The library collections of Leiden University have a history of more than 430 years. As a result, the University owns substantial unique collections of both national and international stature. The majority of these collections can be found in the University library.
In 2006, five special departments within the University library were merged to become the new Special Collections Section: Western manuscripts and archives, Western printed work, Oriental collections, the Bodel Nijenhuis collection (maps and atlases) and the Prentenkabinet (prints, drawings and photographs).
These exceptional, valuable and at times also vulnerable collections have their own separate Special Collections Reading Room, in close proximity to a freely accessible reference library to facilitate in studying the special material.
The libraries of Leiden University collectively own approximately 3 million books, more than 30,000 e-journals, 1 million e-books and hundreds of databases, electronic reference material and digital texts and image collections. The Special Collections are comprised of manuscripts, old and special prints, illustrations, drawings, the oldest photo collection in the Netherlands belonging to a museum, charts and maps and archives from all corners of the world: often unique material that cannot be found anywhere else.