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Within the context of The Golden Cabinet, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and the Rockox House Museum are presenting a number of small-scale exhibitions of which Bound in Friendship will be the first.

From the second half of the sixteenth century to midway through the nineteenth, an album amicorum or friends’ book was a prized possession among students. It acted as an analogue reminder of the social network of their student days and was sometimes cherished for long after. Students collected signatures from their fellow-students, as well as from professors and relatives. The subscribent or signatory would furnish his contribution with quotations taken in the majority of cases from the Bible or from classical authors, the natural urge being to display erudition. His page would also contain a dedication with an expression of esteem for the owner of the album. Where the subscriber was of the nobility, he would be only too happy to add a heraldic shield, albeit that he would not necessarily draw or paint it himself, turning for this in some instances to an artist, whom he would pay for the work. Lastly, he added his name and the date. The location where the book was signed was often mentioned, too.

These sometimes summary details about students make these books a veritable treasure house of information on student life and allow us to trace the peregrinatio academica or educational journey that students made to foreign universities. Bound in Friendship. The Liber Amicorum or Friends’ Book in de Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries in The Netherlands show about 20 original friends’ books with friends, acquaintances and family members from both the Northern and Southern parts of the Low Countries as signatories of each others’ albums.

This webapplication provides insight into the lives of the owners and the signatories of these books and reveals fascinating pages that are not on view in the exhibition.
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