The Callenbach Businesses

Of the seventeen children of the "Prophet of the Veluwe", the Reverend CC Callenbach, only five produced offspring past the second generation.

One of these was the fifth born, George Frans Callenbach (5), often referred to as "GF"

It was intended that he would become a school teacher and he dutifully started his training course. However, he soon discovered that he would like to concentrate on a career as a book seller. To learn the trade he first worked for the Ten Hoet Company in Nijmegen and later with the firm Kemink & Sons in Utrecht.

In May 1854, when he was just 21 years old, he opened a book shop in Nijkerk. One must remember that Nijkerk in the 1850’s was very much an agricultural society and literary levels were poor by today’s standards. Those who could read would mostly confine their reading to the Bible as books were regarded as an expensive luxury.

As book sales were slow, income had to be augmented by sales of stationery items such as note books and envelopes. Many an evening was spent drawing lines on large sheets of paper, which were subsequently converted into exercise books.

However all these activities did not make the business flourish and other means of producing income were required. Already in his first year of operation GF published a little book of about 80 pages. He also commenced publishing old sermons of his father. In this orthodox Protestant community this turned out to be a successful venture as his father was a well known and popular preacher in the area.

GF was also the founder and leader of the local Sunday school and it was in that capacity that he discovered a painful shortage of children’s books. This resulted in the first Sunday school book being published. Slowly it became a custom that children, who had a good attendance record and who studied well at Sunday school, would receive a small book as a reward at Christmas time.

Much time and effort needed to be devoted to find and encourage suitable authors for these books as they needed to be entertaining but at the same time they were required to serve an evangelical function. In the beginning these books were very small, only about 16 pages, but they did have some pictures in them. All this was produced for less than five cents.

In 1875 the publishing, binding and book selling business was augmented by a printing works. This was a very modest affair consisting of two antiquated, hand operated presses.

In order to increase the market for the "Callenbach" books a broadening of the range of books on offer was required. This proved to be difficult as there was a great suspicion in the orthodox Christian community of "untrue stories". With stories with suitable evangelical plots this suspicion was slowly overcome. In 1897 the founder, GF Sr, together with his two sons started the "United Christian Library" with the aim of making suitable reading material available at the lowest possible cost.

In 1867 a Mr IJ Malga commenced the publication of a local newspaper called the "Nijkerkse Courant". Initially he also did the printing but soon this was outsourced to the printing works of GF, while the editorial and production function remained with Mr Malga and later with his son.

In the mean time the growing business became too big for the premises and it was decided to split it. It is interesting to note that of the four sons of GF only two showed an interest in the firm. In 1894 the eldest son Cornelis Carel (5.1) established the printing business under the name of Drukkerij CC Callenbach. (Printing Works CC Callenbach) in a separate location. The youngest son George Frans, who was ten years younger than his brother, was being trained to take over the Publishing firm.

In 1901, GF retired because of health reasons and his son George Frans (5.7) took over the Publishing business, while his son-in-law, Gerard Hana, took over the bookshop.

Then in 1902 Cornelis Carel (5.1) died suddenly at the young age of 42. A mere ten days later his youngest son Albert followed his father to the grave. The widow was left with three young children and a business. At that stage a cousin, another Cornelis Carel (1.3), who ran a hardware style shop close by, assisted the widow in running the Printing Works. Over the years he would acquire equity in the business.

In the early 1930’s the "United Christian Library" ceased to operate. It was replaced, in about 1934, by the "Nobel Reeks" (The Noble Series) where subscribers would get a new book every quarter. At one time these books would reach print runs of 180,000. For a small country of some 8.5 million people at that time, that was a significant achievement.

In 1935 GF jr retired from full time involvement in the Publishing business, while his son, Cornelis Carel (5.7.3) was being groomed to take over. However before CC could take over he died at the early age of 32.

During the Depression the Publishing firm suffered from the poor business environment and it became evident that it required an injection of extra funds to keep liquidity at satisfactory levels. It was decided to convert the firm into a limited liability Company, which was accomplished on 1 January 1936. At that time the Printing Works acquired equity in the Publishing Co. In 1941 Cornelis Carel (1.3.6), became part of the management team. At the same time a Mr A Knottnerus, an experienced publisher from outside the family, was appointed as joint Managing Director.

As his father advanced in age CC Jr (1.3.6) split his time between the Printing Works and the Publishing Co. George Frans (5.1.1) the son of the original owner of the Printing Works became editor of the newspaper.

In 1950 the "Drukkerij CC Callenbach NV"¹ celebrated its 75th anniversary (1875-1950) and it was on that occasion that the Her Majesty the Queen bestowed the title "Koninklijke" (Royal) on the firm. The English equivalent of this would be "By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen". Henceforth the company was known as "Koninklijke Drukkerij CC Callenbach NV".

In 1962 CC (1.3.6) died and in 1964 Mr A Knottnerus passed away. Shortly after the great grandson of the founder, GFC ( took over the Publishing Co. The sons of GF (5.1.1) took over the Printing Works. As time progressed, both companies found it difficult to keep up with the rapid developments in their businesses. In the 70’s and 80’s both companies were sold to outsiders but continued to operate under the Callenbach name.

¹ Drukkerij = Printing Works
NV means a limited liability company

Written by Kees and Bernice Callenbach - Palstra.