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Important collection of topographical images of the Netherlands available in Digital Collections

Castles, monasteries and bridges, but also city profiles, history prints and water management works. Leiden University Libraries (UBL) manages one of the most important collections of topographical images in the Netherlands. The collection, bequested to UBL by Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis (1797-1872) can now be consulted completely online and open access via Digital Collections.

The UBL's collection of topographical prints and drawings, which has now been made available through Digital Collections, consists of approximately 10,000 prints and 1,500 drawings. The emphasis is on topography of cities, including city profiles, and images and plans of churches, town halls, city gates, bridges and other buildings. Leiden and Amsterdam are most strongly represented. The collection also contains prints and drawings of villages, monasteries, castles, mansions and estates, in addition to history prints and images of archaeological finds, water management infrastructure, funerary monuments and landscapes.

The diversity of printing techniques in the collection is especially notable. Most of the prints are etchings and copper engravings, but there are also many lithographs (stone prints) and woodcuts. To a lesser extent, wood engravings, steel engravings, mezzotints and even some photographs can also be found. The images vary considerably in dating, with work from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

The topographical prints and drawings were digitised several years ago as part of the national digitisation program ‘The Memory of the Netherlands’. Since then, a lot of work has been done to improve the descriptions of the many images. The images are now available in high resolution and downloadable via Digital Collections.

Bodel Nijenhuis collection and the collection of maps and atlases

Although the University Library has been collecting maps and atlases since the beginning of its existence, it was only in 1872 with the bequest of map collector Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis (1797-1872) that the collection could be called substantial. This collection consists of approximately 50,000 maps, 300 atlases and 22,000 topographical prints and drawings. The great variety in the collection is particularly striking. In addition to the above-mentioned topographical prints and drawings, it contains seventeenth-century VOC and WIC maps, maps made in response to major floods and other current events, informative maps of epidemics, unique manuscript maps, city maps and usage maps with contemporary notes. In the meantime, the UBL map collection has been substantially expanded with map collections from KITLV and KIT, and the smaller Van Keulen collection. These collections have previously been made available online. The UBL collection of maps and atlases is one of the largest and most important collections of its kind in the Netherlands.

About Digital Collections

UBL makes digitised and born-digital materials available through Digital Collections. The Digital Collections platform has a wide range of functionalities, like a full-text search function for printed works, a powerful zoom function, and high-definition image downloads. Searches can easily be focused and refined and a connection to the library catalogue is readily available. Every collection has its own collection page for easy access but different collections can also be searched simultaneously. A persistent link is provided for every digital source record, to facilitate reliable reference in print and online. Many materials in Digital Collections are published in the public domain and hence freely usable and alterable for every user. UBL continues to add new materials to Digital Collections. Much of this material is accessible through the Leiden IIIF Advanced Viewer. We invite new users to view our instruction videos to optimise their experience.

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