Renaissance and Humanism
Our university was founded in 1575, when renaissance and humanism – originating in fifteenth-century Italy – were at their height in Northwest Europe. In Leiden, too, the reorientation towards classical antiquity went hand in hand with an approach of reality in which human beings and reason came to the fore.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Leiden University Library – after more than four centuries of collecting – holds many primary sources that reflect this main stream of European art and science from the periode 1400-1650. Not seldom they involve big names, famous for stimulating and accelerating European culture in those centuries, and still captivating the attention of both academic and general audiences. Works of scholars like Erasmus, Lipsius, Clusius and Scaliger, of artists like Gossart and Van Orley, of cartographers like Mercator and Braun & Hogenberg are present in abundance.
The Leiden vaults contain many more rare items, often of great importance for the dissemination of new ideas in Europe and beyond: drawings, prints, books, maps, scholarly correspondence, manuscripts, and books. They can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room or viewed in the digital versions that are available in our repository.