City history

Utrecht in Civitates orbis terrarum (1572), MAG : T fol 212 Lk (Rariora)

Utrecht University Library has always been closely linked with the city of Utrecht. Since 1584, the city library (and since 1636, the university library) has acquired the collections of the Utrecht cloister and chapter libraries. The core of these collections are theological and liturgical texts, which disclose information on the history and culture of the Utrecht cloisters and chapters, which were so authoritative in the city in the Middle Ages. The Special Collections include major works about Utrecht from later periods, too.

In the 16th and 17th century, the friends Arnold Buchelius (1565-1641) and Gijsbert Lapp van Waveren were among those who studied Utrecht and its families. Buchelius was a very active historian who left behind dozens of manuscripts, which included, for example, descriptions and drawings of monuments and inscriptions in and around Utrecht. Many of these have since been lost.

Buchelius also filled books with notes on genealogy, mainly of families from Utrecht and Holland. This information cannot be found anywhere else. Cornelis Booth (1605‑1678), the first librarian of Utrecht University Library, continued Buchelius’ genealogical research. The historical information is supplemented with 16th-century and 17th-century maps of Utrecht. The collection also contains many printed sources on the history of Utrecht including early and local journals.

The theme City history also includes the history of Utrecht University. 

The history of the university comes to life not only in the items in the University Museum, but also in the Special Collections, both in the collection of lecture notes and in the archives of professors. The extensive collection of lecture notes spans the 17th to 20th centuries and covers almost all subject areas, but is especially rich in the areas of veterinary medicine, medicine, theology and law.

The archives of professors include not only professors’ academic work, but also documents relating to their private lives, such as diaries, photographs, diplomas, lectures, biographies and correspondence. The extensive archive of the historian Pieter Geyl (1887-1966) from Utrecht is a key example.

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