For years, you could find an old moving box gathering dust in a corner of Erasmus Magazine’s various offices. “One of those boxes that had been used seven hundred times and taken along with each move without ever being opened”, says editorial assistant (and illustrator) Esther Dijkstra. During the last move, she decided to clean out ‘this old junk’.

So she opened the box. And found a goldmine. “It was full of illustrations from EM’s predecessor, Quod Novum. Satirical cartoons about university affairs in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Back when illustrators still dropped by the editorial office in person to hand in a paper copy.”

'Real gems'

Verenigingen vissen in Eurekaweekvijver – Joop Verkamman
A good cartoon can be understood in one image. Joop Verkamman shows nicely how the student associations compete with each other during the Eurekaweek in 1994. Image credit: Joop Verkamman

“It was a shame to have all this work hidden away somewhere. So I thought it would be a good idea to do something with the originals.” An enthusiastic Dijkstra phoned up the curators of Erasmus Gallery, the exhibition space between the Auditorium and Theil Hall, and told them about her find. University art adviser Anne Clement: “It didn’t take long for her to spark my interest. I went straight over to the editorial office to have a look for myself.”

The hand-drawn cartoons turned out to be of ‘extremely high quality’, remembers Clement. “I had so much fun and laughed so hard that afternoon. There were some real gems.” Together with illustrator and Erasmus Gallery curator Luuk Bode, Clement made an initial selection. “We couldn’t include everything. Right now, around a third of what was stored in the box is up on the gallery walls. The  cartoons give you a wonderful idea of what the university was like in those days. You can see the illustrators’ individual styles, how critical they were of current developments and how they mocked politicians,” says Clement.

Wieners and nipples

Another thing that became clear looking through the pictures: back then, cartoonists more or less had free rein. “With some images, you couldn’t help wondering: would we still be able to publish this? Erasmus engaging in S&M, for example, or with his wiener out. And they had no problem with showing nipples either. Nowadays, people are a lot more wary of what’s ‘decent’ or not.”

Bode and Clement didn’t order the works chronologically, but rather thematically: “One wall with all these pictures of Erasmus, for example; and another with political cartoons.” To make it even more exciting for the viewer, the exhibition has all sorts of Easter eggs. “For instance, if you look carefully, you can find a drunken Erasmus hidden somewhere.”

Cigarette smoke filled offices

The gallery walls also feature illustrations by Luuk Bode. “To connect the past and the present. I wanted to convey the atmosphere of the editorial offices back then, filled with cigarette smoke – and quite a bit of drinking too. And the owl, which represents wisdom and was part of Quod Novum’s logo”, explains Bode.

Dronken Erasmus uit Quod Novum – Rob Figee 1989

About the exhibition

Exhibition presents old cartoons about university life

Illustrations and cartoons published in former university weekly Quod Novum on view at…