Being the right place at the right time helped land Hope College a major addition to the Van Wylen Library's collection.
The library has received some 4,900 volumes from the late Peter van der Pas of Grass Valley, Calif., who died in December of 2003. Most concern Dutch history, but the materials also include a collection of materials on Japan and China.
The library first learned of the materials in November of 1998, when van der Pas, who had no previous connection to the college, contacted director David Jensen.
"He sent me a letter," Jensen said. "He was obviously looking to find a place for his collection before he died."
According to Jensen, van der Pas, who had been born in the Netherlands, had learned of Hope while seeking institutions with Dutch collections - places that might be interested in his materials. Hope was so interested, Jensen noted, that history faculty member Dr. James Kennedy, whose scholarship focuses on the Netherlands, quickly visited van der Pas at home to look at the materials and discuss the prospect.
Materials in the collection date from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Books from the 17th and 18th centuries include travel descriptions and accounts of local customs and laws. Literary volumes include the work of the 17th century poets Joost van den Vondel and Constantijn Huygens. Series range from the more than 100 volumes of the "Linschoten Vereeniging," which discusses early Dutch voyages of exploration, to a 100-volume collection of local histories of the southern Netherlands, to a run of the important Dutch historical journal "Bijdragen en mededelingen betreffende de geschiedenis der Nederlanden." A 12-volume 1967 reproduction of J. Blaue's "Grand Atlas" shows the world circa 1663.
The non-Dutch materials include a Japanese-language book featuring hand-colored illustrations of flowers, and a run of the English-language "Annual Register," printed in England and covering 1758 through 1816.
All of the materials will become part of the library's collection, although the Dutch items will be housed in the Theil Research Center for use by researchers through the Joint Archives of Holland and the A.C. Van Raalte Institute.
van der Pas was born and raised in the Netherlands. He had a master's degree in physics and went to California after World War II, while working for Shell Oil Company. Although he returned to the Netherlands for a few years, he spent most of his remaining life in the U.S., retiring to Grass Valley in 1977. He died on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003, at age 88.
Jensen noted that van der Pas had also identified other institutions as appropriate destinations for other aspects of his extensive collection of books, of which the Dutch materials represented approximately five percent. Materials on western America, for example, went to a local historical society, while materials on the history of science went to Utah State University, he said.