SHV Think Book 1996-1896 by Irma Boom

Among Irma Boom’s collection of work, she created SHV Think Book 1996-1896 early in her career and published it in 1996. Paul Fentener van Vlissingen, SHV’s CEO, gave Boom the opportunity to create a book that commemorated the centennial of the private and multinational Dutch trading company SHV.  It is a 2,163-page book with only 4,500 copies printed in both English and Chinese.  The copies are envied by collectors worldwide and are sold for thousands of dollars.  The final outcome was exhibited in reverse chronological order and it involved over 5 years of research including communicating with shareholders, employee interviews, and the extensive analysis of the company’s archives.

Her work on this project presented an unconventional way of book design with its unique approach to typography, its illusional printing methods, and expansive layout.  By omitting an index, page numbers, and a table of contents, the reader is able to take their own journey through the book in a nonlinear format.  Each facet of the book has a new discovery and brings the attention of the viewer to a hidden component on each page.  When reading from left to right, the pages reveal the image of a tulip field, whereas, the book read from right to left reveals the lines of a Dutch poem on the paper cut.

Overall, this book challenged the repetitive template of traditional publishing and displayed content in an unusual, but the enticing manner, which inhibited each viewer’s curiosity each time they turn the page.  Boom emphasized the tactile nature of reading a physical copy versus a digital copy.


Works Cited

Barone, Joshua. “Irma Boom’s Library, Where Pure Experimentalism Is on the Shelf.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Jan. 2017,

Boom, Irma. “Irma Boom. SHV Think Book 1996-1896. 1996: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art,