The Libraries of Louvain

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2023-09-16 06:00:04

To have a library destroyed by an accidental cause is a tragedy. To have a library destroyed by a deliberate act of war is even more so. But for a library to be destroyed twice by acts of war is almost unthinkable.  Yet that was the case with the Library of the University of Louvain in Louvain, Belgium. The library was destroyed in both World War I and World War II.

The most notorious of the two destructions occurred in 1914 during World War I. Phillip A. Metzger has written a good overview of the history of the library including its destruction in 1914 and its rebuilding in 1928.  Metzer describes the library as follows: "At the time of the fire in 1914, estimates place the library collection at 250,000 to 300,000 volumes. An inventory was in progress, and startling rarities were being discovered with regularity. The library was strong in material on the religious struggles of the Low Countries. In addition, there were 350 incunabula, and 950 pieces of manuscripts, some dating to the twelfth century. All this and more disappeared in the flames." P. Delannoy, University of Louvain Librarian, has written a more emotional contemporary description of the library and its destruction. There is a Wikipedia article which includes information about the library's more recent history.

Stamp issued during the period 1915-1920 showing the Library of the University of Louvain before it was destroyed. (Scott Catalogue #118).

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