the selection of books published in 2014 is the 56th one.

The somewhat old-fashioned expression best verzorgd (best cared for) has never been dropped because of the fact that what the judges award in the first place, are books, not just their design. Each well-made book is a meeting between form and content, the result of a cooperation between a commissioner (mostly a publisher), a designer and the printing industry. The contribution of the various participants is ever-changing.

Each year Dutch publishers, designers and printers submit over 300 books to be judged. The panel consists mostly of a publisher, two designers and a printer or binder, the fifth panel member being alternately a bookseller, a book historian, a museum curator or a writer on the subject.

The rules and criteria by which the judges are tied are kept to a minimum. The panel members are invited to select books that are excellent in their physical appearance and in doing this they are to keep an eye on the correlation between form and content. Thus each panel is free to develop its own vision, to decide which annual report or desk agenda is to be considered a book and which is not, and to select certain books which it deems not to be missed in spite of certain shortcomings.

The annual selection consists of 33 books at maximum. In the selection trade books are matched to museum publications, corporate editions to private initiatives.

The books are being exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and at several other places in the Netherlands and abroad. Recently the number of exhibitions tends to increase. During the last years the Best Dutch Book Designs have been on show in Stockholm, Ljubljana, Hongkong and Tokyo.

On top of that the selection finds its way each year to a bi-lingual book, The Best Dutch Book Designs / De Best Verzorgde Boeken. This catalogue presents the selected books in words – the judges reporting on each book separately – images and technical data. These elements are presented in a different way each year due to the book being designed by a different graphic designer. The contribution of the Dutch graphic industry in the production of this catalogue is not to be overseen.

Organiser of the yearly competition is the Foundation De Best Verzorgde Boeken, in which professional organisations of the book trade, the designers and the graphic industry cooperate.

The Best Dutch Book Designs is sponsored by Igepa Nederland, BNO/Pictoright (Amsterdam) en L. van Heek Textiles (Losser).