Collecting works on the history of the Low Countries has always been a central priority of the Institute’s library since its inception. In 1921, the same year the Institute was founded, the eminent Dutch historian Pieter Geyl convinced the University of London’s Dutch Studies Committee to transfer the Low Countries holdings of the library of Bedford College for Women to the brand new Institute:
I am very anxious indeed to transfer these books to the institute, as I am convinced that there can be no place where they could be of greater use to the historian in general, and I venture to say they would form a real asset to the institute.
Pieter Geyl, 1921.
Since then this core has been augmented by major donations, notably from the Dutch government which from October 1925 has presented the library, on perpetual loan, thousands of items, many of them from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Other major donations have come from institutions such as the Archive Générale de Belgique, made in the early 1960s, as well as individuals such as Pieter Geyl himself, Koenraad Wolter Swart and Jonathan Israel.
In short this generosity, as well as decades of purchasing, has resulted in a collection of approximately 4,500 items - one of the richest resources for the research of Low Countries history outside the region itself.