J.B. Hulst's Rare Books in the Hekman Library
Johannes Bernardus (J.B.) Hulst’s dreams of becoming a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church ended when, as a seminary student, severe illness led to a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, his dreams of preaching became a reality when he received a license to preach under the Church Order of Dort (Art. 8, Exceptional Gifts). He preached regularly from 1892 until well into the 1940s. To make a living besides his preaching income, J.B. turned his love for books into a livelihood. By 1892 he had opened a bookstore on Grandville Avenue specializing in Dutch-language literature. Many of his books were collections of printed sermons. Dutch language versions of such books as John Bunyans’ and Alexander Comrie’s were also listed in his catalog.
More than selling books, J.B. loved collecting rare books, and at one time owned the 1492 publication of Tractatus de Reformatione Virium Animae by Gerhard Zerbolt of Zutphen, a 1556 Dutch Bible translated from Latin, and a 1560 Dutch translation of Calvin’s Institutes. Those in the Dutch community who valued reading the oude schrijvers (revered early authors of the Reformation) found them at J.B. Hulst.
In 1911 he sold his business to the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, while he continued to be active in his church, First CRC, and in the Dutch-American community. For thirty-two years he served on the CRC’s Publication Committee. During those years he met a fellow preacher and book lover, H. Henry Meeter. It may well be that it was this connection that motivated J.B. to donate a collection of his books and manuscripts to the CRC’s Synodical Historical Committee in 1940. Some of these are now housed in Hekman Library's Rare Book collection, while others formed the beginnings of the H. Henry Meeter Center’s Rare Book collection.
--Janet Sheeres,interim editor of Origins, genealogist and author. (Image above shows book shelves in the Meeter Center).