Friends United. Alba Amicorum in Leiden University Libraries

Friends Albums

The album amicorum (‘book of friends’) came into being in the sixteenth century in university circles. Professors as well as students started an album and invited befriended colleagues and fellow students to write down a learned contribution as a momentum. Noblemen might also provide a painted coat of arms, artistic friends sometimes rather beautiful drawings. These albums occurred mostly during two periods: 1570-1620 and 1750-1800. Leiden University seems to have played an instrumental role for the dissemination of the phenomenon within the Netherlands.

These friends albums, stocked with dated and localized autographs, are a rich source for cultural-historical research. They provide us with information on social networks, literary trends, notions on friendship and more. That is why Leiden University Libraries keeps trying to expand its collection of albums (currently over a hundred).


This collection is the focus of an afternoon symposium 'Vrienden vereend' (‘Friends united’), with four contributions and a one-day exhibition:

  • Kees Thomassen and Chris Heesakkers - already for many years active in this field and a.o. compilers of the database Alba amicorum in de Nederlanden - will each speak about a selection of alba from one of the blooming periods.

  • Kees Smit, specialist on Arnoldus Buchelius (1565-1641) presents the Leiden album of this Utrecht lawyer and historian, and its online edition and digital facsimile.

  • André Bouwman, curator of Western manuscripts, investigates the history of the Leiden alba collection and introduces a small exhibition comprising 25 alba in the Special Collections Reading Room.


Programme ‘Vrienden vereend’ on Thursday 9 februari
(Location: University Library at Witte Singel 27, Grote vergaderzaal)

15.00-15.15     Opening and introduction

15.15-15.45     Lecture by Chris Heesakkers (alba 1570-1620)

15.45-16.15     Lecture by Kees Thomassen (alba 1750-1800)

16.15-16.40     Lecture by Kees Smit (album Buchelius)

16.40-17.00     Lecture by André Bouwman (Leiden collection of albums)

17.00-18.00     Drinks + exhibition of alba in the Special Collections reading room.

Invitation and Registration

Would you like to attend this meeting? Then please, before 2 February 2012, report your name via email or telephone through the secretariat (tel: 071-527 2832), under mention of “Vrienden vereend”. Please note that the lectures held are in Dutch.

Last Modified: 19-01-2012