| Collections | Special Collections | Explore our collections


The Maastricht University Library holds a number of special collections, which are of significant value to society, education and research. The Jesuit library is the most important special collection of Maastricht University and comprises approximately 250,000 volumes, mainly in the fields of philosophy, history, anatomy, literature, theology, law and various social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics). In that sense it is a broad classics collection which provides jumping-off points for research and teaching activities of many Maastricht University faculties. As University Library, we stimulate, support and facilitate the use of the Special Collections and the thoughtful integration of digital technology to advance education and research. We also emphasise the social relevance of the collections. In addition to visits and exhibitions, Maastricht University Library explores innovative ways to promote and highlight the collections.

In 1973 the Ministry of Education and Science bought the monastic libraries of the theological and philosophical faculties in Maastricht (Canisianum) and Nijmegen (Berchmanianum) and the library of the Catholic Theological University in Amsterdam. These libraries formed the academic foundation for the University of Limburg in formation. In 1983, the book collection of the Groot-Seminarie Warmond followed, with which these four extensive libraries form the core of the Special Collections of Maastricht University since the early eighties. Since the 1980s, purchases, gifts and bequests, made it possible to add several collections.

University Library encourages the use of the following core collections because they are relevant to education, research and society:


The Limburg collection is an extensive collection of books and documentation that deals with everything that has been published in or about Limburg up to the present day as well as collected before 1900 and tells the history of Limburg. The collection consists of more than a thousand Maastricht prints, the personal library and letter and handwriting collection of poet Pierre Kemp, the documentation collection of artist Charles Eyck, the personal library of physicist and Nobel Prize winner Peter Debye and approximately five hundred books on the history of Limburg, of which a large number were also printed in Limburg.

Ethnography and Anthropology

The Jesuit Library, including the Missiology collection, contains a striking number of travel books. It holds an extensive collection of tens of thousands of travel books. They testify to the broad mental horizon and the strong international orientation of the Jesuits. This ties in well with the international student population of UM. Travel books are a heterogeneous genre. The author is not necessarily an eyewitness and sometimes relies on the experiences of his predecessors or fellow travelers, sometimes the line between fact and fiction cannot cleary drawn. The travel book genre is also interesting because it touches on various themes: history, religion, literature, geography, economics, science, politics, colonialism, culture, gender, ethnography, anthropology, and so on. Since 2013, books from this collection have been used for the ‘On Expedition’ elective, a collaboration between the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), University Library and Wikimedia NL.

Medicine & Psychology

The Jesuit Library contains early modern prints of anatomical atlases, including those by Vesalius, Loder and Albinus. In addition to a collection of anatomy books, the libary also holds surgical works and books on herbal medicine containing illustrated herbal books by Dodoens, Nylandt and Munting. In addition to medicine, the library holds psychology (related) books. These are the subject of a recurring elective at he the Faculty of  Psychology and Neurosciences (FPN). Books from this core collection are used in education and for exhibitions.

Legal History

This collection contains books from the ‘Historia profana’ collection, supplemented with titles obtained in the 1990s through donations from the Stichting ‘Vrienden Rechtsgeleerde Bibliotheek Rijksuniversiteit Limburg’. This includes local and regional legal source, including Observations, indigenous commentaries and placards. These include a Sachsenspiegel from 1554, the Maastricht Recesses from 1665 and the Observationes by the Liège lawyer Charles de Méan from 1670. In addition, University library has ‘Het Weekblad van het Regt’ in its collection. This legal journal is a paper collection and reference work for case law covering the period 1839-1943. It is an important source for legal history research, but is also relevant to current legal practice. It also provides good insight into the social and societal developments in that period. University Library fully digitized the magazine in 2013 and published a fully searchable online version.

'Golden Age of Illustration'

Acquired in 2005, this collection is part of the personal library of Bernhard Reith, illustrator and teacher of art and art history at the Amsterdam St. Ignatius College. We know Reith from his illustrations for Louis Couperus’s ‘Psyche’ from 1927. The Reith library contains more than a thousand illustrated, written and collected works on art (history) and drawing and more than sixty books illustrated by so called ‘Golden Age’ illustrators, including artists such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen and Willy Pogany.

Pedagogy: school prize bindings

Part of the Jesuit library, contains a collection of 141 completely restored school prize bindings that ended up in the library thanks to donations and bequests. In the Latin schools, which provided pre university education from the late sixteenth century until the foundation of the gymnasia in 1876, the pedagogy of competition played an important role. During the six monthly public promotion, the best students who made promotion to a higher grade were awarded a prize binding as a reward. These bindings usually concerned studies in Latin by the well known classics and humanists: fine copies, which were bound especially for that occasion with the city arms stamped on the binding. The phenomenon of price bindings is an interesting object for research into the historical development of pedagogy in the Netherlands.

Vault Collection

The highlights from the Special Collections with books that have a high cultural historical or social value or value in use. The collection includes post incunabulae, manuscripts, rare and unique works, precious books and books with a special provenance or owner. Among them are a handwritten New Testament from 1471, a hand colored Mercator Hondius atlas from 1628, a handwritten lecture note by the Dutch physicist and Nobel Prize winner Van der Waals, a partly hand colored first edition of Pierre Belon’s Observationes from 1553, a Missale Romanum with silver ornaments and a prayer book that belonged to Louis Napoleon. The collection also includes works by Jesuit scientists, including Kircher and Schott.

Pin It on Pinterest