LEIDEN or LEYDEN, a city in the province of South Holland, the kingdom of the Netherlands, on the Old Rhine, and a junction station 18 m. by rail S.S.W. of Haarlem. It is connected by steam tramway with Haarlem and The Hague respectively, and with the seaside resorts of Katwyk and Noordwyk. There is also regular steamboat connexion with Katwyk, Noordwyk, Amsterdam and Gouda. The population of Leiden which, it is estimated, reached 100,000 in 1640, had sunk to 30,000 between 1796 and 1811, and in 1904 was 56,044. The two branches of the Rhine which enter Leiden on the east unite in the centre of the town, which is further intersected by numerous small and sombre canals, with tree-bordered quays and old houses. On the south side of the town pleasant gardens extend along the old Singel, or outer canal, and there is a large open space, the Van der Werf Park, named after the burgomaster, Pieter Andriaanszoon van der Werf, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574. This open space was formed by the accidental explosion of a powdershipin 1807, hundreds of houses being demolished, including that of the Elzevir family of printers. At the junction of the two arms of the Rhine stands the old castle (De Burcht), a circular tower built on an earthen mound. Its origin is unknown, but some connect it with Roman days and others with the Saxon Hengist. Of Leiden's old gateways only two both dating from the end of the i?th century are standing. Of the numerous churches the chief are the Hooglandsche Kerk, or the church of St Pancras, built in the 15th century and restored in 1885- 1902, containing the monument of Pieter Andriaanszoon van der Werf, and the Pieterskerk (1315) with monuments to Scaliger, Boerhaave and other famous scholars. The most interesting buildings are the town hall (Stadhuis), a fine example of 16 th century Dutch building; the Gemeenlandshuis van Rynland (1596, restored 1878); the weight-house built by Pieter Post (1658); the former court-house, now a military storehouse; and the ancient gymnasium (1599) and the so-called city timberhouse (Stads Timmerhuis) (1612), both built by Lieven de Key (c. 1560-1627).
In spite of a certain industrial activity and the periodical bustle of its cattle and dairy markets, Leiden remains essentially an academic city. The university is a flourishing institution. It was founded by William of Orange in 1575 as a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the tradition being that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes. Originally located in the convent of St Barbara, the university was removed in 1581 to the convent of the White Nuns, the site of which it still occupies, though that building was destroyed in 1616. The presence within half a century of the date of its foundation of such scholars as Justus Lipsius, Joseph Scaliger, Francis Gomarus, Hugo Grotius, Jacobus Arminius, Daniel Heinsius and Guardas Johannes Vossius, at once raised Leiden university to the highest European fame, a position which the learning and reputation of Jacobus Gronovius, Hermann Boerhaave, Tiberius Hemsterhuis and David Ruhnken, among others, enabled it to maintain down to the end of the 18th century. The portraits of many famous professors since the earliest days hang in the university aula, one of the most memorable places, as Niebuhr called it, in the history of science. The university library contains upwards of 190,000 volumes and 6000 MSS. and pamphlet portfolios, and is very rich in Oriental and Greek MSS. and old Dutch travels. Among the institutions connected with the university are the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnology and geography; the fine botanical gardens, founded in 1587; the observatory (1860); the natural history museum, with a very complete anatomical cabinet; the museum of antiquities (Museum van Oudheden), with specially valuable Egyptian and Indian departments; a museum of Dutch antiquities from the earliest times; and three ethnographical museums, of which the nucleus was P. F. von Siebold's Japanese collections. The anatomical and pathological laboratories of the university are modern, and the museums of geology and mineralogy have been restored. The university has now five faculties, of which those of law and medicine are the most celebrated, and is attended by about 1 200 students.
The municipal museum, founded in 1869 and located in the old cloth-hall (Laeckenhalle) (1640), contains a varied collection of antiquities connected with Leiden, as well as some paintings including works by the elder van Swanenburgh, Cornelius Engelbrechtszoon, Lucas van Leiden and Jan Steen, who were all natives of Leiden. Jan van Goyen, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard Dou and Rembrandt were also natives of this town. There is also a small collection of paintings in the Meermansburg. The Thysian library occupies an old Renaissance building of the year 1655, and is especially rich in legal works and native chronicles. Noteworthy also are the collection of the Society of Dutch Literature (1766); the collections of casts and of engravings; the seamen's training school; the Remonstrant seminary, transferred hither from Amsterdam in 1873; the two hospitals (one of which is private); the house of correction; and the court-house.
Leiden is an ancient town, although it is not the Lugdunum Batavorum of the Romans. Its early name was Leithen, and it was governed until 1420 by burgraves, the representatives of the courts of Holland. The most celebrated event in its history is its siege by the Spaniards in 1574. Besieged from May until October, it was at length relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town. The weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) of Leiden at the close of the 15th century were very important, and after the expulsion of the Spaniards Leiden cloth, Leiden baize and Leiden camlet were familiar terms. These industries afterwards declined, and in the beginning of the 19th century the baize manufacture was altogether given up. Linen and woollen manufactures are now the most important industries, while there is a considerable transit trade in butter and cheese.
Katwyk, or Katwijk, 6 m. N.W. of Leiden, is a popular seaside resort and fishing village. Close by are the great locks constructed in 1807 by the engineer, F. W". Conrad (d. 1808), through which the Rhine (here called the Katwyk canal) is admitted into the sea at low tide. The shore and the entrance to the canal are strengthened by huge dikes. In 1520 an ancient Roman camp known as the Brittenburg was discovered here. It was square in shape, each side measuring 82 yds., and the remains stood about 10 ft. high. By the middle of the 18th century it had been destroyed and covered by the sea.
See P. J. Blok, Eine hollandsche stad in de middeleeuwen (The Hague, 1883); and for the siege see J. L. Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1896).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)