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Albert Bosman and Bruno Ernst

Today is the start of the ‘Boekenweek’ (Bookweek), a nice occasion to highlight an artwork which is seen less and less: a bookplate. Escher created several of them, mostly for friends. The first one when he was 17, for his own library.

The one you see here, from 1946, was for his neighbor in Baarn, engineer Albert Ernst Bosman. He must have been a bookworm, looking at the one Escher pictured in this bookplate. He didn’t know it yet but this neighbour would be of great significance to him. Bosman was the one to bring him in contact with Hans de Rijk. The man of many pseudonyms.

Escher met him as friar Erich, member of the congregation of Saint Louis in Oudenbosch. This Erich was fascinated by the print Up and Down, which hung on the wall of his classroom. He knew Albert Bosman and this is the one who brought artist and admirer together. It was the start of a lifelong friendship. Under the name Bruno Ernst this Erich teached math at the academy for teachers, where he also founded the magazine of mathematics Pythagoras. After they met in August 1956 they saw each other often, De Rijk always as friar Erich. It took Escher several months to find out his real name. Escher was captured by this young man (he was 30), while he was capable of explaining complex mathematical issues in a simple way. One print after another was discussed during these meetings and also the sketches were included to get a complete picture.

Hans de Rijk (1966). Ron Kroon (ANEFO) - Cropped from GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)
The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher, Bruno Ernst

Much later, in 1970-1971, the two would repeat this discussion more systematically. During a period of two years and in weekly meetings Eschers complete body of work was analysed, De Rijk asking the artist about his intentions for each print. In 1976 this very fruitful change of ideas would lead to the much praised standard work The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher.

Bookplate M.C. Escher, linoleum cut in green, 1917
Bookplate Heleen van Thienen, linoleum cut, 1917

More Escher today