Taboo out in the open

11 Mar 2019

The Maastricht Antiquarian Book and Print Fair (MABP) 2019 is back from 15 to 17 March, this year focusing on the theme Erotica. The booth of Center Céramique, the Regional Historic Center Limburg (RHCL) and the University Library will stand amidst notable antiquarians in the Sint Jans Church. Come and take a look at the discoveries made by three Maastricht University students in the treasure-trove of Maastricht institutional archives. This exhibition displays exquisite books and prints related to erotica, based on the students’ chosen subjects. You can admire the result of 4 months of research within the historic walls of the St. Jans Church.


Marriage and health advice

Maxime Hallatu’s focus is on Haarlem gynecologist and physician Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde (1873-1937). Her research constitutes of books, photographs and diagrams from all three archives. Van de Velde made history by dispelling the taboo around talking about sex. His expertise lies in giving sexual advice for married women and health advice for married men. He is well known for his marriage trilogy where the first of books, ‘The Perfect Marriage (1926) had up to 46 editions. The numerous translations and reprints of this books shows how popular this book was.


Taboo, nudity and erotica in Edo Japan

Nabilah Noordin researched a different facet of erotica. Japanese erotic woodblock prints or Ukiyo-e from Center Céramique provide an insight into the Japanese experience of eroticism between the 17th and 20th century. Her focus is mainly on the sub-genre of bijin-ga (beautiful women), called abuna-e (risky images). While some prints are voyeuristic in nature, some can be rather subtle. The Japanese did not experience restrictions and taboo in regards to nudity, and thus was more free in exposing body parts that would be considered taboo in the West.


Sexual morality as educational material

Yasmin Geradts researched 52 meters of unknown educational material from the Beyart Brothers in the Center Céramique archives. Her research focused on books on sexual morality. Their educational materials were based on their own Catholic morals and practices in daily lives. Their materials also include books regarding catechism, etiquette and pedagogy. Catholic books on sexual morality and education typically resonates with the 6th and 9th commandment which are: Thou shalt not commit adultery and Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. There are other sexual morality that can be found in the archive such as in the Nazi biology books, the ‘reward booklet’ from the 19th century given to good school children that talks about slut shaming*, as well as sultry illustrations from the book 1001 Nights.


There are miles and miles of books in the special collections of the Centre Céramique, RHCL and Maastricht University Library from which we have exclusively selected just for you. We therefore would like to invite you to the MABP Fair 2019. You are also welcome to visit the special collections after the fair.


Get in touch with our specialists!

Would you like to take a look at our collections? We welcome you with open doors. Leave your business card in our stand, or contact our curators directly:


Keep Limburg’s heritage alive

Do you treasure our local heritage? Then perhaps you would also like to support their preservation through, for example, a gift or adoption. Or do you want to contribute to the digitization of this material, so that a larger audience will be able to access it? Or maybe you could help us to bring the ‘Minervalia’ back to Maastricht: the first crowdfunding project of the University Library and the Limburg University Fund? Odin Essers will gladly inform you about this.


* Slut shaming:. Slut shaming is an English term that refers to the (massive and frequent (especially online) stamping of a girl or woman as a slut or whore because of her sexual behavior.



Authors: Yasmin Geradts, Maxime Hallatu en Nabilah Noordin, students from FASoS, Maastricht University


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.


The ‘Het Roomsch kabinet van oudheden’ (1731); one of Maastricht University Library treasures

The picture shows a statue of the male fertility god Prapus, who was the protector of the cattle, fruit-bearing plants, gardens and the male genitals. With winged phalli underneath. These explicitly referring objects of fertility are provided with eighteenth-century moralistic commentary: (..) “Classical art is special because it is so old and comes from afar. But the makers are pagan rascals who are addressed with Christian rigor”.

Het Roomsch Kabinet van Oudheden (1731)

Source: Stijfs, J., & Jansen, D. (2005). Limburgs boekjuweel : Cultureel erfgoed in limburgse bibliotheken. Maastricht: Stichting Historische Reeks Maastricht



Library update

Last updated: 11/03/19

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