Leiden Special Collections in Museum De Lakenhal
Absolute highlights from Leiden University’s treasures are on display from 9 March to 30 June 2013 in the exhibition
From Cicero to Erwin Olaf
in Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden.
The Special Collections contain many unique, hand decorated books. The earliest master piece displayed in the exhibition is the 9th century Aratea, one of the Leiden library’s most valuable treasures. This codex, containing miniatures of constellations, was created around 840 at Louis the Pious’ court in Aken. Its miniatures are the perfect embodiment of small sized western painting.
The richly decorated 12th century psalter of St. Louis, King of France, is exemplary for courtly and dramatic narration. Also on display are oriental show pieces: from richly decorated, 14th century Persian poetry to Javanese tracts on mysticism and calligraphic paintings from Imperial China.
Leiden University counts some 13,000 drawings to its special collections, from which work by great masters Jan Gossaert, Hendrick Goltzius and Rembrandt van Rijn are displayed, but also work by the mysterious 19th century symbolist, scholar and the first director of the Leiden Print Room, D.P.G. Humbert de Superville. The revaluation of his drawings – and he made thousands – gave a new boost to Dutch art around 1800, which was considered tame by many until then.
The Leiden collection contains about 60,000 maps, 1500 atlases, and 25,000 topographic prints and drawings. The emphasis is on 17th and 18th century cartography and an important part are manuscript maps. The exhibited maps and atlases from Blaeu, Van Keulen, the Dutch East India Company, Ptolemaeus, and Montanus offer a surprisingly clear insight into world discovery, traversal, and conquest over the centuries.
The collection of photos and photographica covers the entire history of photography, from rare early shots from the mid 19th century to work by internationally renowned photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Richard Avedon, Emmy Andriesse, and Ed van der Elsken from the 20th century, to the contemporary work of Erwin Olaf.
In 2011, Leiden University Libraries and Museum De Lakenhal challenged Erwin Olaf to make a photo series based on the history of Leiden’s occupation and relief. The exhibition World Treasures provides the perfect opportunity to display the series as a whole for the first time.
Leiden University Libraries collaborates with museums and other institutions on a regular basis, to offer everyone a chance to get in touch with the cultural heritage preserved in her special collections.
Other exhibitions in 2013:
Turcksche boucken. The Oriental Collection of Levinus Warner, Dutch diplomat in Istanbul from 16 December to 3 March 2013 in Museum Meermanno.
Constantijn & Christiaan Huygens. A golden heritage from 25 april to 28 August 2013 in the Grote Kerk in The Hague.
Leiden University’s library is the oldest academic library in The Netherlands and one of the richest in the world. The library is often mentioned together with the historic university libraries of Paris, Oxford, Heidelberg and Padua. Apart from the immense book collection, the Leiden library owes its worldwide reknown to the so-called Special Collections of Western and Oriental manuscripts, rare prints, drawings, topographic maps, photos and photographica.
William of Orange donated the first books to the new university of Leiden in 1575, namely a multilingual edition of the Bible, the Biblia polyglotta. This edition had been printed by Christoffel Plantijn in Antwerp. The collection grew steadily between the 16th and 20th century, largely due to donations by internationally renowned scholars like Daniel Heinsius, Joseph Scaliger and Christiaan Huygens. At one point the library even doubled her collection outright with the acquisition of the famous library of Isaac Vossius.
In honour of her 425th birthday in 2012, the library issued the richly illustrated publication Magna Commoditas. Leiden University's Great Asset. 425 Years of Library Services and Collections (2012, Leiden University Press), written by Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck. In addition to providing a historic overview, the publication describes the impact of the digital revolution and other current developments affecting the library business. The publication is available for purchase online and in the shop at Museum De Lakenhal.