Amsterdam, creative city 1600-1900

Manuscripts and letters by Spinoza, Vondel and Multatuli, amazingly detailed prints, atlases dating back centuries and cookbooks…

The exhibition starts with the 17th century, when Amsterdam expands to become the global centre of commerce, industry and the arts. Writers, poets, cartographers, illustrators and printers profit from this growth, with exploitation and oppression forming the downside. This economic prosperity comes to an end in the 18th century. The rise of the bourgeoisie and ideals from the Enlightenment stimulate the arts, and the elite exchange ideas in the theatre, in literature, science and the arts. The city begins to grow once more over the course of the 19th century, as a result of increasing industrialisation. Residents have more free time to form organisations for social engagement. Movements for emancipation and against slavery arise. The production of books and graphic design flourish, and Amsterdam’s Athenaeum Illustre becomes the University of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Creative City 1600–1900 displays outstanding artefacts, including manuscripts and letters by Spinoza, Vondel and Multatuli, books devout as well as rebellious, astonishingly detailed prints and typefaces, ancient atlases in strikingly fresh colours, cookbooks and an illustrated herbarium.

Items on paper and various other objects are switched every three months, on account of their sensitivity to light and for research purposes.

UvA alumnus Anna Gimbrère spoke to Allard Pierson curators about their favourite artefacts for this exhibition. Anna Gimbrère studied theoretical physics at the University of Amsterdam and now works as a scientific journalist and presenter. She was recently involved in the VPRO series, De wilde ruimte, on exciting developments in space travel. Snippets from the audio tour can be heard below. The audio tour is in Dutch.

Sonnet by P.C. Hooft

Listen to the stories behind the artefacts

Introduction to the story: Amsterdam, the Creative City 1600-1900


Curator Hans Mulder on the illustrated Herbarium


Curator Marike van Roon on “De Volmaakte Hollandsche keuken-meid” (The Perfect Dutch Kitchen Maid), a 1767 cookbook

Curator Hans van Keulen on the Slide Panorama


Curator Reinder Storm on Joan Blaeu’s Globe


album amicorum Schlosser

Curator Klaas van der Hoek on the Album Amicorum