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Photobook dummies collection

Identifier: ubl283

Scope and Contents

A collection of drafts, workbooks and manufactured dummies of key publications from a strong episode of Dutch photobook publishing: the post-World War II decades. See the collection inventory.


  • Creation: 1928-1994
  • Creation: Bulk 1950s

Language of Materials

No linguistic content; Not applicable .

Conditions Governing Use

The photobook dummies collection is kept in a vault with special climate control. Because of the acclimatization process they will have to be requested 24 hours in advance of a visit to the Reading Room. Some photobook dummies can be viewed only after permission by the curator. Other regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

In the decades after Second World War photographers grew confident as autonomous artists, but they lacked access to museum space yet. Photography was still meant to be published and printed through the illustrated press. However, the editorial process of regular publishing left photographers little artistic space. Therefore,they created a new platform to present their photographs and to unfold their photographic narratives freely: the photobook. Photographers made workbooks and dummies by hand with great care, sometimes in close collaboration with a like-minded graphic designer. Sometimes, they are just one-leaf storyboards, other times they are piles of sheets with photographs glued on them or even manually assembled entire books with vintage print photographs glued on its white pages. For photographers, dummies served as try-outs for combinations, layouts and narrative rhythms of the book pages. Also, photographers used these dummies in the process of fundraising to realize their books: to convince whoever had to be involved in the production of the final result. The dummies required hours and days of darkroom photoprint production, much manual cutting and collaging and redoing for better results. This practice disappeared around the 1990s, when photobooks were increasingly designed on the computer. The dummies are valued today because of their vintage and unique character, and because the handwork, annotations and different preliminary stages render insight into the photographers' artistic process and ideas.


23 titles

Abstract in Dutch

Een collectie van handgemaakte dummy's of andere typen voorstudies van ruim twintig sleutelwerken uit de geschiedenis van het Nederlandse fotoboek. Het fotoboek kende vooral in de decennia na de Tweede Wereldoorlog een bloeiperiode. Fotografen als Ed van der Elsken, Ata Kandó en Johan van der Keuken verwierven internationaal aanzien met in eigen beheer gemaakte fotoboeken, waarin documentaire inhoud in toenemende mate werd gemengd met de artistieke expressie van de fotograaf/auteur

Abstract in English

A collection of manufactured dummies or other types of preliminary studies of more than twenty key works from the history of the Dutch photobook. The decades after the Second World War became reputed to be the golden age of the photobook. Photographers like Ed van der Elsken, Ata Kandó and Johan van der Keuken achieved esteem internationally, for their photobooks they edited on their own, in which documentary content increasingly merged with artistic expression of the photographer/author.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Some of the photobook dummies are described in the online catalogue, but not all of them.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The dummies are mostly bought in the 1960s and 1970s, directly from the photographers. In the years after they published their photobook, photographers often decided to sell the dummy material to the Leiden University Print Room – in those days the only heritage institution interested in photography. Although the photographers' first impetus to sell their dummies was a need for money, they were also aware that the hand-made dummies were unique objects of heritage, beautifully representing the artistic process of their often successful photobooks in vintage material. Whereas the published books were printed, produced and distributed in a wide circulation, the manufactured character of the dummies made it photographic monuments of heritage on their own, that had to be conserved as such. In 2002, the Print Room collections were moved and integrated into the special collections of Leiden University Library.


Incidental additions can be expected.

Related Materials

All photographers of whom photobook dummies are present in the collection, are also represented in the Leiden University photocollection with singular photographs, negatives or other photographic materials.

Separated Materials

The negative archives of several of these photographers, and thus the negatives of separate images in these photobook dummies, are managed in the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.


Parr, M. and G. Badger, The Photobook. A History, pt. I, II and III. London 2004, 2014, 2016.
Gierstberg, F., e.a., Het Nederlandse fotoboek. Een thematische selectie, na 1945.Rotterdam 2012.


The material can be requested in the online catalogue (Special Collections; if necessary use the button Request uncatalogued material). See also Conditions Governing Use.

Collection guide of the photobook dummies collection (1928-1994)
Collectie dummy's van fotoboeken
Maartje van den Heuvel
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is written in: English, Code for undetermined script script.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857