Over a period of twenty-four years Lex Reitsma designed no fewer than 196 posters for De Nederlandse Opera. Long before their connection came to an end in 2014 it had already achieved iconic status, and when the end came the Stedelijk Museum marked it with a special opera exhibition in which Reitsma’s posters were combined with Eikio Ishioka’s costume designs for Wagner’s Ring cycle. Accompanying the Stedelijk exhibition was this cahier summarizing Reitsma’s poster oeuvre for De Nederlandse Opera (now known, incidentally, as De Nationale Opera). The book was designed by Reitsma himself, and to judge by the dedication to his wife and children he may also be regarded as more or less its author – or perhaps rather its auteur. So should this exercise book be elevated to the ranks of the Best Dutch Book Designs? Have not the judges of past years already done enough for the status of Reitsma’s opera work by including his little opera books in their annual selections no fewer than eight times? And anyway, is this publication a book at all?
Taking that last question first, it may not formally be a book, but materially it certainly is. In a limited space, three sorts of text and three sorts of image are presented, and this is done in a balanced and nicely articulated way. En passant, English text is dealt with in a manner that avoids the whole being lumbered with the laboriousness that so often creeps in with bilinguality. As regards the question of whether this is just more of the same: even after all that has gone before, quality is still quality. Most extraordinary of all, one shadow panel member thought, was that Reitsma, even though he is talking about himself, manages perfectly to keep to the straight and narrow path between self-congratulation and false modesty. It is all as lacking in pretension as only an exercise book can be. Plus it has a great cover.