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Leiden Library, Indonesian Window in the Netherlands

Currently the Leiden library has 5.2 million books, 44,000 electronic journals and more than a million electronic books. At least that’s what libraries.leiden.edu reports. Apart from that, there are 60 thousand ancient manuscripts, 500 thousand letters, 100 thousand maps, 12 thousand drawings and 300 thousand photographs.

This library, which was opened on 31 October 1587, meaning it is 429 years old today, holds many collections about Indonesia. According to the Director of the Indonesian National Library, Sri Sulasih, 26 thousand ancient manuscripts about Indonesia are at Leiden University. Meanwhile, the National Library itself only collects 10.3 thousand ancient manuscripts. Less than half of what the Leiden Library has.

The Leiden Library has a section that holds special collections about Southeast Asia. Apart from collections about Southeast Asia, the campus library also has a library that collects science, law and social sciences. All in the city of Leiden. Meanwhile, the Library Learning Center is located in The Hague. In Jakarta itself there is a representative of the Leiden Library, namely Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde (KITLV) Jakarta on Jalan Rasuna Said, which is also the address of the Royal Dutch Embassy.

Actually, collections about Indonesia in the Netherlands should not surprise you. No one denies that Indonesia is a former colony of the Dutch Kingdom. As a post-renaissance modern imperialist, the Netherlands is a modern nation that is fairly neat in archiving its written pages regarding colonial era Indonesia. Even ancient Indonesian writings and objects reached there.

The Leiden Library, then, is a museum of the memories and memories of the former colony.

After the Library Opens

The Dutch revolution against the Habsburg dynasty from Austria, which later gave birth to a new country, made the Dutch aware of the importance of higher education. Leiden University began construction in 1575. The campus stood on land belonging to a confiscated Catholic monastery.

The importance of books made the founder immediately start the project of building a library. The Plantin Polyglot aka King’s Bible, printed by Christopher Plantin, was given by Willem van Orange to the library in the first year of the library’s construction. The library was officially opened and operational on October 31, 1587.

The first catalog of this library appeared in 1595. The collection grew over time. This library recently had several sections. The University Library is located at Witte Singel 27, the East Asian Library at Arsenaalstraat 1, the Law Library at Steenschuur 25, the Behavioral and Social Sciences Library, Wassenaarseweg 52, the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Library at Einsteinweg 55, the Gorlaeus Library at Niels Bohrweg 1. Everyone is still in the city of Leiden. Apart from that, this library has a Library Learning Center in The Hague and in Jakarta there is KITLV in Rasuna Said Kav S-3.

Less than a decade after the opening of the library, on June 27 1596, a Dutch fleet led by Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Banten. After that, more Dutch fleets entered the archipelago. Gradually, the Indonesian archipelago’s agricultural products were monopolized by the Dutch who founded the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) on March 20, 1602.

The Portuguese, who were originally victorious in Maluku, were also successfully repulsed by the Dutch through the VOC. The nails of Dutch power began to sink into the land south of the equator, the homeland of the archipelago.

The groups of Dutch ships that had just arrived in Asia almost never returned empty-handed. Apart from the best-selling trade goods such as spices, the ship’s officers also brought home maps they had made on the voyage. Even ancient manuscripts from the lands they explored were brought home.

Whatever knowledge the Dutch sailors brought from Indonesia would certainly be something valuable for the Dutch Kingdom. Not only a map of the Spice Islands, but also the local language. However, efforts to create regional language dictionaries in Indonesia only began to be massive in the nineteenth century.

The creation of dictionaries often involved clergy involved in the spread of Christianity. For example, Benjamin Matthes created a Bugis-Makassar language dictionary. It was from Matthes that the manuscript of the great play of “original” Indonesian literature, La Galigo, was brought to the Netherlands.

Another evangelist who participated in compiling the dictionary was JH Neumann who created a Karo Batak dictionary in Latin script. Apart from the Karo, Bugis and Makassar languages, dictionaries for other regional languages ​​were also created during the colonial period. These dictionaries will certainly help study ancient Indonesian manuscripts that have been transported to Leiden.

Continue to Observe Indonesia

Just call him Galuh. This young man from the interior of Java, who studied history in Yogyakarta, was required to go to the Netherlands to complete his final assignment on Islamic figures in Indonesia during the Dutch colonial era. With great difficulty, Galuh finally left.

Leiden was the place he went to look for the data needed to complete his master’s final project. For a whole month, Galuh followed in the footsteps of the influential historian Sartono Kartodirjo who researched the 1888 Banten Peasants’ Revolt. Sartono also searched for material as far away as Leiden. The difference is that Sartono wrote a dissertation.

Of course Galuh is not the only one. Historians who research the colonial era of the Dutch East Indies are obliged to go to Leiden if they are looking for references. Likewise, people who want to learn regional languages ​​in Indonesia. There are 26 thousand ancient manuscripts from Indonesia collected there. Apart from the manuscripts in Leiden, the archives at the Dutch National Archives in Amsterdam are also places that must be visited.

Not only studying history and language, Indonesians who have studied in Leiden include influential legal experts such as Koesoemah Atmadja, Soenario Sastrowardoyo, Achmad Soebardjo, Christian Soumokil and Alexander Maramis. All of them have the title Meester in Rechten (Mr).

Regarding who will study and enjoy the Leiden library facilities first, the name Husein Djajadiningrat must be mentioned. A century before Galuh, Husein Djajadiningrat from Banten, successfully completed his dissertation, Critical Review of the History of Banten (1913). Husein’s sponsor while studying and completing his final assignment was Christian Snouck Horgronje, a big name in the study of far eastern countries in the colonial period. Snouck is also a graduate of Leiden University.

Snouck also studied Islam in Leiden. Because of the Leiden library, Snouck could memorize the Koran. He completed a dissertation on the Hajj pilgrimage entitled Mecca Celebrations in 1880. At that time he had never been to Mecca at all.

After that, Snouck served as a lecturer for prospective Dutch colonial employees who were to be sent to the Dutch East Indies. Leiden had an Indology department in colonial times. Ideally, prospective colonial employees must understand about the colonial area which is now called Indonesia. Even the future King of Java, who at that time was named Dorodjatun, was sent to study at the Indology department in Leiden. However, because Dorodjatun’s father died, inevitably Dorodjatun left his studies and had to become Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX.

According to Frances Gouda, in Dutch Culture Overseas (2007), they must experience, “Modern education, which absorbs a rich and varied academic curriculum, which combines subjects such as geography, history and religions in Indonesia, Islamic law and customary law, language principles… whether Malay or Javanese or other indigenous languages.”

For all this, Leiden provided a lot of material to support the introduction of Dutch colonial employees who would be sent and become bureaucrats in the Dutch East Indies. It was not in vain that Willem van Orange built the campus and library in Leiden.

Currently, the Leiden Library collection does not only contain ancient Indonesian books and manuscripts. The latest books from the last few years on history, literature, politics, social and other themes are also in the Indonesian library collection. From well-known writers or researchers to lesser-known ones, this library was also brought to the Netherlands for various matters, from research to lectures.

Indonesia, for Leiden and also campuses that have centers for Southeast Asian or Indonesian regional studies, is still interesting. Even though Indonesia’s status is former (colony).

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