Prize volume collection
The Maastricht University Library’s Jesuit Collection includes the prize volume collection, also known as the prize books. They came from the former theology faculty of the Jesuits in the Netherlands (the Canisianum in Maastricht), the philosophy faculty Berchmanianum in Nijmegen, and the library of the large former seminary in Warmond.
From the late 16th century until the gymnasiums were established in 1876, Latin schools were responsible for students’ pre-university education. In these schools, competition played an important role: the Jesuits used pedagogical means and distributed prizes to promote competition among their students. During the biannual public graduation ceremonies, which usually took place in the schools themselves but occasionally in nearby churches, the students of the highest class were announced 'ad academiam', which meant that they were ready for university. These students then held speeches in the presence of their families and other guests. Afterwards, the students from the lower classes who had performed well and graduated to higher classes, including the 'primus' (top of the class) or the 'secundus' (the second best), received a fancy, bound prize book as a reward from their scholarchs or governors – the school principals of the time. The front jackets of the books were usually decorated with the city’s official coat of arms.
It is these books which comprise the University Library’s prize volume collection – 141 of them in total. During 2007, they officially became a separate special collection, to make them visible as such. We also completely restored them, gave them new call numbers on book-friendly labels, and stored them in the safe in the library’s closed stacks. In 1999 an exhibition was dedicated to this special collection. Now, you can consult them via the library catalogue.