Thinking about inclusion is not something new in the world of reading, and the Leiden Special Collections have pieces to prove it. In this blog I want to highlight a collection of 19th century books in the Special Collections aimed at helping the blind in Qing China read their mother tongue.
Many recognise Willem Bilderdijk as one of the greatest poets in Dutch literary history, but only few know that he was a rather famous lawyer, all thanks to his education in Leiden. Letters, lecture notes and other documents provide insight into his time as a law student at Leiden University.
Leiden University student Evi Dijcks added a new chapter to Dutch literary history when she discovered the earliest all-female literary society in the Dutch Republic, founded in 1782. The discovery shows: 18th-century women did not wait around for men to include them in their literary activities.
During the Second World War availability of paper was limited, so the backsides of old topographic map sheets were re-used to print new maps. The UBL Special Collections hold a complete series of WWII maps of the Netherlands, several of which were printed on the the backsides of older maps.
Whilst scientists have achieved undeniable successes over the centuries, many of them endured more than their fair share of disappointments, failures and disasters. Who deserves the title of most unfortunate scientist is still up for debate.
"God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands", Descartes supposedly once said. Leiden University Libraries acquired 40 photographs by Dutch photographer Marie-José Jongerius (b. 1970), who photographed an extreme example of this Dutch passtime.
If you look at the original death mask of Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831), you can still see the bushy eyebrows of the famous Dutch poet. The fact that such a mask was made tells us a lot about Bilderdijk’s status as a celebrity, but is also characteristic of 19th century Romantic relic worship.
On October the 29th in the year 1590, one of the greatest minds of the Dutch Reformation, Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (1522-1590), passed away in Gouda. Coornhert is not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, but nonetheless he was a very interesting and influential thinker.