Nico Bulder was one of the best European “Ex Libris” creators of his time. He spent a lot of time and effort from 1926 to 1963 to refine this most intricate form of graphical art. The level of detail that Nico Bulder could incorporate in these small wood engravings is almost incomprehensible. He made four ex libris for himself that we know of: Opus 75 (1943), Opus 45 (1938), Opus 12 (1932) and an very early unnumbered version . The Opus numbers refer to the book “Schoonheid in zwart-wit” published by “van Gorcum” (Assen, NL) in 1996 in cooperation with the Nico Bulder Stichting.
Here is his latest ex libris, Opus 75 (from 1943). According to Evert Musch, Nico Bulder once told him the meaning of this ex libris: “duivels werk met engelen geduld uit het hart van de eigenaar”. Although “duivel” is the Dutch word for “devil”, “duivels werk” has less to do with the devil himself, but refers more to a tremendous amount of work. Similar reasoning applies to the angels: although “engel” is the Dutch word for “angel”, “engelen geduld” means an almost infinite amount of patience, something an engraver like Nico Bulder would definitely need.
If you look closely to the opened book in the middle of the ex libris, you will recognize an illustration of St. George and the dragon, one of Nico Bulder’s favorite subjects (see at various places in this online museum). St. George symbolizes the protector who fights the good fight. The dragon is said to represent paganism. You will see a heart behind a book; this heart, being the traditional symbol of love supposedly symbolizes the love for books in this case. Both the heart and book are pierced by a hand engraving tool, the burin or graver which obviously refers to Nico Bulder’s tool of choice for his art. Although the modern symbolism of a pierced heart (by Cupid’s arrow) is romantic love, this symbolism is not fitting here. Probably Nico Bulder refers to the much older symbolism of the heart of Jesus.
Below you will find all 168 Ex Libris that Nico Bulder created.
Opus 167 (1963) Design for Lou Asperslag; not finished due to Nico Bulder passing away. Opus 166 (1962) Mr. J.C. Wilhelmy van Hasselt (Directeur van de Nederlandse Spoorwegen, schoonzoon van C.H. Beels) Opus 165 (1962) Evert Musch, Academie Minerva colleague, painter and best friend of Nico Bulder. Symbolism explanation: “nature” Evert Musch loved nature, lived in the middle of it; “Frans Hals portrait in the middle” Evert Musch was an art collector with a special admiration for Adriaen van Ostade, one of the Frans Hals students; “sparrow bird” called “mus” in Dutch relates of course to Evert Musch’s name, but also refers to his slightly mischievous nature. The sparrow is sometimes also called “kwajongen” which translates as “mischievous boy” in Dutch. Opus 164 (1962) K.D. Poll & J. Arends Opus 163 (1962) Lou Asperslag (Drukker-typograaf in Belgie) (See also Opus 167) Opus 162 (1962) A.J. Swart Opus 161 (1962), X2, G.B. which stands for Geziena Bulder also known as “tante Sien or Sienie”. She was the down-to earth cousin of Nico Bulder who managed his household. When Nico asked her what kind of ex-libris he should make for her, she answered “just make something with some flowers” the result of which you see here. Opus 160 (1962) Joh. de Graaff (Kapelaan in Hoogezand, later pastoor in Belgie, overleden in 1999) Opus 159 (1962) C.H. Beels (bank directeur) Opus 158 (1962) P. Hiemstra, teacher at Academie Minerva Opus 157 (1962), X2, Johannes Souverein, antiquarian seller of ex libris and graphics who lived with his spouse Maria in Beek-Ubbergen near Nijmegen, was regular visitor of Nico Bulder Opus 156 (1962), X2, Netty Edzes; she was director of the Nuts library in Hoogezand and a good friend of Nico Bulder and Rens Boon. Note that the “Y” is mirrored. Opus 155 (1962), X2, R. Doornbos, farmer’s son born on Feb 1st, 1927 in Hoogezand, graduated in mathematics, worked as a statistician for Unilver in Rotterdam. His hobby was sailing. Opus 154 (1962), X2, Mr. G. N. Schutter, historian and archivist who worked for the Groningen province. Author of multiple books including “De oudste generatie Berg” about one of the families in Hoogezand who was engaged in the peat removal. Opus 153 (1961), X2, H. Korteling, student of Nico Bulder, retired high school teacher, lived in Roden. Opus 152 (1961), X2, Kea Homan, grafica and student of NB; see also “Memories of Kea Homan”. Opus 151 (1961), X2, A. van de Tol. He lived in The Hage and worked at the department of Art, Science & Education. Opus 150 (1960), X2, C. M. de Boer-Sinia. She was the spouse of Dr. de Boer (Opus 147 & 148). The ex libris letters were engraved on a separate block. The illustration of the ex libris could thus also be used for other graphical purposes. Opus 149 (1960), X2, J. Spakman, former director of publishing house “De Librije” Opus 148 (1960), X2, Dr. Julius de Boer, primary care doctor in Zeist, wrote the book “Arthur Rimbaud” which included a Nico Bulder wood engraving. This ex libris is the corrected version of the rejected Opus 147. Opus 147 (1960), X2, Dr. Julius de Boer, primary care doctor in Zeist, wrote the book “Arthur Rimbaud” which included a Nico Bulder wood engraving. This ex libris was rejected by Nico Bulder himself. Opus 146 (1959), X2, T. Albronda, former director of the Veenkoloniale Bank Opus 145, (1959), X2, Nina Wind, she was a concert singer living in The Hague. Opus 144 (1959), X2, L. Geerlandt. We don’t know much about her, but she must have been a lady equestrian who also liked to play golf. Opus 143 ((1958), X2, ‘t Speelske Hus, Willem Valk’s house at Terschelling. Opus 142 ( 1958), X2, J en G. Pronk, illustrator in Amsterdam and engaged with a girl from Groningen; he had this ex libris made as an engagement present. Opus 141 (1958), X2, Algemeen Ziekenhuis Baarn (General Hospital in Baarn, The Netherlands) Opus 140 (1958), X2, N.G. Addens, born in 1892, farmer in Bellingwolde from 1921-1945, Board member of the “Groninger Maatschappij van Landbouw”, chairman of the supervisory board of the “Friesch-Groninger Coop. Beetwortel-Suikerfabriek, board member of the “Landbouw Economisch Instituut” from 1941-1949, authored several articles. Opus 139 (1958), X2, Mr. D. Giltay Veth, attorney and judge who lived most of the time in Amsterdam, was one of the co-authors of the infamous “Weinreb rapport”, same as Opus 137 and Opus 24. Opus 138A (1957), X2, M.A. Beels, founder of the “KOG Stichting” and one of the founders of the “Koninklijke Oudheidkunde”, notary in Haarlem, board member of the “Burgerweeshuis” and Grand Master of the Freemasons. Opus 138 (1957), X2, C.H. Beels, bank director, his collection was donated to the “Museum van het Boek”. Opus 137 (1957), X2, Mr. D. Giltay Veth, attorney and judge who lived most of the time in Amsterdam, was one of the co-authors of the infamous “Weinreb rapport”, same as Opus 139 and Opus 24. Opus 136 (1957), X2, F.A. Möller, born in 1899 in Enschede, became director of the “Scholtens Chemische Fabrieken” in Groningen in 1937, became also director of the “Scholtens Aaardappelmeelfabrieken” and “Meihuizen-Boons fabrieken” in 1943, lived in Zuidlaren. Opus 135 (1957), X2, A.C. Rümke and M. Rümke-Kalf, couple lived in Utrecht, he was a psychologist. Opus 134 (1957), X2, Frantz van Dorpe, born May 20, 1906 in Kortrijk and passed away on May 14, 1990 in St. Niklaas, Belgian industrialist, MP for the CVP party and mayor of St. Niklaas. Opus 133 (1957), X2, A.B. Dijkman, this ex libris is a correction of Opus 132 in which the wrong initials were used. Opus 132 (1957), X2, J.A. Dijkman, this ex libris has the wrong initials; to correct this Opus 133 was made. Opus 131 (1957), X2, S. Pilkes, worked in the telecommunications industry. The original ex libris lacks Nico Bulder’s monogram, but interestingly the publication “Nieuwere Exlibris van Nico Bulder” published in 1959 by “Arethusa Pers” shows de “B” monogram in the center of the globe. Opus 130 (1957), X2, P. Pilkes, high school teacher in Oosterbeek. Opus 129 (1957), X2, F. Pilkes, Sales director for Total Benelux. Opus 128 (1956), X2, “Missionarissen van de Heilige Familie”, a religious order in Oudenbosch focussing on missionary work; father Jan van Heugten was the director of its printing office Opus 127 (1956), X2, Ottmar Premstaller, Austrian graphical artist and veterinarian who made hundreds of ex libris himself, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottmar_Premstaller Opus 126 (1955), X2, Roel Kolle, lived in Deventer and emigrated later to Indonesia. Opus 125 (1952), X2, M.K.G. Bulder, nephew of Nico Bulder, lived in Paterswolde, was director of the “NOVE Boardfabriek” in Hoogezand and later director of the “Hollansche Beton Groep” in Rijswijk, passed away in 1999. Opus 124 (1952), X2, “J.T.”, Jan Tuin, mayor of Hoogezand-Sappemeer and later of the city of Groningen. Opus 123 (1951), X2, A.H.W. Hellemans, director at “Beukema & Co”, member of the Freemasons as exemplified by the masonic symbols. Opus 122 (1951), X2, G.M. Hellemans-Meihuizen, spouse of A.H.W. Hellemans of Opus 123. This ex libris looks the same as Opus 120, but Nico Bulder had to do the engraving all over again because the block of 120 had been damaged. Amazingly, the differences are hardly noticeable. Opus 121 (1951), X2, H.G. Groenewoud, reverend in Groningen. Opus 120 (1951), X2, G.M. Hellemans-Meihuizen, spouse of A.H.W. Hellemans of Opus 123. This ex libris looks the same as Opus 122, but the block was damaged and Nico Bulder had to do the engraving all over again with Opus 122 as result. Amazingly, the differences are hardly noticeable. Opus 119 (1951), X2, G.A. Verduin, baker and member of the “Landelijke Vereniging Korenmolen”. Opus 118 (1951), X2, Will Jansen, we don’t know much about him. Opus 117 (1951), X2, L. Matuszcak, we don’t know much about him, the spelling of his surname suggests he came from Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Germany. Opus 116 (1950), X2, B.G. Eijsink, army chaplain later priest in Dronten. Opus 115 (1950), X2, K.J. van der Kolk, “je lis j’élis” meaning “I read I select”. Opus 114 (1948), Adolfo de Carolis, Italian graphical artist Opus 113 (1948), X2, Christophorus Ongering, same as Opus 81 – C.J.W. Ongering, painter and gallery owner in Groningen. Opus 112 (1948), X2, Alb Lobel, lived in Belgium but we have no more info on him. Opus 111 (1948), X2, Dott. Ing. Gianni Mantero (1897-1985), Como Italy, ex libris collector who first promoted the idea of dedicated ex libris meetings leading to the creation of FISAE of which he was the first President. Interestingly the ex libris mentions “Cianni” instead of “Gianni”. For more info click here. Opus 110 (1946), X2, Dr. G. Stoel, primary care doctor in Dirksland Opus 108, 1946, X2, M. van Lokeren Campagne – de Haas; born on Jan 24 1899, she married Jan van Lokeren Campagne (born on Sep 9 1894 in Klater, Indonesia); he was pediatrician and professor in pediatric medicine. They lived in Oegstgeest, Groningen and Bussum. Opus 109 (1946), X2, Dr. Marie H. van der Zeyde, Click here for more info Opus 107, 1946, X2, Ir. D. Douwes; he was director at the Carbid factory in Amsterdam, later director at Scholten-Honig. Opus 106, 1946, X2, B.J.H. Dijkhuizen; he was director at “Vermande en Zonen”. Opus 105, 1946, X2, A.G. Gerritsen; he was a friend of H.M. Werkman and chemist at the VAM in Wijster, later he started an antique shop in Nijmegen. Opus 104, 1946, J.A. Mulder, wine merchant in Sappemeer Opus 103, 1946, X2, Alida E. de Wit; she was the daughter of Mr. de Wit, director of Academie Minerva in Groningen. Opus 102, 1946, X2, H.T.J. Reinders; he was a farmer in Hoogezand. Opus 101, 1946, X2, Dr. J. Broekmeijer; born in 1887, he was an internal medicine specialist and director of the Dordrecht hospital from 1926 to 1950. Opus 100 (1945), X2, Ir H.G.J. Schelling, brother of # 28/38, architect for the Dutch Railways and involved in a.o. the design of the Amstel station in Amsterdam. Opus 75, 1943, X2, Nico Bulder Opus 75, 1943, X2 printed in red, Nico Bulder Opus 67, 1942, X2, Dr. K. Bos, the forest in the ex libris refers to the family name (the Dutch word “bos” means “forest”), the eye refers to the doctor’s specialty being an ophthalmologist, while the picture inside the eye shows a medieval “steensnijder”(= “barbar-surgeon”) whose profession developed into the modern day surgeon. Opus 45 (1938), Nico Bulder, X2, showing a caterpillar eating a leaf. Caterpillars spend their days rolled up in a leaf to hide from birds and other predators and come out at night to feed on the leaves of the plant. (The leaf rolling mechanism is one of those amazing feats of natural engineering that’s both simple and effective). It appears that Nico Bulder felt a lot of similarity with those caterpillars. He worked mostly in the evening and at night to satisfy his demanding customers, for hours cutting in the hard wood just like a caterpillar devouring the hardy leaves with its strong jaws. But as a result of all the hard work a beautiful piece of graphical art would emerge just like the caterpillar who would eventually turn into a beautiful butterfly. Opus 38 (1937), X2, Ir. A.H. Schelling, waterbouwkundig ingenieur who was involved with the design and realization of the Starkenborgh channel and Oostersluis lock in Groningen; see also Opus 28. Opus 28 (1936), X2, Ir. A.H. Schelling, waterbouwkundig ingenieur who was involved with the design and realization of the Starkenborgh channel and Oostersluis lock in Groningen. see also Opus 38. Opus 12 (1932), Nico Bulder, X2, printed in two colors black and brown showing Numerous stories, some miraculous, are told about Nicholas. One tells how during a terrible famine, a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher’s horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. Another version of this story, possibly formed around the 11th century, claims that the butcher’s victims were instead three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The saint saw through this and brought the men back to life. Why Nico Bulder chose this theme for his personal ex libris in 1932 is unknown. St. Nicholas of Myra. Opus “unnumbered” (1928), X1, Nico Bulder made this ex libris of the as part of his final examination at “Academie Minerva”. Slochteren tower
Many of the ex libris that Nico Bulder made for others bear his monogram “B-“; sometimes it is in plain sight, other times it is more hidden.
Nico Bulder made four ex libris for himself: Opus 75 (1943), Opus 45 (1938), Opus 12 (1932), and an very early unnumbered version .
Click here for the pdf file that lists the background info of the people for whom Nico Bulder created their ex libris.