Henriette Jeannette en Gualtherus Johannes Kolff

familie kolff

Henriette Jeannette and Gualtherus Johannes Kolff, founders of the Netherlands Library for the Blind (Nederlandse Blindenbilbliotheek)

contribution by: Marius Kolff (CBCD XVIIw4), using partly this source: Kolff in Zeven Eeuwen (Kolff in Seven Centuries), by Nelleke Manneke

From Kolff Genealogy CBA XIVh the following persons:

XIVh. Johannes Kolff, born Rotterdam 25 Aug. 1799, civil servant (1826), broker (1832), deceased Rotterdam 25 Jan. 1868, married 1st Leiden 18 Oct. 1826 Constantia van Lelyveld, born Alkmaar 19 July 1800, deceased The Hague 11 Apr. 1829, daughter of Pieter and Cypriana Anna Margaretha van Royen, married 2nd Haarlem 27 Apr. 1832 Christine Hermine Hacke, born Heilo 24 Feb. 1809, deceased The Hague 13 juni1877, daughter of Rev. Coenraad and Niesje van der Elst.
From the second marriage:

5. Henriette Jeannette Christine Kolff, born Rotterdam 8 July 1835, philantropist, founder and vice-president Ver. Kolff’s Blindenfonds, deceased The Hague 1 May 1927.

11. Gualtherus Johannes Kolff (R.O.N.), born Rotterdam 31 Jan. 1846, founder and director Ned. Blindenbibliotheek (Neth. Library for the Blind), deceased The Hague 14 Oct. 1918.

Gualtherus was a great-grandson of Adrianus Quirinus (1745-1826), wine trader, ship owner and governor from Middelharnis. Gualtherus’ father Johannes (1799-1868) was a business man as well; he earned his living as a broker in coffee and lived with his family at Rotterdam. His first wife died after giving birth to their second child. Johannes remarried and got twelve more children with his second wife. Their eldest daughter. Hermine Agnes (1833-1870) married the famous dr. Hendrik Pierson (1834-1923), theologist, philantropist, fighter of prostitution and director of the Heldringgestichten at Zetten. Ninth child from this marriage was a boy named Gualtherus Johannes. The young Johannes had a weak health. At the age of twenty he was sent to Baden-Baden in Germany to strengthen his health. The stay at this spa did not do well for him: he got an eye infection which, after a couple of years, made him blind. The infection also started to affect his hearing which caused him to become deaf at the end of his life as well. Walking also became more and more difficult and Gualtherus became dependant of a wheelchair. At first Gualtherus worked with his family in the coffee broker’s trade, later – after 1871 – with his brother Marie Henri who was a merchant in the Dutch East Indies. It seemed that Gualtherus would, just as his father and brothers did (one of his brothers was a partner at Kolff & Witkamp), stay in commerce. His handicap however made him follow a different track.

When his blindness limited him more and more he left for France to acquire a new skill: the blind script that was developed by the blind Louis Braille (1809-1852). Back in Holland he moved in with his elder sister Henriette (1835-1927) at The Hague. There he joined the recently founded ‘brailleerbeweging’ (movement to translate to braille-script), of which the members worked to translate literature into braille, to teach, and to give more attention to braille-scrypt in general.

Gualtherus who was, just like his sister, not married and financially independant, put all of his time in the movement, helping and organizing. His efforts lead to the founding of the Nederlandse Blindenbibliotheek (Neth. Library for the Blind) at The Hague. An institution that still exists. Gualtherus was the founder and he became it’s first director.

Thanks to the active Gualtherus an association for the interests of the blind was also erected. Together with some adversaries he founded the Nederlandse Blindenbond (Netherlands Union for the Blind). The founding of the library and the union have contributed to the emancipation of blind or malsighted Dutch. This way they organized the help they needed themselves.

Gualtherus involved himself also in a more traditional way for his fellow blind citizens. Together with his sister he founded the association Kolffs Blindenfonds (Kolff’s Fund for the Blind). This fund eneabled blind people to acquire material for handycrafts they could make. Henriette sold these handycrafts at the beach of Scheveningen (The Hague-Scheveningen). Further Hendriëtte and Gualtherus founded the Stichting Blindenhulp (Association Help for the Blind) to help blind people to find paid jobs. This activity soon got financial support from the municipality of The Hague. Up to his death Gualtherus has been active for his adversaries in his residence of The Hague.

(Source for a greater part: Manneke, N., Kolff in Zeven Eeuwen, 2001; translated by Marius Kolff, CBCD XVIIw4)

See also: the history pages at NLBB (former Nederlandse Luister- en Braillebilbliotheek: Netherlands Listen and Braille Library – successor of the Nederlande Blindenbibiliotheek)