A Brill Calendar: April 18
"Never Too Old'
Few men in Brill’s past started to direct the publishing company ‘when they were sixty-four’ (to paraphrase Paul, John, George & Ringo).
A prime example is an exceptional historian and scholar, Nicolaas Wilhelmus Postumus (Amsterdam, December 26 1880 – Bussum, April 18 1960) who bode adieu to his Directorate April 1 1958, aged 77, after a tenure of some 15 years. When he joined the Board of Commissioners of Brill - during the German occupation of The Netherlands – Postumus had already duly resigned as Professor, rejecting the Nazi regime, like most of his academic peers in The Netherlands.
Postumus had a distinguished track-record as founder of the Dutch Economical Historical Archive in The Hague (1914) and of the unique International Institute for Social History (1935), acquiring the archives of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. After May ’45 this list of organizational achievement continued to be extended - while working for Brill - by building the National Institute for War Documentation (presently NIOD), next to a new Faculty in Political and Social Sciences at Amsterdam University, and an Institute for the Middle & Near East IMNO (1956); this last creation directly resulting from Posthumus’s personal discovery of cultures in a cradle of civilization enabled by his ‘Brill Connection’ in the autumn of his life.
Few Dutch organizations and businesses didn’t come under improvised and haphazard scrutiny immediately after the War. It is seldom that prudent wisdom & humane generosity prevail in the immediate – and not so immediate - wake of victory & defeat. No existing template for soul-searching was available after a dramatic and catastrophic five-year occupation. It didn’t take long for the pipe-dream of a vast, impeccable snow-white majority being ‘goed’ (correct) and a small ink-black minority of Hitler-adepts, being ‘fout’ (at fault), to dissolve into a range of greys of resistance & collaboration; in abeyance of clearly justified penalties and dismissals.
Writing a History of the Publishing Company he came to love was one of the ideals of this scholar which didn’t materialize. Many of them did; it befell Nicolaas Postumus to bring Brill to the threshold of a new cultural and technological era in scholarly printing & publishing.