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Uniforms and Regimental Regalia: The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration

Nearly 20,000 prints, drawings, watercolors, and printed book and magazine illustrations of military costume as well as military medals, regalia, insignia, coats of arms, and regimental flags, from most times and places except the United States.

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Vereenigde Provincien der Nederlanden. Arquebusier. 1618 Wood-engraving, Hand-colored. Digital ID: 91659 Vereenigde Provincien der Nederlanden. Arquebusier. 1618 Wood-engraving, Hand-colored. Digital ID: 91659

Collection History

The collection assembled by H. J. Vinkhuijzen (1843-1910), a Dutch physician, and presented to the Library by Mrs. Henry Draper in 1911, consists in its entirety of over 32,000 pictures, from many sources, mounted in 762 scrapbooks. (The digital presentation will ultimately include them all.) The collection is remarkably diverse, depicting costume as various as the rough wool garments of Bronze age Etruscan warriors, the robes of Ottoman Turk court officials, and the elaborate uniforms of the preening armies of 19th-century Europe, the collection's special strength.

The aesthetic quality of the images varies. There are prints seemingly cut from 17th-century festival books along with 19th-century chromolithographs, original watercolor compositions of some artistic merit, crude pencil drawings, and occasional photographs. Dr. Vinkhuijzen's usual strategy was to extract plates from illustrated books and magazines. He colored some of the printed images, and when printed images were lacking, drew others by hand. Some of the unsigned watercolors found in the collection may also be by him. He arranged his collection as loose images in boxes according to his own classification system; this organization is retained for browsing the digital collection. (Mounting the plates in scrapbooks was apparently accomplished by others after Dr. Vinkhuijzen's death.)

Background

In general, the pictures are organized by country and time period, although there are inconsistencies (for instance, those Etruscans are included in volumes for the Roman Empire). The many scrapbooks devoted to Germany and Italy include separate designations for pre-unification states and principalities. Thus the elegantly attired soldieries of Anhalt, Prussia, Westphalia, Genoa, and Modena, among others, are depicted in great specificity and detail. Although Mexico and some other Latin American countries are represented, there is, surprisingly, no coverage at all for the United States.

There are challenges and drawbacks to consider when using this collection for scholarly research. Its organization is idiosyncratic. Source notes for many of the images are lacking, although relatively reliable source attributions, compiled in the 1960s by the Brown University Company of Military Historians, exist for volumes 1 through 269; these provide information on the uniforms of Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Byzantium, Chile, Egypt, France, and part of Germany. Another concern is that some of the hand-applied colors may be inaccurate. However, the fact that the collection includes unique images that have not been extensively examined by contemporary scholars is reason enough to make the collection widely accessible.

The New York Public Library welcomes any information or scholarship pertaining to this collection. If a user of NYPL Digital Gallery has additional authoritative information about individual images or their sources, or if there is a mistake in the attribution, please inform us by contacting Elizabeth Diefendorf, Chief Librarian, General Research Division (ediefendorf@nypl.org).

The following biographical sketch of Dr. Vinkhuijzen is based on typescript documents bound with a slender printed inventory entitled Uniformes de toutes les nations et de toutes les epoques formée M. le Dr. H. J. Vinkhuyzen (Amsterdam ... 1910). The information these sources provide is slight, and not verifiable, as no articles on Dr. Vinkhuijzen appear in either of the authoritative national biographical dictionaries published in the Netherlands. [A note on spelling: Various forms of the name occur. "Vinkhuijzen" is the use authenticated by the Library of Congress.]

Dr. Vinkhuijzen led an eventful life, traveling throughout Europe as a physician associated with various armies and with the Dutch royal court. He apparently earned a doctor of medicine degree in the mid -1860s; and although the available sources indicate that in 1866 he stayed for a semester at the University of Vienna, they are silent on which Dutch University granted his degree. The 1860s also saw the appearance of his four known professional publications, treating, respectively, Dutch medicine, leprosy, syphilis, and the compound eyes of insects).

He began his career as a medical officer with the Corps Koninklijke Scherpschutters (Royal Sharpshooters Corps) in The Hague. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71), he served in France on an ambulance with the newly founded (1864) Red Cross; and in an unrecorded year he traveled to Russia, where he stayed in Moscow studying "the fight against pestilence." In his later life, he was the official court physician to Prince Alexander of the Netherlands. His father had performed in the same role for King Willem III. Dr. Vinkhuijzen treated many other patients as well, including charity patients.

A concluding quote from one of the typescript documents:

"Of course he was highly thought of in spite of his curious hobbies, one of which was his collecting plates of military uniforms for which he ruined even the most wonderful and expensive works."

Related Resources

Geneeskundige opmerkingen op eene reis door het Noorden ... (1865)

De melaatschheid, vooral met betrakking tot hare oorzaken en verhouding in de maatschappij. (1868)

Over de ontwikkeling der zamengestelde oogen insecten. (1865)

Zur medicinsichen Lage Niederlands ...(1864)

Citations for the works listed above were found in the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) and The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints. The author of this biographical sketch has not examined the works themselves.

- E.Diefendorf 7.13.04

Library Division(s)

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