Portrait of Jan Luiken File created by Phillip Medhurst – Photo by Harry Kossuth, FAL,
When the name Jan Luiken is mentioned in Anabaptist circles, most think of his brilliant etchings in the Martyrs’ Mirror. His depiction of the martyr Dirk Willems may be the most famous, appearing on book covers, adapted artwork, and even secular psychology textbooks.
Dirk Willems rescues his captor. Public Domain,
Luiken etching found in the textbook “Exploring Psychology“ used by my husband when he taught a General Psychology course at James Madison University last fall.
But Luiken’s oeuvre goes far beyond his martyr drawings. Born in April 16, 1649 in Amsterdam, he was a Mennonite who made his living during the Dutch Golden Age as an illustrator, taking on numerous projects that spanned genres and topics.
The Menno Simons Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University is fortunate to have a considerable collection of books containing Luiken’s artwork. The content of these books ranges from exotic topics like the Laplanders of northern Finland to pirates on the North African coast and to more domestic portraits of tradesman and interiors of Dutch homes. Here I will highlight just a few interesting books and etchings in our collection.
The first illustrations are from a 1684 book entitled “Historie van Barbaryen, en des zelfs Zee-Roovers”—which discusses the history of the Barbary (North African) coast and pirates.
The new king of Algeria
A battle at sea
The next illustrations are from a 1682 book about the history of the Lapland region of Finland. Luiken’s illustrations show the customs and activities of the Lapland or Sami people.
Skiing and sledding
His illustrations in 1711’s “Het leerzaam huisraad” depict objects in a typical Dutch household.
Likewise, his illustrations in “Het Menselyk Bedryf” depict various occupations of his day.
Lois Bowman, Librarian Emeritus at EMU and former librarian in the Menno Simons Historical Library, has done a great deal of work cataloging our rare book collection and worked closely with the Jan Luiken Collection. She notes that the detail in Luiken’s work distinguishes it from other contemporary etchings; in addition to the main subject there are often background goings-on in his pictures that add a depth and realness to the illustration. The next time you encounter Luiken’s works either in the Martyrs’ Mirror or in other books, take some time to examine the etchings and note his attention to detail and skill. You are likely find something new and unique to appreciate!