(Photo: Louis Smith)
The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden contains 25 books by Leiden which have had a decisive influence on contemporary thought. They belong to celebrities who lived or worked in Leiden, such as Boerhaave, Linnaeus, Von Siebold and Einstein. There are also books by others that have been published and printed in Leiden.
This summer exhibition shows “the books’ close connection with the academic history of the city of Leiden, from the founding of the university in 1575 to the present day”. All publications come from the collection of Leiden University Libraries. “Books That Made History” runs until September 4.
One is the first complete marine atlas from the late 16e century, printed by Christoffel Plantin in Leiden. This post ensured that browsing was now safer. Next is “The Free Sea” by Hugo de Groot from 1609, who is a leader in thinking about international law. He wrote it at the request of the Dutch East India Company.
The Italian scholar Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) had a conflict with the pope and was banned from publication. Nevertheless, his book on the necessity of scientific experiments managed to be published by the publisher Leiden Elzevier.
Thematic showcases highlight the rise of Leiden University and its library, as well as the role of printers. Attention is also paid to the place of women and people of color in science.
There is the 1641 thesis of the first student in the Netherlands, Anna Maria van Schurman. In it she argues that women are just as adept at art and science as men. The treatise of the black preacher Jacobus Capitein dates from 1742. In it he defends slavery as not being contrary to Christianity.
Which of the 25 books do you think was the most influential? Is it the book on how a clock works by Christiaan Huygens or is it the Bible translation? Visitors are allowed to give their opinion on a ballot. They can also provide other titles that should not be missing from the selection.
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