Universiteit Leiden

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Manuscripts, Archives and Letters

The Western manuscript, archival and letter collections consist of books and documents written in Latin, Greek and Cyrillic script.

Ever since its establishment, Leiden University has collected not only printed works but also manuscript material. Unpublished medieval sources were used in Leiden and elsewhere for the study of classical texts, Antiquity and the Bible. Scholars were also interested in scientific correspondence and the notes of famous colleagues, in which these old sources and the world around them were analysed and discussed. In the course of four centuries a collection of international renown came into being in Leiden.

Initially, aquisitions focused mainly on Latin manuscripts. During the nineteenth century the number of manuscripts in Dutch increased considerably, especially when, in 1876, the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society of Dutch Literature) placed its library as a long term loan in Leiden University Library. In the first years of the twentieth century the old archives of Leiden University were housed in the library, where they have been kept ever since, together with private papers and correspondences of individuals and institutions relevant to Dutch culture and academia.


Search in the Catalogue for item descriptions of manuscripts, archives and letters, for digital versions, for general information about the collection they are part of (the collection guides), and for online exhibitions. It is possible to refine your search with criteria such as year of publication, material type or language. Use Digital Collections for the viewing of digitized manuscripts, archives and letters.

Are you looking for information about collections, archives and shelfmarks? For details from printed catalogues, inventories and card files which are missing in the short titles of the online catalogue? Would you like to know more about the sources of Leiden University’s history? About manuscripts, archives and letters outside Leiden? Read more in our subject guides.

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