History and further reading
The Leeskabinet was founded in March 1859 by several influential Rotterdam entrepreneurs and bankers. They aimed to establish a library with high-quality reading material available to readers from all social classes; a library with an affordable membership. Rotterdam did not have a public library or University Library at the time. It was the period when Rotterdam was growing in both size and significance. Or as the founders formulated it: 'What was good enough for a second rate city is not good enough now that we are on our way to becoming a first rate city.' In 1865, the Leeskabinet moved into its own building in the centre of Rotterdam, on the Gelderschekade.
On 14 May 1940, Rotterdam was bombed by the German army. The Leeskabinet's building and the entire collection were destroyed. Around 130,000 valuable books were lost; fortunately no employees were injured. In the days after the bombing, people immediately started working to ensure that the Leeskabinet would rise again. Thanks to many gifts, both financial and in the form of books, in December 1940 the Leeskabinet was able to open its doors again, this time in a historic building on the Parklaan. This former residence of Dr Elie van Rijckevorsel, of the famous Rotterdam patrician class, was given in loan to the Leeskabinet for thirteen years. The library that had grown from Van Rijckevorsel's travels to the East Indies, among others, now became the heart of the collection around which the Leeskabinet re-established itself.
Since 1971, the Leeskabinet has been part of the University Library of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Here, the Leeskabinet still operates as the founders intended: providing knowledge in the form of a high-quality collection on the humanities, organising lectures and activities in the fields of literature, culture and science. The library provides its members with an extensive collection of books and journals for scientific, cultural and social orientation. University students and staff may also use the Leeskabinet collection. Today, this monument from the 19th century Enlightenment thus still plays an active role in Rotterdam and at Erasmus University.