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Digitized post-medieval western manuscript and archives collection now available in Digital Collections

Leiden University Libraries (UBL) has digitized more than a thousand individual manuscripts and several complete archives from the post-medieval western manuscript and archives collection and made them available online through Digital Collections. With this, some of the most important archives and masterpieces from Dutch literature, history of science and history of books are now freely available online for research, education and the general public.

Literature and history of books and science

The now digitally available collections contain mostly archives and masterpieces from Dutch and international literature, history of science and history of books: archives from well-known Dutch authors like Nicolaas Beets, Conrad Busken Huet and François HaverSchmidt, Johan Huizinga and the Leiden Observatory’s academic archives, and manuscripts from well-known academics like Hugo de Groot. Many of the digitized literary archives originate from the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde collection, which was given on permanent loan to UBL in 1877.

Especially at a time when considerable amounts of research and education have moved to digital spaces because of the coronavirus, sustainable access to digital primary source material for researchers and educators has become even more of a focus. “You can almost do your entire research project from home in Digital Collections, because the archives have been made available in their entirety.” According to Mart van Duijn, curator for post-medieval western manuscript and archives at the UBL. Digitized archives not only provide researches with the opportunity to deliver high-quality research, but also to do said research efficiently. “You don’t just look at one singular piece but are able to travel an entire world. Digitally, you’re still able to get very close to the source material and come to a deeper understanding of its context.” This is now possible in the Leiden Digital Collections, with high-quality scans especially created for research purposes, adherent to (inter)national guidelines.

Post-medieval manuscripts

Over the centuries, the UBL has collected an appealing, diverse and important collection of manuscripts. The Leiden University archives have been kept at the library since its founding in 1575, soon after which the UBL also started to collect letters, manuscripts and other documents from important Leiden academics. These documents provide great insight into the methods and personal lives of these academics and authors. Most of this collection consists of correspondence between early academics of great influence, some of which are considered to be founding figures in the university’s history: Josephus Justus Scaliger, Justus Lipsius, Isaac Vossius, Carolus Clusius en Hugo de Groot.

About Digital Collections

UBL makes digitised and born digital materials available through Digital Collections. The Digital Collections platform provides a wide range of functionalities, like the ability to search printed works full text, to zoom-in on images and the ability to download high definition images. It is also possible to search by types of materials and refine searches, a connection to the library catalogue is readily available and one can search different collections at the same time. Every collection has its own collection page, ensuring easy access to individual collections. Every digital source record has been provided with a persistent link, making records suitable for reference on the internet and in academic publications. Many materials in Digital Collections have been published under a CC-BY license, which makes them usable and alterable for every user. UBL continues to add new materials to Digital Collections. New users can view our instruction video’s in order to optimally utilize the functionality of Digital Collections.

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