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Research suggestions

The research suggestions below may be suitable for a bachelor's or master's thesis or can be used as additional source material in ongoing research.

Copies of literary texts were initially used by philologists to try to reconstruct and establish the text in its original form. Nowadays, they are increasingly used in contemporary reception studies.

Leiden University Libraries owns many copies of literary texts that deserve further research. Some suggestions from many:

  • BPL 3469: a 15th century copy of an incunable may provide information about the writing habits of a medieval scribe;
  • BPL 3550: a collection of extracts of thirty years’ worth of lectures in 16 volumes may reveal which subjects an anonymous Dutchman from around 1800 found interesting (“Something from everything”); 
  • Poetry collections: research on 19th century poetry collections  – in combination with data on editions and reissues – may illustrate the popularity of certain authors and poems.

For more information, please contact:
- André Bouwman, Curator Medieval Western Manuscripts
- Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives

Alba amicorum emerged during the sixteenth century among university circles. Professors and students would create an album in which befriended colleagues and fellow students wrote down personal notes (such as a handwritten greeting, a poem, or other short texts) as a memento. The alba were mainly composed during two periods: ca. 1560-1650 and 1750-1800. Leiden University appears to have played an important role in the dissemination of alba amicorum in the Netherlands.

Leiden University Libraries owns approximately 140 alba amicorum (collecion guide), many of which have not yet been thoroughly researched, both individually and in relation to each other. Alba can provide insights into social networks, contemporary ideas on friendship, forms of inscriptions, literary styles, and citations of poems and mottos.

See: K. Thomassen (ed.), Alba amicorum. Vijf eeuwen vriendschap op papier gezet. Het album amicorum en het poëziealbum in de Nederlanden.’s-Gravenhage 1990.

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives.

Several years ago, Leiden University Libraries acquired about thirty German books of prayer from (primarily) the second half of the 18th century. These manuscripts in German cursive script include morning and evening prayers, mass prayers, and prayers in preparation for confession and communion. Many are illustrated with engravings.
Much is still unclear about these books of prayer. In what contexts and by whom were they made and used? How do they relate to the contemporary printed books of prayer? What is their role in juxtaposition to late medieval precursors of the German vernacular? Plenty of ideas and raw material for various theses!

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives.

The archives of the Walloon churches (collection guide) contain a great deal of information on the migration of French Protestants (Huguenots) to the Dutch Republic after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The archives provide insight into the contemporary Dutch political climate, the execution of punitive measures by the French government, the support services for refugees and their subsequent integration in the Netherlands. Moreover, the archives contain much information about individuals and families.

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives.

The collections of Leiden University Libraries contain many ego documents (autobiographical writings) from various historical periods. Writings such as (travel) journals, diaries, and letters make excellent sources for historical research as they offer insight into personal experiences. Many of these sources have yet to be examined; some are even entirely unknown due to a lack of available publications. Some examples of our manuscripts that lend themselves to producing printed editions and further research:

  • A literary journal: François Haverschmidt, Souvenir Beekhuizen, 17 Juni tot 29 Juli 1870 (LTK 2199).
  • A travel journal from around 1636: Joernael van de Reyse gedaen met de ses oostindische Rertourschepen etc. Van Batavia naert Patria (BPL 127 E).
  • A book of letters: Brieven van en aan Cornelis de Jong van Rodenburgh, 1774-1839 (BPL 3012).

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives.

In 1990, Prof J.T.P. de Bruijn gave his inaugural address as professor of Persian under the title De Ontdekking van het Perzisch (The discovery of Persian). In this 20-page lecture, he gave a brief overview of the origins of Persian studies in the 17th century Netherlands by scholars such as Golius and Ludovicus de Dieu. The library’s  Middle Eastern collection of manuscripts and prints contains more than enough material to further pursue this research.

For more information, please contact Arnoud Vrolijk, Curator Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Works

Since 2006, Leiden University Library has housed the literary archive and personal papers of Frans Kellendonk (1951-1990). Kellendonk was active as a literary author, translator, and Anglicist and built a modest but high in quality oeuvre. Kellendonk's archive - including annotated prints, documentation of all the books in his possession, and copies of all his publications - is very well suited for smaller and larger literary and cultural research. A detailed inventory is available.

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives

Our photography collection contains hundreds of historical photo albums from the 19th and early 20th centuries covering a wide variety of subjects: family, travel and colonial photography, but also albums covering more unusual subjects such as a royal jubilee or a historical student fraternity. Researching an album's origins and historical context is well-suited for a bachelor's or master's thesis.

For more information, please contact Maartje van den Heuvel, Curator Photography.

In 1538, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent invaded Yemen to exert more control over Portuguese activities on the Red Sea. The Zaydite imams of Yemen resisted the Ottomans with varying degrees of success. In 1597, the Yemenis seized the fortress Kawkaban, but they were driven out the following year by the Ottoman governor Ḥasan Pas̲h̲a (‘Yemenli’). Secretary Amir ibn Muhammad al-Du'ami conducted the surrender negotiations on the Yemeni side. Afterward, he sensibly entered the service of Ḥasan Pas̲h̲a. To impress his new employer, Amir ibn Muhammad al-Du'ami wrote an account of the conquest in Arabic, titled al-Rawd al-hasan fi akhbar siyar Mawlana Sahib al-Sa`ada al-Basha Hasan fi ayyam wilayatihi bi-iqlim al-Yaman (The Good Garden on the reports of the deeds of Our Master, the Possessor of Fortune Hasan Pasha during the days of his governorship of Yemen). 

The Leiden University Libraries manuscript Or. 477 is the only known copy of the text, most likely handwritten by the author himself. According to the colophon, it was part of Ḥasan Pas̲h̲a's private library. Decades after his death in 1607 in Istanbul, the manuscript was purchased by Levinus Warner (Cod. Or. 477. See EI 1, vol. II, p. 299; Brockelmann GI 401). What occurred in the period between these two events is unknown. In 1838, a Latin translation of the text was published in Leiden by Antonie Rutgers (1805-1884). An edition of the Arabic text would shed light on the Ottoman occupation of Yemen.

For more information, please contact Arnoud Vrolijk, Curator Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Works.

An interesting thesis topic could be the cartographic production of one of the publishing houses based in Leiden.

In 1514, the first map was printed in the Northern Netherlands. It was a world map that was included in the Divisiekroniek, published in Leiden by Jan Seversz. In the field of surveying, the Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland (High Water Authority Rijnland) was a leading authority. Important surveyors, such as the Dou family, were from Leiden. Also interesting is the role played by the surveying program (Nederduytsche mathematique) at the university. There were also cartographers and engravers who lived and worked in Leiden, such as Pieter Bast and J.E. van Gorkum. While the map production in Leiden cannot be equalled to that in Amsterdam, Leiden has known many cartographic publishers through the centuries. Examples include the Leiden branch of Plantijn (with Waghenaer's Spieghel der Zeevaert, 1584) and Pieter van der Aa. Similarly, in the nineteenth century, numerous publishers based in Leiden marketed atlases, including Van Santen, Noothoven van Goor, and Sijthoff.

For more information, please contact Martijn Storms, Curator Maps & Atlases

A considerable number of drawings and illustrations of plants and animals were produced in the 17th and 18th centuries by artists such as Merian, Withoos and Hengstenburg. These illustrations are not of livestock or pets, but scientific illustrations of mostly exotic animals and plants. The drawings were made for a variety of reasons; simply to document for scientific purposes, or specifically for collectors of such illustrations.

Leiden University Libraries houses a considerable number of these illustrations, which can be used as a starting point for a study, large or small.

For more information, please contact Jef Schaeps, C
urator Prints & Drawings.

The Bibliotheca Thysiana and Thysius family archive (covering the 16th to the 20th century) contains inventories, bookkeeping records, and other business and personal correspondence in Dutch and German. The archive gives an insight into the trading and networking activities and family relationships of several merchant families (Thysius, Van der Meulen, l'Empereur, Boel, De Baccher, Pelletier) who fled Flanders  (especially Antwerp)  around 1585 to Germany before moving to the Dutch Republic.

For more information, please contact Mart van Duijn, Curator Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts and Archives

The Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936) and the Hungarian Ignác Goldziher (1850-1921) are considered the greatest Islamicists of their time. Snouck Hurgronje's letters to Goldziher were published by P.S. van Koningsveld in 1985. The other half of the correspondence, Goldziher's letters to Snouck Hurgronje, is part of the Leiden codex Or. 8952 A and was under embargo until 1997. The letters have been physically accessible since then, but have recently been made digitally available thanks to the Metamorfoze project. Now that both parts of the correspondence are available, further research into European Islamology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be carried out.

The digitised codex Or. 8952 A also contains correspondence from many other scholars addressed to Snouck Hurgronje. A study of these letters has not yet been carried out.

For more information, please contact Arnoud Vrolijk, Curator Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Works.

In 2009, Leiden University Libraries acquired several interesting examples of early photography: portraits of a former Surinamese merchant family in daguerreotype, ambrotype, ferrotype and albumen print, as well as extensive documentation. This acquisition, together with the acquisition by the Rijksmuseum of the earliest known photograph from Surinam (1846), may lead to a more comprehensive study of the practice of photographers and photographic studios in 19th century Surinam.

For more information, please contact: Maartje van den Heuvel, Curator Photography.

The Bodel Nijenhuis Collection contains a remarkable number of manuscript maps. A clear overview is available for the maps covering the Netherlands, Belgium, and the colonies (VOC maps, Van Keulen collection). However, this is not the case for the European and world maps. The collection of manuscript maps offers great variety. Some manuscript maps were designs for printed maps, while others were copied from published examples. In addition, several distinct series can be discerned within the corpus of manuscript maps. For instance, several large series of hand-drawn fortification engineering plans are available in our collection. This is just one example, hidden within the collection of manuscript maps are certainly more treasures that deserve to be 'rediscovered'.

For more information, please contact: Martijn Storms, Curator Maps & Atlases

What is the best way to make a map collection accessible and searchable? How does a researcher want to search for maps in the collection? The keyword to answer these questions is 'location'. Ideally, all maps would be georeferenced. This would allow, for example, a location search in a Google Maps type environment, where digital images of the maps are displayed in the correct location. In addition to maps, georeferencing can also be applied to topographic prints, drawings and other images.

Research is needed to assess whether and to what extent the current map collection catalogue data is suitable for georeferencing and what steps need to be taken to make this possible.

For further information please contact Martijn Storms, Curator Maps & Atlases.

In September 1931, the 18th International Orientalist Congress was held in Leiden under the chairmanship of Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. The proceedings were published by Brill in 1932 (see catalogue). The complete documentation was published in Cod. Or. 3105, five volumes of press cuttings, letters, programmes, etc.

A study of this collection would shed light on the state of European Oriental studies in the years before the Second World War. It would also be interesting to make a comparison with an earlier Orientalist congress held in Leiden in 1883. This congress has already been studied by Daniel van der Zande in his dissertation on M.Th. Houtsma.

For further information, please contact Arnoud Vrolijk, Curator of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Works

German scholar Levinus Warner lived in Istanbul from 1645 until his death in 1665. From 1655, he was a diplomatic representative of the Dutch Republic at the Sublime Porte.

Warner collected about 90 Hebrew manuscripts, mainly covering Karaite Judaism, but also put together a collection of about 200 printed Hebrew books. These books are only briefly listed in the 1674 catalogue of the Leiden university library. Can these books be located in the current Leiden collections?

For more information, please contact: Arnoud Vrolijk, Curator Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Works.

Jacobus Stellingwerff is one of the most productive topographical artists of the 18th century. About 2,500 drawings by his hand are known. Many of these drawings were commissioned by the collector Mattheus Brouërius van Nidek. Stellingwerff's drawings are not original works but copies based on other drawings or prints. That does not make his work any less relevant. In many cases, the originals that Stellingwerffs based his works on did not survive. In fact, his oeuvre is the most extensive documentation of Dutch topography we know. A body of work that has not yet been examined in its totality. 

For more information, please contact Jef Schaeps, Curator Prints & Drawings.

Philippus Velijn created numerous prints during the early 19th century. His body of work includes hundreds of vignettes and illustrations for books, mostly executed as steel engravings. The quantity of Velijn's work is staggering but is also characterised by great craftsmanship and inventiveness, and it possesses an undeniable charm. Despite his prominent place as an illustrator, he has never been the subject of in-depth study.

Which publishers did Velijn work for? For which authors did he illustrate? How can his contribution to the discipline of book illustration be defined? These are only some of the questions that could be addressed in a thesis.

Philippus Velijn in collection guides and catalogue.
For more information, please contact Jef Schaeps, Curator Prints & Drawings.

The Leiden artist Abraham Delfos (1750-1820) left behind an oeuvre of prints and drawings that has not yet been studied in its context. In addition to his work, his role in Leiden's artistic scene and his contacts with Leiden scholars deserve attention.

See catalogue and collection guides.

For more information, please contact Jef Schaeps, Curator Prints & Drawings.

Prints from the French period

The University Library has a large number of prints from the private collection of G.J. de Jonge depicting events from the decades around 1800. During this period, the Netherlands came under French rule and witnessed occasional fierce battles between the Patriots and the Orangists. These events were reflected in the production of prints.

Which events received the most attention? How was King Lodewijk Bonaparte portrayed? Who employed the printers and who were the publishers? A thesis or an internship could explore these and other questions.

For more information, please contact Jef Schapes, Curator Prints & Drawings.

Following the example of the English The Linked Ring Brotherhood (by H.P. Robinson) and the American Photo-Secession (by Edward Steichen), Adriaan Boer, Ernst Loeb and Johan Huijsen founded the Nederlandse Club voor Fotokunst (Dutch Club for Photographic Art) in Haarlem in 1907. While the two Anglo-American initiatives have been the subject of much research, exhibitions and numerous publications, the Dutch NCvFK has received little attention. The photographic collection of Leiden University contains the majority of the NCvFK's photographic and archival material. Research in this collection could lead to a reconstruction of the history and artistic views of the NCvFK.

For more information, please contact Maartje van den Heuvel, Curator Photography

In 1994, Koos Breukel - who, together with Rineke Dijkstra, is considered one of the most important Dutch portrait photographers of our time - published the photobook The Wretched Skin. This early photobook by the photographer can be seen as the work that reveals his approach and artistic preference in the most raw and elemental way. In 2007, Breukel donated the dummies, a special edition, plus the original photo prints of all the images that were published in the book to the Leiden University Libraries.  Research into the method and development of the various (pre)stages of the book can result in an interesting thesis and contribute to naming and positioning of Koos Breukel's work. 

See Photobook dummies collection guide.

For more information, please contact Maartje van den Heuvel, Curator Photography

Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis enriched his collection through the acquisition of (parts of) the collections of deceased cartographers and map collectors. Of particular interest is the collection that Bodel Nijenhuis acquired at the auction of the estate of Baron C.R.T. Krayenhoff (see PORTEF 46: 4). Krayenhoff played a key role in the topographic mapping of the Netherlands from the end of the 18th century. He was also involved in the construction of waterworks and fortifications. A recent biography of Krayenhoff does not sufficiently take into account his cartographic achievements. An analysis of Krayenhoff's material in the Bodel Nijenhuis collection can contribute to a better understanding of his cartographic contributions.

Collection guide Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis collection.
For more information, please contact Martijn Storms, Curator Maps & Atlases

Within the Bodel Nijenhuis collection, several sub-collections can be distinguished through their provenance. Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis added to his collection by acquiring (parts of) the collections of deceased cartographers and map collectors. Included in Bodel Nijenhuis' collection is a considerable amount of material from the estate of Professor of Archaeology Caspar Reuvens (1793-1835). Reuvens was the first director of the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden (Dutch National Museum of Antiquities) as well as a pioneer of modern archaeology. Through research and inventarisation of Reuvens' material in the Bodel Nijenhuis collection, insight can be gained into the cartographical work involved in his archaeological fieldwork.

Other interesting sub-collections within the Bodel Nijenhuis collection include those of engineer Jan Blanken, collector Baron van Heeckeren van Waliën, archivist Petrus van Musschenbroek, and traveller Abraham Vorsterman van Oyen.

Collection guide Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis collection.
For more information, please contact Martijn Storms, Curator Maps & Atlases.

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