The Koninklijke Bibliotheek possesses an extensive collection of opulent handmade bookbindings. The collection illustrates the history of bookbinding using examples ranging from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 21st century. The selection of the bindings, mainly from Europe and with an emphasis on the Netherlands, has been based on appearance. This accounts for the strong museological nature of the collection. As well as giving an overview of historic decorative styles, these bindings, about 12,000, also help give insight into the different materials and techniques used. New acquisitions are regularly added to the collection.
As to origin, three important collections can be distinguished. Many of the fine bound Dutch books came from the collections of the eighteenth-century stadholders William IV and V, who had received them as gifts from the authors or publishers. The bindings dating back to the period 1810-1890 were mainly Dutch, Belgian and French and were donated to the library by the Kings William I, II and III. In 1909, the KB acquired the collection of the Amsterdam auctioneer Anton W.M. Mensing, consisting of more than 500 copies originating from many countries and periods.