A Guide to the Largest and Most Prestigious Building of the Dutch Golden Age


Description of the Cityhouse of Amsterdam, with an Explication of the emblematical Figures, Painting, and Images, etc. which are within and without this glorious Building.

Amsterdam: Printed by the Heirs of J. Ratelband and Company, 1738


Octavo: 15 x 9.5 cm. 98 p., A-F8, G1. With four folding plates


With views of the old and new town hall, and a floor plan (one small repaired tear); a good copy in nineteenth-century half roan and marbled boards (rebacked), worn, corners bumped; Very good internally with a few scattered early pencil annotations correcting some dates and measurements, and noting of one passage ‘Not in the French’.

The rare first edition in English of this guidebook to Amsterdam’s enormous neo-classical City Hall (Stadhuis), now the royal palace known as the ‘Paleis op de Dam’. The building is considered the most prestigious of buildings from the Dutch Golden Age.

The guide was published in Dutch (“Beschryvinge van ’t stadhuis”), French, and English in 1737-8, and intermittently thereafter throughout the century; the illustrations are captioned for use in all three editions.

The guide opens with a short description of the old town hall, which had burnt down in 1652, during the construction of the much larger new Stadhuis, designed by Jacob van Campen, which, like a ‘Fenix rising from the dead’, opened in 1655. The description covers every aspect of the building, including minute details of its art collections and its many adornments.

The walls were hung with paintings by Jacob Jordaens, Jan Lievens, and Ferdinand Bol, but the main commission went to Govaert Flinck (who died during production); famously, Rembrandt took over, but his contribution was returned after several months so he could makes some changes and was never re-hung; it survives only as a much-reduced fragment. The allegorical features of statuary, moldings and paintings are described here in great detail, and translations of the inscriptions provided. In the council chamber were paintings by Jacob de Wit on which the paint was barely dry (they were finished in 1738) – in fact several scenes are described here that were not completed in time for the Dutch and French editions, published in 1737.


ESTC records five copies only (Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Boston Athenaeum, Folger; and National Library of Australia), to which STCN adds University of Amsterdam.