A Week in Leuven’s Libraries

Under the title Knowledge creates understanding. A week in Leuven’s libraries, Nikè van der Mijden of the Theological University of Apeldoorn wrote a blog on the ReIReS Training organized by KU Leuven in February 2020.

On a stormy February afternoon I traveled to Leuven to see what one of the largest theological libraries in the world has to offer. I spent a week as a librarian with a group of scientists from Paris, Bologna, Leuven, Mainz and Sofia in the Maurits Sabbe Library of the KU Leuven Leuven within the framework of a ReIReS School.

This university was founded by the city of Leuven in 1425. Traditionally, the city and university have been linked to each other. This can be clearly seen in the beautiful buildings in the city centre. The history of the university, and therefore of the library, is an eventful one. At the time of Napoleon, the university was closed and a large part of the book collection was transferred to the National Library of Paris. In 1835, the KU was re-established and reopened by the Belgian bishops, and a collection of books was built up. During the First World War, the university library, including the entire book collection (1000 medieval manuscripts, 800 incunabula, 300,000 books) went up in flames. After this war, the collection was quickly rebuilt to 900,000 volumes. And then, during the Second World War, the collection was again destroyed by bombardment.

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