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The auction of Farwerck’s library

Several years ago I visited the Dutch Royal Library for a few of my investigations, one being Farwerck. The Royal Library has most of Farwerck’s publications, including the smaller books that I’ve never found for my own library. Also it contains correspondence between Willy Farwerck and Georges Zorab, but most interestingly, the catalogue of the auction of Farwerck’s library (or so I thought) on May 25th and 26th 1971, three years after he passed away.

The catalogue is a well printed paperback that for some reason is housed in the department ‘special collections’ which means: no photographs. I could only page through the book and make notes with a pencil that was lent to me. I made notes, drew some interesting conclusions, but I didn’t really have the time for ‘analysis’.

A 1971 paperback, a copy is bound to surface on the market some day, doesn’t it? I kept looking and learned that some catalogues of the auction house are actually available in digital form, others were reprinted in yearbooks of book-collectors, some are frequently sold in second hand bookshops. Not the catalogue of the auction of Farwerck’s books though.

On yet another search in March 2022 I did find something interesting. The archive of the auction house that took care of the auction is housed in a semi public library connected to the University of Amsterdam!

J.L. Beijers

The auction house that sold Farwerck’s library was quite a renowned one. It was founded in 1865 by Jan Leendert Beijers (1838-1899) in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Beijers was specialised in book auctions and had an antiquarian bookshop, quite a rarity in these days. Beijers himself moved on to other business after 20 years, but the shop and auction house were continued by employees. For a while these included Evert Jan Brill (1811-1871) who would found the famous academic publishing house of the same name.

Beijers Auctions often sold complete libraries, sometimes of institutions sometimes of private individuals. Some of the catalogues I keep running into (especially those that took place in the same year as Farwerck’s auction of course), one kept eluding me…


A tantalizing thought occurred to me when I noticed that the Beijers archives are available: what if I wouldn’t only be able to make photos of the catalogue, but also would be able to find out who offered the books? That would give a good indication what happened to the library after Farwerck sold his house. Maybe I could even see who bought the books.

Beijers has existed for over a century so the archives are extensive, 40 metres of files and boxes! These aren’t neatly displayed in a library, but stacked in some archive. I had to find out from a catalogue what I wanted to see, request these files to be transferred to a library and of course I had to become a member of that library. Not too cheap since I haven’t been to a university.

It took some searching, but the catalogues are listed under the name “Farwick”. The Allard Pierson library has two copies of the catalogue. It is not like all information is ordered per auction. These two catalogues had file numbers, but those were the only “Farwick” entries I could find. There are also files with correspondence, lists of contributors, financial files, etc. Some of these had a limited range, such as correspondence of 1970 and 1971, while other ‘files’ are so big that I couldn’t have them transported to the library. Incoming letters from 1962 up to 1990 for example. I had to stick to manageable files in the hope to find the information I was after. The mentioned two catalogues, correspondence between 1970 and 1971 and the contributors of material in 1971 and 1972.

I immediately saw that the Royal Library book is completely without context. The catalogue is not of an action of the books of Farwerck, but an auction of the books of many people, 55 to be specific. Both the catalogue and the information that I got when I had the book in my hands, only list Farwerck (see above). My previous conclusions are therefor quite false as I was under the impression that all books had belonged to Farwerck. In fact only about 187 titles of the 1524 of the auction appear to have been from Farwerck’s library.

Two books

Above on the right you see the cover of the paperback. It is a well printed booklet of a little over 100 pages. The two brown books on the left are from the archive of Beijers Auctions. What they did was take the book apart and bind it together with paper to write notes on. Why two different formats are used is beyond me, but it turned out well that I asked for both catalogues.

In the catalogue you get a numbered list of 1524 items on sale with some information. One of the Beijers books had notes with who bought which title and for what price. It also had notes when a book was not sold.
The other book has numbers alongside the catalogue titles which proved to correspond with a list of names of the people whose books were on sale. These sellers are probably just numbered from 1 unto infinity by the auction house (or a change of system was implemented along the way). The lowest number is in this particular auction was 171, but there are also four-digit and five-digit numbers. Farwerck is listed as 10570.

Now comes the fun part. These numbers are written by hand on the pages of the catalogue (just as the sales are written by hand) and the handwriting is ehm… Unfortunately, there are a few similar numbers too. 10070, 10170, 10270, 10370, 10470, 10670, 10770. The numbers are not always easy to tell apart.

I’ve been trying to make a list of Farwerck’s books. Like I said, 187 titles. They end up for a total sale of about ƒ 11.500,- which in todays currency would be about $ 6.000,- (also count inflation). The total auction (I haven’t recounted it) seems to have been good for about ƒ 45.000,-, so Farwerck made up a good part with relatively few books. This is a bit odd, since the expensive books that I had noted before, weren’t Farwerck’s.

Some buyers are listed by name, some with a number. Initially I thought that the numbers referred to the buyers of other items, as in: buyer A bought item 2, he also bought item 1200, so I just list 1200 as bought by 2 so safe ink. That doesn’t seem to be the case. So, are the numbers regular buyers? I doubt that, since Beyers himself and the earlier mentioned Brill are among the buyers listed by name. Anonymous buyers perhaps then?

16 Books weren’t sold. By and far most books were bought by Schors. Other names have bought more than a dozen. Most names don’t ring a bell, I guess they were mostly book sellers.

Amusing too. Now that I know that not all books were Farwerck’s, it’s interesting to see which were and which weren’t. There’re actually quite some titles that I expected by be from Farwerck’s library, but they were not.

The prices range from ƒ 5,- (for a title of himself!) to ƒ 525,- (for an Egyptian dictionary). Some 30 books are sold for more than ƒ 100,-.

As I wrote before, the titles that Farwerck possessed are in several languages. His native Dutch of course, but mostly German. Other books are in English or French.

Notable titles are two books of Eliphas Levi, the book of Stephan Schlesinger about symbols, both large works of Blavatsky (Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine), two books of Jan de Vries, the standard works of Grimm, two books of Waite, one of Wirth.
There are a few books about Kabbalah, numbers, the origin of the alphabet, initiations and the like. This is somewhat remarkable, because those were the first subjects he wrote about well before the fire in his house in 1940, also well before the Gestapo took 800 out of 1200 books in Farwerck’s possession during a raid in 1945. Did Farwerck retrieve books or did he buy new ones?
A few titles seem to refer to his profession in textile. There are more prehistory and Germanic books than I registered the first time I looked at the catalogue. There are a few titles about race, but the entire ‘militaria’ and ‘hunting and shooting’ parts of the catalogue contain no title from Farwerck’s library. And I should mention several titles about the Rosicrucians, a subject that his brother wrote about.
As I have mentioned before, there are a few entries of titles he published himself in larger quantities (20 and 30). These are sold to multiple buyers, Schors seems to have bought the remainders.

The Ritman Library in Amsterdam lists five titles which came from Farwerck. Only one of them is in auction catalogue, Versuch einer Geschichte des Tempelherrenordens from 1781 (!) by K.G. Anton. This title was bought by Schors. Schors and Ritman knew each other very well, so it is not hard to image what route that book took.
Strangely enough, Ritman possesses another old book from Farwerck, quite a spectacular one too: Soli deo gloria (1618) by Valentin Weigel. This is a fairly famous alchemical work that was apparently out of Farwerck’s possession before he passed away. I can’t imagine Beijers not taking such a title in auction. The other titles in the Ritman Library also must have been sold before Farwerck’s passing.


Nothing groundbreaking. I noticed that the supplier of the books is also listed as one of the suppliers of another auction later that year. Now I need to study that catalogue too. Perhaps the books that weren’t sold in May were again presented in September. I don’t know yet.

So we come to the interesting question: who offered the books to Beijers? I had hoped that the folders with correspondence would bring some nice details, but that wasn’t really the case. Funny were a bunch of letters of somebody who had Farwerck’s F. I only found two ‘letters’ to the supplier of the books. No incoming correspondence. One is mostly a slip of paper, the other a letter of sorts without very interesting content, but both were addressed to “Mrs. Farwerck” living at Wernerlaan 41, the very address that appears in Farwerck’s obituary. I think it’s fairly safe to say that this is the address where Farwerck moved to when he sold the villa and this is where the remainder of his possessions went to until Johanna thought it better to get rid of it. It appears that it was no longer a massive amount of books, but of course, perhaps not all books were sold through Beijers. Correspondence is clear that the people working at the auction house were very well informed and only sold what they expected to make a good price.

Was a part of Farwerck’s possessions already sold when he moved out of the villa? I know of 10 titles with Farwerck’s ex-libris (either one) that were not sold at the Beijers auction, so they must have gone to the market some other way. This is something I need to find out now. What may be worth mentioning in this regard is that Farwerck appeared to have donated his photo collection to a museum just before he passed away. Could he also have been donating and selling other material?

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