1902 Encyclopedia > Leyden


LEYDEN, or LEIDEN, a city of the Netherlands, in the province of South Holland, about 20 miles south-west of Amsterdam, and 6 miles inland from the German Ocean. The Old Rhine, on which it is situated, enters at the eastern side by two arms which unite near the middle of the to«vn so as to divide the western half into two nearly equal portions. Though the boundaries, which now include about 467 acres, have been six times extended, the general shape is wonderfully regular, nor is regularity wanting in the interior arrangement of the quiet respectable town with its canals and moats, its broad streets, and lifeless squares. The pensive and even melancholy impression which it seems sometimes to produce on the stranger is easily explained. Leyden is par excellence an academic city; the bustle of its great markets for cattle and dairy produce is confined to certain spots, and lasts only for so many hours on so many days, and its industrial activity, considerable though it be, is not sufficient to give that appearance of life and movement which their flourishing local and transit trade makes so generally characteristic of the towns of Holland. The woollen goods (coverlets and broadcloths), the cotton stuffs, the worsted and yarns, the iron and copper wares, and the books and lithographic work which it still produces, are far from maintaining for it the position which it enjoyed when, at the close of the 15th century, its weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) numbered from three to four hundred, or when, after the expulsion of the Spaniards, Leyden cloth, Leyden baize, and Leyden camlet became familiar terms at home and abroad, Owing to changes of fashion, unwise preservation of old customs and institutions, party spirit, the development of manufactures in other places, these industries had so far declined in the beginning of the 19th century—the total production of all the factories in 1802, for example, did not exceed 1086 pieces of cloth—that the baize manufacture was altogether given up, and the beautiful Say (Worsted) Hall was closed. Although after the revolution of 1813 comparative prosperity was the result of the re-moval of the French yoke, and more especially of the

Plan of Leyden.

introduction of steam, the times of a Maurice or a Fre-derick Henry have never returned, and still less the wonderful days of the 15th century. The university is still a flourishing institution, with fifty professors ; but other universities have grown tip in the Netherlands, and even professors of European reputation can no longer attract from foreign lands the numbers that visited Leyden in the days of Lipsius, Vossius, Heinsius, Gronovius, Hem-sterhuis, Ruhnken, Valckenaer, Scaliger, and Boerhaave. As a class the students are remarkably quiet and orderly. Many are destined to a diplomatic career. The university (Akademie) was opened in February 1575, and originally located in the convent of St Barbara. In 1581 it was transferred to the convent of the White Nuns, the site of which it still occupies, though the building was destroyed in 1616. Of the institutions connected with the university it is sufficient to mention the library (upwards of 160,000 volumes and 4650 MSS. and 2400 pamphlet portfolios), rich in Oriental and Greek manuscripts and old Dutch travels; the botanic gardens, with splendid collections of East Indian plants; the observatory (1860) ; the museum of natural history, one of the principal establishments of its kind in Europe ; the museum of antiquities, with a specially valuable Egyptian department ; the ethnographical museum, of which the nucleus was Von Siebold's Japanese collections ; and the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnography, and geography. The Thysian library and the library of the Society of Dutch literature (1766) are both large collections, the former especially rich in legal works and native chronicles; the great school of navigation, and the Remonstrant seminary, transferred from Amsterdam in 1873, deserve special mention, and in general it may be said that there is no city in the Netherlands better-supplied than Leyden is with educational and intellectual institutions.

Objects of artistic and antiquarian interest are fewer than might be expected from the position which Leyden holds in the history of painting (Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and Gerard Douw were natives of the town) ; but such as they are—pieces by Van Finck, Fr. van Mien's, Cornelis Engelbrechtszoon, Lucas of Leyden, and other masters —they have for the most part been collected in the newly founded municipal museum located in the old cloth hall. More interesting is the great collection of portraits of famous professors in the aula of the university. All the gate-houses of the city were still standing about the close of the 17th century; two only, the Zijlpoort and the Morschpoort have been spared. The old town-hall is a quaint 16th century building, and St Pancratius church has some striking features. Near the site of the Rijnsburg gate is the statue of Boerhaave by Stracke. The " Burg," on an artificial mound (perhaps of Roman origin) in the centre of the town, is an old circular wall resting on twenty arches ; it forms a favourite promenade, and affords a fine point of view. Towards the south side of the town lies an open space, suggestively called the Ruin, which in 1807 was the scene of a terrible disaster, a powder-ship blowing up and destroying eight hundred houses and killing hundreds of men. In 1623 the population of Leyden was much more than 50,000, and in 1640, it is estimated, reached 100,000. Between 1796 and 1811 it sunk to 30,000. In 1850 it was 35,864; in 1870, 38,943 (9632 Roman Catholics, 396 Jews); and in 1882 about 41,000.

Though Lugdunum Batavoram is used by the learned as the Latin name for Leyden, there is no possibility of identifying the town itself with the Lugdunum of the Romans. It first appears in 11th and 12th century documents as Leythen, Leithen, Leithon, and Leithan. The history of Leyden follows the same general lines as the history of the Netherlands. During the period of the counts the city suffered from the quarrels of one count with another (as when Countess Ada was besieged in the castle by Lewis of Loon in 1203), or of the nobles with the citizens ; between 1419 and 1485 it was besieged and captured no less than six times by the "Hooks " or the " Cods." From Floris V. it received the confirmation of its privileges (1266) and of its freedom from toll throughout Holland (1290). During the struggle with Spain Leyden covered itself with glory by the persistence with which it held out against the double siege from 31st October 1573 to 21st March 1574, and from 25th May to 2d October (see Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. ii.). With the internal troubles of the 17th century it was closely connected. Coolhas, one of the first professors of its university, gave rise about 1578 to a question of heresy which formed in some sort the prelude to the great contest in which his successors Arminius and Gomarus were protagonists. In 1587 Leicester vainly attempted to bring the city over to his side ; in 1618 Maurice was there constrained to alter the government; and in 1672 there were violent disturbances in connexion with the elevation of William III. to the stadtholdership. The revolution, excited by the French, took place in 1798 ; and in 1813 the Rhenish peasants, in revolt against the conscription, marched into the city. In 1836 there was a great inundation caused by the Haarlem Lake. The bicentenary of the university was celebrated with great ceremony in 1874.

See Mieris, Beschrijving der Stad Leyden, 1772-84.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries