The Leiden Books That Wrote History: A Unique Exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities

(Photo: Louis Smith)

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden contains 25 books on Leiden that have had a critical influence on contemporary thinking. They belong to famous people who have lived or worked in Leiden, such as Boerhaave, Linnaeus, Von Siebold and Einstein. There are also other books published and printed in Leiden.

The first is the first complete maritime atlas from the end of the 16th centurye Century, reprinted by Christopher Plantin in Leiden. This post ensures that sailing is safer from now on. This was followed by Hugo de Groot’s “The Free Sea” from 1609, a leading thinker in international law. Written at the request of the Dutch East India Company.

The Italian scholar Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was in conflict with the Pope and was banned from publication. However, Leiden publisher Elzevier was able to publish his book on the necessity of scientific experiments.

Featured displays highlight the rise of Leiden University and its library and the role of printers. Attention is also paid to the place of women and people of color in the flag.

first wife
There is a dissertation from 1641 for the first female student in the Netherlands, Anna Maria van Schurmann. It argues that women are as suitable for art and science as men are. The thesis of the black preacher Jacobus Capitin dates back to 1742. In it he defends slavery as incompatible with Christianity.

Which of the 25 books do you think had the most impact? Is this the book about how the clock works by Christian Huygens or is it a translation of the Bible? Visitors are allowed to express their opinions on the ballot paper. They can also provide other addresses that should not be missing from the selection.

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summer fair
This summer exhibition shows “the strong connection between books and the academic history of Leiden, from the founding of the university in 1575 to the present.” All publications come from the collection of Leiden University Libraries. The Books That Made History show runs until September 4th.


Leiden Culture Association

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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