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Exhibition Books that made history

From Galileo Galilei to Albert Einstein and from Anna Maria van Schurman to Anton de Kom: only a selection of the 25 authors who's books and ideas had extraordinary historical impact, in some cases even to this day. Leiden University Libraries and the National Museum of Antiquities jointly present the summer exhibition Books that made history. The exhibition shows 25 extraordinary and influential books from the collections of Leiden University Libraries and will be on display from 22 June until 4 September 2022 in the National Museum of Antiquities.

Books that made History

The exhibition Books that made history focuses on the strong link between the books and the academic history of the city of Leiden, from the university's founding in 1575 to the present day. These are books that have had a major impact on the world, and which to this day influence how we think. Visitors are invited to vote for their favorite book and can suggest other titles that they think should not have been omitted from the selection.

Selection of 25 books

Contemporary experts and well-known 'ambassadors' breathe new life into the 25 books with their knowledge, anecdotes and personal experience. This is reflected in the exhibition texts, audio tour, accompanying videos and the exhibition book. In three themed showcases, the emergence of Leiden University and its library, the role of printers, and the place of women and people of colour in academia are highlighted.


Simultaneously with the exhibition, Athenaeum will publish the book Boeken die geschiedenis schreven with essays on the 25 works, providing even more context and background. The book was compiled by Kasper van Ommen and Garrelt Verhoeven. It will be available from 14 June for 27.50 euros in the bookstore and museum shop of the National Museum of Antiquities.

The Books that made History exhibition was realised with the support of Leiden Kennisstad, the Prince Bernhard Cultuur Fonds, Brill Publishers, Cultuurfonds Leiden and the Friends of Leiden University Libraries Foundation.

Address National Museum of Antiquities: Rapenburg 28, 2311 EW Leiden (directions)

The 'Systema naturae' by Carl Linnaeus
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