The Daily Herald writes that throughout January, René Caderius van Veen has turned his Windwardside residence into a unique, rare-books exhibit. The picturesque setting for the extensive private collection is a beautifully-restored traditional Saba cottage erected in approximately 1850.
The exhibit, which remains open until mid-February, is unique for the Caribbean as it is featuring an extensive array of antique Dutch and other European books. These are displayed together with the private collection of rare furniture from 1500 to 1850, Middle-Eastern textiles from 1750 to 1880, Dutch tiles from 1625 to 1900, real Chinese china from 1600 to 1775, paintings from 1750 to 1900, lace work from 1800 to 1920, among other collections. Most of the rare artefacts were inherited from Vera Caderius van Veen, the curator’s aunt, who travelled extensively and dedicated her life to studying and preserving the various collections.
Caderius van Veen treats local and foreign tourist visitors not just to a tour of the collection, but also to presentations projected in his living room, which has been set up as a theatre. He lectures on a collection of highly-decorated, painted antique books, only 60 of which are known to have survived throughout Europe. Caderius van Veen displays more recent reproductions, which amount to some 10 per cent of the known originals.
The main attractions of the current exhibit are the seven original parchments and leather antique bibles and 44 antique engraved books from between 1640 and 1800. This may be one of the most valuable rare-book collections in the region. While showing some of the illustrated original antique books from 1640 about cultural history, Caderius van Veen explained some of the complex printing techniques used at the time. Many of these items can be admired by visitors while wearing gloves. One of the most spectacular original books is a large illustrated bible from 1748.
To boost interest in the exhibit, the curator is also posting online scanned copies of one of the German books from 1773, the Bildergeographie. Each day, Caderius posts online one of the caricatures, featuring people in traditional attire from most of the countries of the world known at that time.
Asked why he would go into trouble of opening such exhibits to the public, he said that he tries to dedicate “the last years of my life to something meaningful, such as sharing with others the values I inherited.” He transported the valuable collection from his former home, De Boschplaatse manor in Blijham in the Netherlands to Saba, where he believes it may become a cultural and tourist asset.