" By indignities men come to dignities. "
Francis Bacon

Back in the day


Leiden University Library Opens in the Netherlands

The city of Leiden played a prominent role in the revolt that would create an independent Dutch nation. In 1575—a year after Leiden had survived a siege by the Spanish—Prince William the Silent founded a university in the city. Today, Leiden University is the oldest in the Netherlands. Its library, once housed in a single room, is now home to a monumental collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and letters—some of which are centuries old and very rare. What was the library's first book?



The Sistrum

The sistrum is a percussion instrument that functions much like a tambourine. Often made of metal, it consists of a handle and a U-shaped frame run through with thin, loosely set crossbars. The crossbars can have little metal rings or loops on them, and when the sistrum is shaken, the crossbars and loops jangle. The sistrum was used in ancient Sumer, Rome, and Egypt, and some Egyptian goddesses were depicted holding the instrument. What churches still use the sistrum in religious services?

Born on a day like today


John Evelyn

From 1631 until his death in 1706, Evelyn kept a diary that is today an invaluable source of information on 17th-century British social, cultural, and political life. He corresponded frequently with Samuel Pepys, another now-famous diarist of the time. Living as a wealthy country gentleman in Deptford, he wrote about 30 books on various subjects including reforestation, vegetarianism, and numismatics. In 1661, he wrote the Fumifugium, believed to be the first book written on what topic?

Last updated on Wednesday, 31st October 2012

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