From the archive

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Books sold by Albert Heijn grocery stores (1942–1943)

They are well-known to Dutch Jules Verne collectors, those undated books from the 1930s, with a cover illustration by Louis Akkermans, showing three of Verne’s fantastic vehicles: a submarine, a skytrain and a moon rocket. The inside cover of these books sometimes carries an advertisement for coffee, tea and groceries from Albert Heijn grocery stores. Until recently, we did not understand Albert Heijn’s involvement in this series and wondered when exactly such books were issued.

In this series, a first lot of eleven Jules Verne books appreared, characterized by their old Dutch spelling, and lacking the publisher’s name. Somewhat later, four more titles appeared in the new spelling (of 1934). In the latter, the publisher’s name is given as Het Boekhuis, at Ledeberg-Gent in Belgium.

In the 1930s it was not uncommon that books produced in Belgium for the Dutch market were published anonymously. This phenomenon has been documented for books of the then equally popular author Karl May. Dozens of titles appeared simultaneously in Belgium and in The Netherlands, from an apparent common source, in various series, aiming at different target groups. Hence the name “Boekhuis complex”.

Hand-written dates in the books show that the oldest, anonymous series dates from about 1932 and the second one from 1936. These books were mass-produced. Initially, they had a linen cover, which later changes to simpler and cheaper boards.

Illustration: Book with orange cover
Illustration: Book with brown cover
Two examples of books belonging to the first series.

Thanks to the increasing numbers of digitized Dutch historical newspapers, we found a clue which finally enabled us to reconstruct Albert Heijn’s involvement in these books. The Leeuwarder Courant of December 2nd, 1943 carries the following advertisement:

Illustration: Advertisement for Jules Verne books sold by Albert Heijn

This translates approximately to:

Saint Nicholas Offer. ALBERT HEIJN takes care of your presents. Upon each purchase of various groceries (except sugar and creamery butter) worth f 2 you will receive a JULES VERNE-BOOK for f 0.25 as long as stocks last. Authorized by competent authorities dated 8 January 1942.

Illustration: Label as found in the books
Albert Heijn label as found in books.

During the war, under German occupation, very few new books were printed. This led to an unlimited demand for books. Albert Heijn apparently had succeeded in mobilizing unsold stocks of books of both editions, in old and new spelling. These were used as bonuses for customers around Saint Nicholas and Christmas, in the December months of 1942 and 1943.


Thanks are due to Kees Waij for providing the scan of the Albert Heijn label.

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