Tag Archives: Early Modern history

Early Modern risks at sea and legal history

Header AveTransRisk, University of Exeter

Transporting goods by ship is a risky business, certainly without modern forms of insurance. In the Early Modern period European merchants, sailors and traders developed a number of ways to mitigate the costs of damage at sea. In the European project Average-Transaction Costs and Risk Management during the First Globalization (Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries) (AveTransRisk) of the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies at the University of Exeter one particular solution comes into view. Interestingly, aspects of legal history come very much into view within this project with maritime history as its core. One of the many results of this project came unexpectedly for me into view, thus bringing a welcome chance to present it here and to look at some of its aspects.

An international project

The ERC-funded project AveTransRisk is led by Maria Fusaro, director of the centre in Exeter and also leader for the other major project of the centre, Sailing into modernity. The project aims at gaining insight into legal institutions helping to divide among parties the risks of costs due to damage during a voyage at sea. As a means to achieve this objective the legal construction of general average forms the focal point of the historical investigation of the large project team. For this project data were collected for the period 1500-1800 from five countries with a large shipping trade: England, France, Italy, the Low Countries and Spain.

A major result of this project is a database accompanied by a glossary and introductions to the source materials. These introductions come with examples of voyages and a filter to select these voyages directly. For Italy sources from Genoa and Tuscany are used. Pisa and Livorno are the two Tuscan ports in this section. The inclusion of Malta is most welcome, even though in this case the nineteenth century is the research period. For France the focus is on the Royal Insurance Chamber, in existence between 1668 and 1689. In the case of Spain the main source of information for this projet is the Casa de la Contratación in Seville. I will discuss some of the example voyages, but I encourage you to investigate these introductions and examples yourself.

Alas currently similar introductions for the two main ports of the Low Countries in the Early Modern period are not yet present, nor have data been entered into the current version of the database, and the same is the case for England. For Antwerp I cannot give you quick guidance except pointing you to the Felixarchief, and to publications by two members of the Exeter team, Gijs Dreijer and Dave de ruysscher. At my blog I discussed in 2014 a number of Dutch and Flemish examples of municipal courts led by aldermen, among them the schepenen of Amsterdam dealing with “Assurantiën, Averijen en Zeezaken” and the resources at the Stadsarchief Amsterdam for studying this tribunal. Luckily, this archive explains itself – only in Dutch – the nature of the averijgrossen for the period 1700-1810 in its holdings, with illustrations, references to other relevant archival records and resoiurces such as digitized newspapers, and examples of some cases. Some 10,000 cases can be searched online using an index leading you directly also to scans of the acts. This is a major difference with the situation in 2013 at the launch of this index. I suppose this information concerning Amsterdam will in some form appear eventually also at the website of the project in Exeter.

Cornelis Mahu (1613-1689), Ships in a storm - painting, Staatliche Museen Schwerin -mimages source RKD
Cornelis Mahu (Antwerp, 1613-1689), Ships in a storm near a rocky coast – painting, Staatliche Museen Schwerin – image source: RKD, The Hague, https://rkd.nl/explore/images/12498

In happy cooperation Gijs Dreijer and I contributed an article about an Early Modern legal treatise on average by Quintyn Weytsen to a volume about important Dutch legal works since 1500, ‘Een tractaet van avarien – 1617 – Quintyn Weytsen (1517-1564)’, in: Juristen die schreven en bleven. Nederlandstalige rechtsgeleerde klassiekers, G. Martyn, L. Berkvens and P. Brood (eds.) (Hilversum 2020) 38-41 (also online, Pro Memorie 21/1 (2019) (PDF)). Weytsen’s treatise was often reprinted. In Amsterdam the Kamer van Assurantie en Averij referred to it, and it influenced also customary law in Antwerp. We had liked to add to our article an image of the impressive painting shown here above, but this was not possible, hence my choice here.

Using the AveTransRisk database

It is time to look more closely at the database. Of course there is at the start an example of the way general average was calculated. The vessel, the freight and cargo were all taken into consideration. It helps you to see how costs for damage would become substantially lower than without this legal precaution. The general free search mode of the database allows fuzzy search results. The advanced search mode helps you greatly for many kinds of questions. You can add and remove text fields and choice fields at will. With a choice filed you can select from a dropdown menu with a wide range of categories, and also restrict your search to one or more archives.

The range of fields to choose from is truly luxurious. The advanced search guide does lists and explains the various field types. You can check for particular weather conditions, and for all kind of measures. This helps you also to refine or reframe your own research aims. The guide indicates you can only enter for French records the insurance date, and only for Spanish records the trials section is available. Some of the query results, the ports involved and the events during a voyage can be shown also on a map. You can copy and print your results, or export them as a CSV file, Excel or PDF.

Screen print ATR database in report mode

The database offers also six main list overviews: for averages, events, voyages, vessels, masters, and reports. When you select for example in the ports view Dunkerque you get an overview of all voyages mentioning this harbour town long feared by sailors and traders for its pirates. In my opinion it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the database by using first these lists, and to check at will the information about the voyages in the results. The screenprint here above shows a part of the summary for voyage no. 10016 created from two archival records held at the Archivio di Stato di Pisa. The database allow you to distinguish between ports visited, ports of departure and ports of destination. The locations can be chosen from a dropdown menu, hinting at the obvious need to standardize the names of locations in different languages. For other aspects, too, you can choose the aspect you want to focus on. The maps help you to visualise the voyages and to consider the amount of time a voyage and its aftermath took. The glossary and the table on silver equivalence in currency are most useful, too.

Early Modern shipping news

It is seducing to look at further aspects of this rich database, even when you might have wanted to find now also English, Dutch and Flemish voyages and cases. Of course ports in England, Flanders and the Dutch Republic do figure now, too, in the database. The new thing to highlight in the data available here is the combination of economic, maritime and legal history which mutually enrich each other. It throws new light Early Modern transport.

The examples adduced as sample data deserve our tattention here. Among the example cases for Genoese records is the story of a ship in 1639 first colliding with another vessel while loading (!) and suffering damage by storms at sea (voyage 502297). For cases from Seville just one example is adduced of a voyage in 1585 with damage to the hull of the ship, jettisoned mechandise and angry merchants in court who did not believe the crew’s story (voyage 70011). Here I had expected an example showing one of the typical Spanish flotas, the fleets so typical of Spanish naval voyages. There is a wide range of examples from Tuscany. The Antwerp vessel Corvo Volante – I guess originally named something like the Vlieghende Raef – sailing in 1599 from Brasil with sugar destined for Lisbon had to jettison some of its cargo off the Azores and ended its voyage in Livorno (voyage 10022). A French example adduced by the team cannot be missed here. They mention a voyage in 1670 (no. 92799) from Le Havre to Guinea, hence to the Americas and back to Le Havre, a typical triangle voyage well known in the Transatlantic slave trade, with indeed enslaved persons as its merchandise.

The rich documentation assembled within the database has led the team to a fair stream of publications. The archival background is duly mentioned in the section on datasets. Let’s certainly not forget the fleet of other resources for maritime history brought together by the research centre in Exeter at its website. The guide to naval records in the National Archives, Kew (384 pp., PDF) and its introduction by the centre take for me the palm as something absolutely worth saving whatever your views of the project on general average and its European legal history. The project finally came to my attention again thanks to the transcription model four team members contributed to the Transkribus project for Italian administrative hands (1550-1700), one of just four Italian models now available. As for the Dutch side of these project, it is good to know Sabine Go (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) leads hetrself in Amstedam the project Risky Business with Giovanni Ceccarelli and Antonio Iodice in her staff, Maria Fusaro on the advisory board, and some other members of the Exeter team (Dave de ruysscher, Guido Rossi and Lewis Wade) in its wider network.

The interplay between the economy, maritime trade, state regulations and city tribunals are at the heart of the AveTransRisk project. Legal historians can hardly complain about the efforts done here to bring general average into the limelight. The assessment of risks and the calculation of damages shed light on a very real aspect of Early Modern trade and commerce. This project is a contribution to comparative (legal) history helping you to compare for instance between city states and centrally governed countries. They bring the necessary details needed to confirm larger hypotheses in a more sophisticated way. Even now without the records from England, Flanders and the Low Countries the database is most valuable.

I will not hide my vivid interest in the very realistic stories told by people about their sometimes dramatic voyages at sea, or even suffering damage already on loading. They bridge the gap between legal abstractions and court narratives. It is great to have so many archival records now accessible online for anyone wanting to gain insight into general average as a matter of morem than average interest for Early Modern and legal historians.

A postscript

You can now learn more about general average and the AveTransRisk project from the volume General Average and Risk Management in Medieval and Early Modern Maritime Business, edited by Maria Fusaro, Andrea Abboddati and Luisa Piccinno (2023), also available online in open access.

Reconstructing Irish history from the ashes

Logo Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

The loss of archival records by an accident, deliberate destruction or whatever other cause is one of the greatest threats for the collective memory of peoples and nations, and even for humankind in general. How can you substitute things lost for ever? Such thoughts were very much alive after June 30, 1922, when the Public Record Office of Ireland in Dublin went on fire during the Battle of Dublin. Munition stored in the building was hit by shells and multiple fires destroyed documents from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Only in 1928 the PRO could reopen. On June 30, 1922 the National Archives of Ireland launched the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland, a portal with at its heart three reconstructed archival collections. In this post I will look at the new portal, and also at the project of Trinity College, Dublin, for the reconstruction of records for the medieval Irish Chancery.

Lost in one afternoon

Logo National Archives of Ireland

The turns and key moments in irish history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can readily be defined as tragedies. The famine in the mid-nineteenth century became worse by appalling English actions and negligence. With the emigrants to the United States of America Ireland was bereft again of many thousand people. Gladstone could nearly bring Home Rule for Ierland, but both he and Asquith just before the First World War did not succeed in accomplishing it. The Easter Rising of 1916 and the civil war that led to the foundation of the Irish Republic took a heavy toll, and the Troubles since 1969 were another grim period which ended just a few decades ago. After the Brexit the Irish frontier has become again a real political frontier. By the way, the National Archives in Dublin bring the period between 1912 and 1923 to your attention with the apt heading Decade of Centenaries.

When even the memory of many periods with turmoil is destroyed more happens than just irreparable loss of documents. It is a cultural disaster, damaging the collective memory and removing a point of reference. Normally I try to avoid writing about centenaries and commemorations, but with the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland you have a very important sign of revival, a kind of light shining and bringing back things that seemed totally lost. For a long period after the Four Courts Blaze only the socalled Salved Records, charred record remains, survived as did rather miraculously the finding aids, catalogues and the staff library.

Let´s go immediately to the core of the new portal. Three collections are presented in a new digital form, starting in chronological order with the medieval exchequer from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the Cromwellian Surveys from the late seventeenth century, and the 1766 religious census. If anything this choice of records ornamented with the lofty title Gold Seams shows already the range in time of the holdings at the National Archives of ireland.

The medieval exchequer

Example of a record from the Exchequer for Ireland, TNA E 101/237/5 - image source VRT / TNA
Example of a record from the Exchequer for Ireland, TNA E 101/237/5 – image source VRT / TNA

The collection concerning records of the medieval exchequer for Ireland is not entirely characteristic of the Virtual Record Treasury, because almost all these records are held at the National Archives, Kew. Three main record types are presented: issue rolls, receipt rolls, enrolled parchments and two memoranda rolls (NAI, EX 1/1 and EX 1/2) from the fourteenth century. Luckily the Irish Record Commission had made summaries of the memoranda rolls; a digital version of the 43 volumes is a desideratum. The web page with illustrated examples of these records series and related documents (Manuscripts Gallery) is very instructive. In the section Delving Deeper you will find more historical background and additional images, including editorial conventions and a liost of recurring phrases. The section with stories does what it promises.

Navigating the images of records can be done in several ways. The free text search filed offers the most simple search mode, but you can alo filter for reference code, title and creator. The advanced search mode functions for the whole Virtual Record Treasury. You can start with the fields for title, creator and reference code, and chnage them or add a field for repository and/or transcription. After scrolling down you can find under the heading Further search options filters for a particular time range, Gold Seam, query expansion, fuzzy search, and items without images. Apart from a particular Gold Seam you can also limit your search to the Treasures.

The option Gold Seam Highlight in the navigation menu for the exchequer brings you not only a number of useful general descriptions of medieval record genres, but also access to records

Document view screen in the highlights section for the medieval exchequer


Document view screen in the highlights section for the medieval exchequer

Only after trying to use this view I succeeded in accessing actual images. By clicking on a record title you can access them in a kind of workspace with at your left several view options. Some way of highlighting the choices when you hover over them would be helpful. I did not yet find a concise user manual for this workspace. The use of the term manifests and the presence in the left corner of the distinctive logo are normally sufficient signs for indicating the use of the IIIF compliant Mirador viewer, but due to tropical temperatures I clearly failed to recognize them at first!

At this point I would like to mention the general User Guide which does not just help a casual visitor or a curious historian. In my opinion the National Archives of Ireland succeed here splendidly in explaining not only the features of the Virtual Record Treasury, but also a number of archival matters in an exemplary way. The distinctions between several possible grades of documents in relation to an original are given, and also a number of key description terms. A four colour code is used to indicate linked records in the three Gold Seams, the three core collections of this portal.

The Cromwellian surveys of the seventeenth century

The next core collection brings you to Early Modern Ireland in the period starting with the revolt of 1641 that eventually led to the end of landholding by the Catholic gentry and aristocracy. The landowners’ surveys of the 1650s formed a key element in this development. In the nineteenth century the Irish Manuscript Commission created a massive index for the socalled Down Surveys or Cromwellian Surveys. The digitized surveys are reinforced by some 2,000 digitized maps. These resources show landed property in a very detailed way. The starting page of this section leads you also to a video and a background essay.

The Barony of Sheelburne in the County of Wexford by George Tuffin alias Johnson - London BL, 72868, f. 077


The Barony of Sheelburne in the County of Wexford by George Tuffin alias Johnson – London BL, add. ms.72868, f. 077

Exactly the combination of records and maps helps you to view matters in telling detail. The manuscript gallery for this section shows a fine example how using a number of survey records gives you a much fuller view than each of them separately. Land already owned by Protestant supporters of Cromwell is shown as blank spaces in the Down Survey. Among the items shown are also some editions of records, but the coloured maps attract your attention, too. I could not readily spot clear references for the resources shown. The highlights for the Cromwellian surveys contain documents held at Dublin, Belfast, London and Paris. Here, too, you can use the IIIF-compliant Mirador viewer to view images of records. I must again admit I was initially a bit confused by the way of navigating to the record images. However, I realize that until now I met the Mirador viewer exclusively for viewing medieval manuscripts, not for archival records or record series.

For understanding the Cromwellian Surveys it pays off to start with the page Delving Deeper. You can read here about the historical background of the plans for confiscation and their aftermath. There is precious information about parish maps and barony maps, on further archival resources elsewhere, editorial explanations, and information about some relevant publications about the digitization project. By the way the subdomain The Down Survey of Trinity College Dublin, offers another digital road to this survey.

The 1766 religious census

The importance of the 1766 religious census is the wealth of historical and genealogical information it provides concerning the period before the census of 1813. Just 59 original items survived the 1922 disaster, but luckily transcripts and records held elsewhere can now supplement this information bringing you some 50,000 names.

This time I started with the page Delving Deeper in order to get a good view of the documents and their background. The information for each parish was not uniformly recorded, and thus it is by chance some very rich records have survived. In some cases ministers added social or political comments in their record. The archival history and use of this census before 1922 is traced here, too. Some remnants of editorial remarks for preparing this webpage made me smile abou the efforts of the webteam preparing this splendid portal. We should not complain about every small blemish and forget the overall quality!

A Parliamentary Return, here for Cullen (detail) – Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, IHP/1/688

The manuscripts gallery for this section gives further illustrations of the record genres themselves and of the whole process to create and evaluate this census, including diocesan overviews of parishes and the final recording in the Book of Returns. The highlights bring you to six different records, not just the official Parliamentary Returns. Here again a better way of indicating the navigation is most welcome, for example by just adding some marker to each item, perhaps only a streak before each title. Maybe the fact the Mirador viewer was developed with the aim to contain single manuscripts plays a role here, but this viewer has now also been adapted by the Dutch Nationaal Archief for viewing some digitized records of the former Ministerie van Koloniën, and they can be navigated without any ado. Alas this archive did not translate its message of October 11, 2022 about this new feature into English, nor has it been duplicated in the research section. As an addition to the three aspects common to each of the three main collections you will find in the Virtual Record Treasury also a story section, albeit with currently just two essays.

Beyond digitized collections

The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is a true treasure trove! It points also nicely to the fact the word treasure is both a noun and a verb. The rich collections of this portal help very much to rekindle interest in several periods of Ireland’s chequered history. Not the least bonus is the way light is shed on the importance of records elsewhere, in particular in England, and on the changing relations between England and Ireland. The word United Kingdom has definitely a hollow ring in view of some dark periods in Irish history where English rule seems to deserve the adjective colonial.

The new portal contains much more that I will only mention briefly here, because you will want to investigate these features yourself. There is a useful glossary of technical terms around digitization. The virtual tour of the old Public Record Office desrves your attention, too. It is also possible to browse the items from particular contributing institutions. The section Thematic collections brings you to more newly digitized collections with additional resources, such as the 1922 Salved Records, the Down Survey and Grand Jury maps. The overview of partners can serve you as a web directory for institutions with relevant holdings for Irish history.

Although I could point you to more corners of the Virtual Treasury of Ireland I would like to mention here a few other online projects well worth visiting. Somehow I had expected to find the respective links also at this portal, but this can readily be redeemed. The records of the medieval Irish exchequer can be supplemented with the project CIRCLE: A Calendar of Irish Chancery Rolls c. 1244-1509, created by Trinity College Dublin in a couple of decades. This institution created also the project The Down Survey: Mapping a century of change. where you can use a HISGIS map next to the survey records. The decision for the Cromwellian Survey came following a period of much turmoil. In particular The 1641 Depositions, another project from Dublin, from a decade before the great surveys, should not be forgotten. The Great Parchment Project of the London Metropolitan Archives focuses on a survey in 1639 of landed property in county Derby.

Header CICLE project, Trinity College Dublin

I promised at the start to look here also at the CIRCLE project of Trinity College Dublin. This project contains some 20,000 charters. Charters in Latin have been translated into English. It is possible to browse and search charters by reign and by roll type (patent rolls or close rolls). The advanced search mode offers you even more. The project helps your research with fine introductions, overviews of medieval and editorial abbreviations, a glossary and a bibliography. In the links section you will find more projects with medieval accounting rolls. For many items there are images. In my view this project is truly much more than just another calendar for medieval sources. Let’s not insist too much on the obvious fact that your research can benefit enormously from combining this resource with the exchequer records now available online in the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland.

I had intended to finish this post much earlier, but surely I mean this contribution as a heartfelt homage to all efforts shown here to bring Irish history to the widest possible public. Twenty years ago the archival building of my own employer, the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht in Wijk bij Duurstede, was flooded. Thanks to swift, massive and apt efforts almost every damaged record could be salvaged and restored. Such catastrophes make it less normal for me that we are are at all able to consult historical records, and hence my interest and admiration for this most valuable project in Dublin. Keeping archival records safe and creating access to them in various ways, from finding aids and indexes to transcriptions and digital collections, can only happen when we sustain efforts to investigate the past and to cherish cultural heritage for the present and for future generations.

Along Dutch borders. Looking at Early Modern maps

Book cover of Grensverkenningen

Summer time has been for me amidst of other things a book reading time. One of the new books I read became within a few months a bestseller in my country. Author Kester Freriks published already several books about nature and maps. His new book Grensverkenningen. Langs oude grenzen in Nederland [Border reconnaissance. Along old frontiets in the Netherlands] (Amsterdam 2022) came into existence thanks to Leiden University Library. Martijn Storms, curator of maps and atlases at this library, is his co-author. Earlier books by Freriks showed gems from the maps held at the Allard Pierson, the combined museum and special collections of Amsterdam University Library. The rich map collection created by Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis (1797-1872) is the central element of this book which helps you to perceive more borders than you would have imagined yourself. This post offers you some glimpses of the riches of this book and some reflections about them.

150 years Bodel Nijenhuis collection

Leiden University Library celebrates this year the arrival of a great gift 150 years ago. In his will Bodel Nijenhuis donated his vast collection of maps and atlases, not just for the Netherlands but for many other countries, too, to Leiden University Library. It became the core collection of the current Maps and Atlases department. For his new book Kester Freriks not only worked together with curator Martijn Storms. Storms provided for each of the twenty maps shown a description with background information. In each chapter Freriks walked in the particular landscape of the map with different people helping him to either find traces of old borders or to perceive better the meaning of still visible border markings in a landscape.

Kester Freriks is a keen observer. He came first to my attention when I found his book Vogels kijken [Watching birds] (Amsterdam 2009) where he gave succinct descriptions of 300 birds he saw himself in the Netherlands, each of them shown with beautiful old drawings from the library of Artis, the Amsterdam zoo. His concise bird observations originally appeared in the NRC newspaper. In 2010 appeared Verborgen wildernis [Hidden wilderness], written with Jan W.H. Werner of the Allard Pierson, with stories about walks at surprisingly wild locations in my densely populated country, combined with short notes about old maps showing these areas in earlier centuries . Later on Freriks offered with Joyce Roodnat and Erik van Zuylen a hommage to the nine volumes of the Atlas der Neederlanden in a book showing both old and modern maps accompanying Freriks’ observations during various short walking tours in my country [Wandelingen der Nederlanden. Hedendaagse voetreizen door historisch Nederland (Amsterdam 2013)]. Writing about him makes me smile about my own series of posts with adventures of a walking historian…

Maps in many genres

This new book pleases me much. Freriks’ choice to walk together with different people decidedly enlivens the book. The cover of Grensverkenningen shows a map dealing with a national border, in fact a very particular one. After the French occupation of the Netherlands during Napoleon’s reign new borders were drawn at the Congress of Vienna (1815). The map shows the projected border of the new province Limburg with Prussia in the area near the town of Roermond, the former main town of Opper-Gelre, one of the four regions constituing the duchy of Gelre (Guelders). Here Freriks made a walk with Peer Roselie, city archivist of Sittard and Geleen. They ended at Gangelt where German territory now cuts deep into Limburg, not as planned on this map. Gangelt is the place where the famous Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) was a pupil at the Latin school. I suppose this map with both a military and a legal purpose favored my decision to write about this book here, but anyway the combination of insights brought together is simply most captivating (pp. 202-213).

"Brouillon de carte - ou plan des prairies de Doorweerth+ - COLLBN Port 10 N 208
Brouillon de carte – ou plan des prairies de Doorweerth, ca. 1700 – image: Leiden University Library, Maps and Atlases, COLLBN Port 10 N 208

The second chapter (pp. 30-41) opens with a beautiful map created around 1700 showing a part of Guelders – now Gelderland – near the Rhine river and castle Doorwerth, to the west of Arnhem. Architectural photographer Luuk Kramer accompanied Freriks on his walk. This map uses at least partially a bird’s eye perspective. When you look this way the tiny coloured details appear indeed very bright, not just the castle Doorwerth and its gardens, but also for example the nearby gallows. Freriks’ book does show such details very well. The only thing to complain about are the modest dimensions of his book, but for the same reason its price is modest, too.

Until now I mentioned two map genres which are fairly common, a frontier map and a domanial map. In the chapter introducing Bodel Nijenhuis and in another chapter Freriks uses several maps of Leiden showing the impact of the 1807 gunpowder disaster killing many people and destroying an area along the Rapenburg canal in the old city centre (pp. 68-79). Leiden figures also in a chapter around a late seventeenth-century set of city maps showing the division of neighbourhoods (pp. 106-117).

The forces of nature come in particular into view in the chapters about two islands. First comes a chapter focusing on the former island Urk, once a vital point for ships sailing the former Zuiderzee from Amsterdam to the North Sea, now located in Flevoland, a province reclaimed from the sea in the last century (pp. 118-127). From 1660 to 1792 the city of Amsterdam even owned Urk. Freriks looks at a map from 1649 showing a screen of wooden poles protecting the inhabitants against the sea, and he walks with local historian Johannes Kramer. The battle against the sea was eventually lost at another island. In the early eighteenth century the village of West-Vlieland could not be saved from the waves of the Wadden Sea (pp. 214-227). Beachcomber Dirk Bruins helped Freriks to find traces of this story centered around a map from 1712.

It is invidious to select here more chapters. When walking the nearly straight line of the frontier between the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe Freriks visited also the Drents Archief in Assen (pp. 138-151). The Semslinie is reputedly the first linear frontier drawn on a map. It was created in order to settle disputes about fens claimed both by the powerful province Groningen and the much poorer landschap Drenthe. This frontier runs very close to Ter Apel, once the location of a Cistercian monastery, but nowadays known for a very different institution, the national arrival centre of the Dutch inmigration service. Freriks shows his mastery as a writer at its strongest by mentioning very calm this utter difference, and leaving space for your own thoughts about this year’s appalling humanitarian situation. Just for the record, I cannot help remembering the medieval Hollandse Rading, a straight line between the diocese Utrecht and the county of Holland running between the villages Maartensdijk and Breukelen.

Whether discussing a map showing the changing role of waters near the Vecht river in Utrecht, walking the grounds of a former estate near Leiden, imagining the church bells of Leeuwarden toiling and thus delineating jurisdictions outside the town walls or looking into the vast empty lands reclaimed from the sea near Groningen Freriks shows himself a wonderful observer. Moreover, he bcomes a true partner of his companions, be they philosopher, photographer or archivist. At home you can look online at several of the maps discussed in Grensverkenningen within the digital collections of Leiden University Library. This subdomain is not mentioned in the book, but another website might be interesting, too, for your own imaginary walks, the Actuele Hoogtebestand Nederland (AHN), an online map showing in amazing detail current heights in my country which partially is situated below sea level. Freriks’ book is a splendid invitation to explore historic maps about many Dutch regions, to walk yourself in towns and the countryside, and to open dialogues with people helping each other to gain shared fresh insights about the past and present.

Kester Freriks and Martijn Storms, Grensverkenningen. Langs oude grenzen in Nederland (Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennep, 2022; 247 pp.; ISBN: 9789025314637)

A mirror of Dutch scripts: Some thoughts around a manual for palaeography

Cover Schrittspiegel by Peter Horsman and Peter Sigmond

This month at long last the third edition appeared of a renown manual for Dutch palaeography from 1500 to the mid-eighteenth century by Peter Horsman and Peter Sigmond, Schriftspiegel. Oud-Nederlandse handschriften van de 13de tot in de 18de eeuw (3rd edition, Hilversum, 2022). For at least ten years no new manual of its kind had been published in the Netherlands and Belgium, and thus I was immediately curious about this revised edition, announced last year but printed and published only now. Which differences can be found between the last and this edition? What are its qualities, and where can one wish for more? Recently reading old scripts has developed for me a new dimension making me more aware of things to be expected in guidance when reading old archival records.

Both authors of the new Schriftspiegel [Mirror of scripts] are well known for their achievements. Peter Horsman worked as an archivist at the Dordrecht archives and taught at the Archiefschool and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Historian Peter Sigmond taught at the former Rijksarchiefschool and ended his professional career as head of collections at the Rijksmuseum. As a specialist of maritime history he taught also cultural history at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Thus it is only natural their manual shows a bit more examples of records from the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht and on maritime history than you would expect otherwise, and these are valuable elements of this book.

The use of calligraphy books in this manual attracted my attention so much that I decided to look at some length at this subject. The paragraph on Early Modern Dutch calligraphy follows directly after my review of the new Schriftspiegel which takes its name from a seventeenth-century namesake.

Safe guidance to old scripts

I was really anxious about the way Horsman and Sigmond would introduce old scripts in this edition. They opt for a rather concise introduction aiming at clarity for novice readers, and rightly so. It is wonderful how they use the calligraphy of scripts in two early sixteenth-century manuals, among them the Spieghel der schrijfkonste (…) by Jan van de Velde (Amsterdam 1608) as a key element to familiarize readers with examples of Dutch scripts. They did not forget to include also examples of scripts closer to Germany. Some texts are even written in German. The choice of further literature is very good, even if it a bit strange to find a number of manuals dealing with both Dutch palaeography and Early Modern archival records under the heading Taal en tekstverklaring [Language and textual interpretation]. Four examples of online manuals for Dutch palaeography are mentioned, three of them without the actual URL. Among the books on Dutch chronology the authors have not added the concise work by C.C. de Glopper-Zuiderland, In tijd gemeten. Inleiding tot de chronologie (Den Haag 1999). However, I did not really know about P.G.J. Sterkenburg, Een glossarium van zeventiende-eeuws Nederlands (3rd impr., The Hague, 1981), mentioned as available also online, but this book has not been digitized for the Digitale Bibliotheek der Nederlandse Letteren nor at Delpher incidentally. Some fact checking and editorial control would have helped to avoid such glitches and the impression both authors belong to an older generation.

In my view the best part of the introduction is the very good presentation of letter forms and the development of letters. Using color photographs of documents takes this certainly to a new level. The four pages on abbreviations are pretty good, although the typography could have been clearer. Here, too, the column with colorful examples redeems this easily, although using at some points a black or grey font on a blue background is not ideal. A list of often encountered abbreviations would have been most welcome.

The variety of Dutch scripts and archival records

Of course attention should now rapidly go to the 134 examples of Dutch scripts shown in this book, going from 1279 to 1753. The authors want to show texts in Dutch, and medieval texts in Latin have not been included at all. No. 100 from 1645 is in German. There are just two texts from the late thirteenth century, twelve from the fourteenth century, and seventeen from the fifteenth century. The sixteenth century is presented with 40 examples, and for the seventeenth century 55 texts and images are shown. By the way, for some longer texts two images are shown, always accompanied by transcriptions on the left page. The eighteenth century figures with just eight examples up to 1753, an addition to the edition Zutphen 1986 which ended in 1700. As in earlier editions you can find an explanation where to start in growing order of difficulty, going from the eighteenth century to the Middle Ages.

The choice and numbering of items has changed at a few points. A rather visible oddity are some dubious references. Take the very first item, a charter from 1279, “Stadsarchief Breda, VZ0010, inv.nr. 582”. The city archive in Breda has two collections with miscellaneous additions called Varia. This reference points to collection Varia 1; compare “V-1, collectie varia” in the edition 1986. The reference to item no. 133 is simply incomplete: With “Oud-Rechterlijk Archief Haarlem, inventarisnummer 3111” they do not indicate the inventory number, this is lacking. Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, 3111, Oud-Rechterlijke Archief Haarlem, inv.no. …” would be correct. It is a nice challenge to find the correct item number in the inventory, probably no. 780 (accounts, 1748).

You might guess correctly Tresoar is located at Leeuwarden which you could mistake easily for the Leeuwarden city archives, the Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden. The two locations of the Historisch Centrum Overijssel in Zwolle and Deventer are not sufficiently indicated, too. Two former professors at the Dutch school for archivists should realize adding the location is not just a wish or a whim but a necessary element in a transcription. Such infelicities should not hide the fact the authors have chosen documents from a wide range of Dutch archives, not only from the Nationaal Archief, The Hague and the provincial capitals, but also from other city and regional archives. Only Brabant and Limburg could have been presented with more items from regional archives.

In a book written by a specialist of Dutch maritime history you will be happy to see for instance a ship journal kept by Michiel Adriaansz. de Ruyter, in document no. 95 from 1633 still a young chief mate. With a view to the large overseas trade and the Dutch colonial empire some attention to Dutch connections with other countries outside Europe is only natural. As no. 90 you see the famous letter about the transaction bringing ownership of Manhattan to the Dutch in 1626. For example, no. 128 from 1703 is an attestation with the views of a Dutch woman about de swarten, “the blacks” in India. No. 123 is a document about paying ransoms for Dutch slaves in Morocco in 1687, and no. 134 from 1753 tells you about slaves in the Cape colony.

Is there any comparable manual for Dutch palaeography? The only serious competitor to this manual was published thirty years ago, the Album paleographicum XVIII Neerlandicarum. Paleografisch album van Nederland, België, Luxemburg en Frankrijk, edited by R. Baetens, C. Dekker and S. Maarschalkerweerd-Dechamps (Turnhout-Utrecht 1992) which includes also medieval documents from the tenth century onwards and documents written in Latin, Dutch, French and German. Its introduction is given in Dutch and French. It reminds me about the very real need for people not fluent in Dutch all over the world for a concise introduction in English. Horsman’s and Sigmond’s introduction deserves an English translation.

The length and details of this post should be a sure indication I think this book deserves both close inspection and a warm welcome! The strength of this manual was and remains the choice of a splendidly wide variety of documents, not in the least for those documents touching on legal history. The authors have listed them conveniently. For example, the range of document types for notarial acts is very large. Horsman and Sigmond rightly refer for more on this subject to A.F. Gehlen’s guide Notariële akten uit de 17de en 18de eeuw. Handleiding voor gebruikers (Zutphen 1986). The glossary of terms and old words brings you many words with a legal nature, a feature of earlier editions, too. Each item in the manual is given with a short and helpful introduction. The way letter forms are explained is the most salient visual change as are the color photographs, and also the format is slightly larger. I expected the highest possible quality of this new edition of a classic work for doing Dutch history, certainly when you realize it was prepared during a period with lockdowns. Surely I agree this new edition improves on the second edition.

Ironically, some things I applaud here were the very points criticized by J.L. van der Gouw in his review for the Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 98 (1985) 414-415 of the first edition (Zutphen 1984). His prophecy that things helping amateurs and students would make them lazy is alluring, but I honestly think good guidance is not amiss when starting and long afterwards. You might almost think Horsman and Sigmond as a small revenge did not give the publication year of the third edition of Van der Gouw’s Oud schrift in Nederland (Alphen aan de Rijn, 1980).

Since July 2022 I work at the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht, Wijk bij Duurstede. Among other tasks I will help volunteers with transcribing archival records, an important recent tradition of this regional archive. Both my young and senior colleagues rightly greeted the new edition of the Schriftspiegel with enthusiasm as a valuable and serviceable manual for newcomers to old Dutch scripts, professionals and even the general public.

P.J. Horsman and J.P. Sigmond, Schriftspiegel. Oud-Nederlandse handschriften van de 13de tot in de 18de eeuw (3rd edition, Hilversum: Verloren, 2022; 296 pp.; ISBN 9789087049607).

A bibliographical excursion on Dutch Early Modern calligraphy

Cover of Jan van den Velde, Spieghel der schrijfkonste (...) (Rotterdam: Van Waesberghe, 1605) - image source STCN
Cover of Jan van den Velde, Spieghel der schrijfkonste (…) (Rotterdam: Van Waesberghe, 1605) – image source STCN

Using calligraphy as a start and only almost as an afterthought actual archival records is sound for a didactic purpose, going thus from the easy and recognizable to more common and even ugly scripts you encounter in actual research. I thought it would be helpful to guide you here to a digital copy of the marvellous Spieghel der schrijfkonste by Jan van der Velde, and this led me to a discovery I would have liked to avoid. I wonder very much why the authors made the mistake to state the Rijksmuseum copy shown in their manual was printed at Amsterdam in 1608. The library catalogue clearly shows as location and date of printing Rotterdam 1605, published in three parts. The Universal Short Tile Catalogue (USTC) does not mention this copy (no. 1028389). The three editions mentioned in the USTC have all derived printing locations, dates and printers.

The only digital copy I found at Umeå Universitet of this edition shows only two parts from 1605 (part I, scripts, 75 pp., and part III, scripts, 147 pp.). When you check the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN) for no. 833360815 it becomes clear the Rijksmuseum has taken its information from three separate STCN items for its library catalogue entry, but in its turn the STCN shows clearly the Rijksmuseum has several copies of this beautiful work, not only the one stemming from the Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap. Luckily the value of the introduction does not mar other qualities of the new Schriftspiegel, but a bit more carefulness with the very book the authors took as one of their models would have been right. Dealing with a book without a clear location and printing date – and changing titles! – is a difficult matter, in particular for a multi volume set like this one. In addition this work has also been translated soon, another thing to complicate matters to be investigated. I will not try to solve these bibliographical questions here entirely, but just wanting to give you a link to a digitized version led me to this addendum.

Let’s end here with sending those interested in seventeenth-century calligraphy to the fine commented list of (digitized) works at Penna Volans. This particular Van de Velde edition does not figure in it with a link to a digital version, only for its title page. However, the Allard Pierson at Amsterdam, the combined special collections and university museum of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, put images of it online at Flickr among their calligraphy albums, alas with few meta-data, thus leaving you in the dark which of their three copies they used.

Horsman and Sigmond also give some examples from Cornelis Dirckz. Boissens’ Exemplaren van veelderhande nederlantsche gheschriften (…) (Amsterdam 1617), and here, too, you face the challenge of finding a copy at all. The STCN nor the USTC does mention it. The Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog lists copies at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin [Kunstbibliothek, OS 5016 quer] and the Bibliothèque nationale universitaire at Strasbourg. The Berlin catalogue clearly indicated the place of printing and date have been inferred, and adds question marks. It leaves me wondering a bit what book the authors really saw. In view of its rarity and the changing titles of editions a clear reference to the copy used is simply necessary. These Early Modern calligraphy books remain a feast for the eye and a bibliographical challenge.

A postscript

The Noord-Hollands Archief in Haarlem has digitized its copies of several caliigraphy books created by Jan van de Velde (1568-1623), among them its copy of the Spieghel der Schrijfkonste, dated 1605 (part I, signature 185 H 22:1).

A digital approach to the Early Modern inquisition in Portugal

Banner e-Inquisition

Sometimes a word evokes almost automatically an association with a distinct historical period. The word inquisition is first and foremost linked with medieval Europe. On this blog and website I explain why speaking about the inquisition is misleading. In Early Modern Europe the Spanish and Italian inquisition received most attention from historians, but in Italy you have to distinguish between Rome and Venice. Recently the project TraPrInq started for the transcription and study of records of the inquisition in Portugal between 1536 and 1821. The project is accompanied by the blog e-Inquisition hosted by the international Hypotheses network. In this post I will look at the plans of the project team and its importance for studying both Portuguese and Brazilian history.

Records from four centuries

The blog for TraPrInq itself show nicely how much this project is in a starting phase. While preparing this post its layout changed. At the blog a concise presentation of the project is offered in French, Portuguese and English. The core of the current team is the Centro de Humanidades (CHAM) at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Alas I could not find any information about this project running in 2022 and 2023 at the website of the CHAM. However, it is stated TraPrInq is connected with an earlier CHAM project on censorship and the Portuguese inquisition. One of the main objectives is to create transcriptions of court records using the Transkribus technology, discussed here earlier in a post about Early Modern court records and legal consultations in Germany. In fact Hervé Baudry, the blog editor, is responsible for the Transkribus model for Latin-Portuguese print from the seventeenth century. By the way, this and other models are also present for free use without registration at the recently launched platform Transkribus AI.


As for now 140 records have been transcribed, good for some 190,000 words, a fair base for a HTR (Handwritten Text Recogniition) model in Transkribus. I was somewhat mystified by the utter absence of information about the actual location of the records to be transcribed and studied. The clue for a unmistakable identification is the fact the records stem from a tribunal with jurisdiction both in Portugal and Brazil. The Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (ANTT) in Lisbon is the holding institution. It is not a bad idea to start with one of its four virtual exhibitions concerning the inquisition in Portugal. preferably with Inquisição da Lisboa online telling you about the nearly 20,000 registers for which 2,3 million digital images have been put online. The ANTT has within the archive of the Tribunal de Santo Oficio (TSO) records of the Inquisição de Lisboa (IL). The scope note and inventory in Portuguese of this archival subfonds is available online at the :Portuguese Digitarq portal. Series 028 contains the processos. Digital images of documents are directly linked to numerous items.

Perhaps due to my unfamiliarity with the Portuguese inquisition I tried to look a bit wider for information about its archival traces. The wiki of FamilySearch brings you only to records for a few years digitized earlier and available at SephardicGen. The online inventory of the ANTT is mentioned by Family Search, but not its inclusion of digitized records. It is a nice exercise to compare versions of the relevant Wikipedia articles in English, Portuguese and Spanish, in particular for their bibliographies and linguistic preferences. Luckily I found a special of the Brazilian journal Politeia: Historie e Sociedade 20/1 (2021) with a Dossiê Temático Tribunal do Santo Ofício Português, 200 anos após extinção: História e Historiografia opening with a contribution by Grayce Mayre Bonfim Souza about the archive of the Tribunal do Santo Oficio.

Let me not forget to note here the CHAM has created an online index of the fonds Manuscritos do Brasil held at the ANTT. The e-Inquisition blog contains currently apart from the brief introduction five articles,four in Portuguese and one in English touching a wide variety of themes, The recent brief article in English brings you an overview of the palaeographers and historians in the project team. Baudry wrote for example about censorship in the books of Henricus Cornelius Agrippa and (in French) about the famous trial of Manuel Maria de Barbosa du Bocage, with images and transcriptions of four documents. Baudry’s article about Pedro Lupina Freire brings a seventeenth-century notary into the spotlights who became an agent for the tribunal. A most fascinating article is concerned with the double use of asterisks by censors, both to hide information and to highlight matters.

No doubt more information about the TraPrInq project will soon appear at the e-Inquisition blog and at the website of the CHAM, in particular concerning the progress at Transkribus of the creation of the new HTR model for Portuguese Early Modern script, and the location where transcriptions will become available online for the wider scholarly community. Thanks to this transcription project the records of the Inquisição de Lisboa will surely show more of their rich content touching many parts of the Early Modern world, not just Jewish and colonial history. The combination of a detailed inventory, digitized images and digital transcriptions will make it possible to ask different questions. This project shows at least the very real need for trained palaeographers, but I am sure the knowledge of legal historians, too, will be necessary to tap this wealth of information.

An addendum

In Spring 2022 the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal held the exposition Bibliotecas limpas. Censura dos livros impressos nos séculos XV a XIX curated by Hervé Baudry. The virtual exposition Bocage 1735-1805 created by the BN brings you to the life and works of this poet; the chronology mentions his trial in 1802.

Censorship by the Portuguese inquisition is the subject of the portal Inquisition in Action launched on June 20, 2022 by the CIUHCT, also in Lisbon.

French laws between 1795 and 1799

Startsecreen LexDir

Interpreting the French Revolution is a kind of historical industry. New interpretations and fresh assessments sometimes seem to tumble over each other or follow in relatively quick succession. Some watersheds remain visible, at least for those not immersed in the latest relevant literature. The fall of Robespierre and the end of the Great Terror in 1795 mark a period, as does the coming to power of Napoleon in 1799. The period between 1795 and 1799 with the Directoire might seem a minor interruption of the chain of revolutionary developments.

In my series of posts on the French Revolution I have put legal developments at the centre. With the completion and launch of a database with legislation enacted between 1795 and 1799 it becomes possible to look again at sweeping views of the character of the French Revolution. Did it really only destroy the Ancien Régime or did it build lasting structures at a legal level? Did only Napoleon erect a final new legal order with his Code civil and Code penal? Let’s look here at the database La Loi de la Révolution française 1789-1799, available at the ARTFL platform of the University of Chicago. What are the qualities of this project long known for its acronym ANR LexDir?

Legislative activity under the Directoire

Ttitle page of the "Corps législatif"

In 2015 I published here my post ‘Laws and the French Revolution’. Whatever the merits of this contribution with lots of information concerning digital projects featuring information related to French legal history in the late eighteenth century, it remains a surprisingly often visited post. Over the years I have made some adjustments and additions to it. The French research project ANR LexDir started some ten years ago, but only now I spotted news about its completion and the launch of the database at the end of the international scholarly meeting La Directoire fait sa loi! held by the Université Paris 1 Panthéon- Sorbonne on September 9-11, 2021. You can download the program (PDF) of this event.

The sheer number of laws and decrees enacted between 1789 and 1799 is much larger than you would guess at first. Modern national parliaments and the European Union do have a substantial legal production nowadays, but the members of the revolutionary assemblées succeeded in creating a massive quantity of legal enactments. How did they have any spare time for steering the French Revolution through all perils?! At the ARTFL platform the project team with Yann Arzel Durelle-Marc, Anne Simonin and Pierre Serna underlines in their concise introduction the fact the French Revolution was a highly legal phenomenon, something already noted by Jules Michelet with his vignette “le triomphe du droit”. The new resource should enable you to put such statements in due perspective.

The new platform at ARTFL offers not only the legislation published between 1795 and 1799, but also the laws published since 1789 in the Collection Baudouin which remains separately available. The Collection du Louvre – with eighteen volumes covering the years 1791 to 1794 – is the source for a part of the legislation covered also by the Collection Baudouin, with 85 volumes for the period 1789-1799. Its volumes 68 to 85 cover the Directoire from October 1795 to December 1799. In fact if you like to focus on either one of these collections you can directly go for them at the search interface.

With the database at the ARTFL platform comes the rich search functionality of Philologic4. Not only you can browse for a particular year and use a general free search option, but also a recherche avancée enabling you to look at contexts, collocation and chronology of laws. The advanced search mode allows you to filter out headings, to skip indexes, to use either normal (Gregorian) or revolutionary dates, and to filter for subjects and titles of laws, to mention only the most important features. These filters are also at hand in a filter panel to the right of search results. You can present results with only the exact text or show them in their context. My first impression is that of a veil lifted from an amorphous mass of information. The feeling you can search here in full depth is most attractive and promising.

How should one appreciate the value of this new online resource? It is one thing to be able to use digitized works, for example in the splendid selection Essentiels du droit of the Gallica digital library showing you many sources for French legal history, but searching in these sources is another thing. A database gives you new search opportunities. Having at your disposal all revolutionary legislation coming from the capital and being able to use it as a textual corpus helps you to put materials from outside Paris from the various départements into more and deeper relief, to mention just one possible approach. In the next paragraph we will see how French revolutionary legislation does not have to be studied as a single or isolated subject.

The wonders of ARTFL


Some recent additions at the ARTFL platform merit particular mention, too. The section What’s new at ARTFL has much to offer! The ten volumes of the Oeuvres complètes de Maximilien Robespierre have become available online. You can use the Philologic Federated Bibliography for bibliographic research across all ARTFL resources.

Most interesting for legal historians and everyone else is the first version of the Intertextual Hub, a portal for searching with one search action in a number of resources, among them nearly 26,000 French revolutionary pamphlets digitized by The Newberry Library in Chicago, the Archives parlementaires and also revolutionary laws, the latter with an English search interface. Add to them the Journaux de Marat and eighteenth-century works on political thought and economy for the Goldsmith-Kress collection, and you will agree with me this new hub is indeed most valuable. Among similarly searchable resources elsewhere I should mention the newspaper Le Moniteur Universel (1789-1830). Florida State University has created a searchable version of this gazette nationale.

In view of the riches awaiting you both in this alluring Intertextual Hub and in the database with French revolutionary legislation from 1789 until the end of 1799 you will probably not want to read here much longer than absolutely necessary! I will end with warm thanks to the research team in Paris and the ARTFL staff at Chicago for bringing this project to a successful conclusion. I had best offer you here below the links to the complete series of my posts concerning legal history and the French Revolution.

The first article in this series, ‘Laws and the French Revolution’, appeared in February 2015. The second article came in June 2015, ‘Some notes on the history of tolerance’. A third post was published in March 2016, ‘Images and the road to the French Revolution’. The fourth post from August 2016 focused on legal briefs before, during and after the French Revolution, ‘Legal rhetorics and reality in Early Modern France: The factums’. Among earlier posts you might still like to look at ‘Rousseau at 300 years: nature and law’ (2012).

A dictionary for the Spanish colonial empire and canon law

This year I follow my tradition of starting the new year with a post featuring either the law of an empire or an empire, and this year I offer the former. A constitutive element of the international project based at Mainz for the School of Salamanca is a political-legal dictionary. In an earlier post I mentioned the dictionary only briefly, because at tha time it did not yet exist. However, things have changed since 2017, and it is certainly interesting to look now in more detail at the form, contents and progress of the Diccionario Histórico de Derecho Canónico en Hispanoamérica y Filipinas, Siglos XVI-XVIII. Using the simple abbreviation DCH has particular consequences for finding this online dictionary. Anyway, the DCH is not the first dictionary appearing at my blog.

Studying Spanish colonial law

Research into Spanish legal history and colonial laws and legislation in the Spanish colonial empire in Latin America is in particular associated with the Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory (MPILHLT) in Frankfurt am Main. Last year its name changed a lot by adding a third department for legal theory to the two departments for legal history, and by removing the word European from its name. Speaking of names, nowadays the term School of Salamanca is no longer linked exclusively to sixteenth-century thinkers teaching at this Spanish university, nor is it confined to law or theology.

The core of the project of the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz for the School of Salamanca is a digital collection with 116 works mainly published in the sixteenth century. At the website you can also consult the series of working papers published by the research team. The project website describes as an objective a dictionary for juridical-political languages with eventually some 200 entries, taking their cues from both Spanish and Latin words. Entries will appear from 2020 onwards, but no entries are visible at the project website. This dictionary is a separate aim, not to be confused with the DCH, as Ana Arango kindly pointed out to me.

At this point you must be aware absolutely of the role of the MPILHLT within this project. At its website the information has been placed on a number of web pages. There is a general page for this cooperation with the Akademie in Mainz, but you will have to navigate also to the web page for the School of Salamanca. This page alerts you to the blog of the Mainz website, where the blog is found under the heading News. The Frankfurt page for the Salamanca project does not mention its own page for the Historical Dictionary of Canon Law in Hispanic America and the Philippines 16th-18th century (DCH). On that page you will find the actual entries now available halfway at the heading Blog, not the one and only spot where you would indeed expect it to appear.

Let’s not hide the fact I had noticed the abbreviation DCH at the Frankfurt website earlier on, especially among the new releases, but somehow the direct link with this project was not clear for me. In a way it is just a small revenge of using too much abbreviations… At the third Salamanca page in Frankfurt, the one for Salamanca Publications in the publications section, the DCH is yet absent. Actually the series of published entries for the DCH can be found also at the SSRN page of the MPHLHT where they appear in the chronological sequence of publication.

To be honest, this situation is only temporary, but it is a nice example of a dilemma between providing information about final results and preliminary publications. In a town with much attention to system theory this should make you smile! The two institutions should not hesitate to give the new temporary form of the DCH at the Hypotheses network simply its due as a perfectly sensible solution for the time being. No doubt plans for the definitive form of publication are being contemplated right now.

The DCH as work in progress

There was a time when great dictionaries were published only in print, often at a slow pace. Decades after the start the final volume would appear at last, and decades afterwards some supplement could be printed. This simple picture does not exist anymore. Many dictionaries have been digitized or their new edition appears both online and in print.

At the DCH blog – also present at Twitter, @DiccionarioDCH – you should not jump immediately to the published entries. It is wiser to look first at the explanation about its structure (Estructura). The entries – 120 is their number mentioned here, elsewhere a total of 200 or 300 entries is stated – will be organized according to the order of the five books in the Decreatles Gregorii IX, the Liber Extra published in 1234 on behalf of pope Gregory IX. The decretals in this official papal collection were divided into five books headed Iudex, Iudicium, Clerus, Connubia and Crimen. Church councils in the Spanish New World used this division also, as did the major European handbooks for canon law in the Early Modern period. There is a table showing this division and the entries currently available under each heading. Four general entries on canon law, moral theology, the Patronato Real and historiography will function as introductions.

The nature and form of this dictionary can best be tasted in the most recent published entries which all mention immediately the DCH blog. I restrict myself to two entries, Vicarios under the heading Iudex and Sentencia under Iudicium; the links here are to the introductions on the DCH blog.

Susana Frias gives a crisp and clear summary of her article Vicario. She looks at the various positions of the vicario, in particular at his role as a judge delegated by a bishop, but she mentions other types of vicars as well. She gives examples of the context, for example the tension between religious orders and bishops, ad the growing influence of the Spanish crown on ecclesiastical institutions. This summary helps a reader much. Her contribution, downloadable from SSRN, has 23 pages, with abstracts at SSRN in Spanish and English. Frias’ article has ten sections. After a few lines about the pope as the Vicar of Christ she deals with the vicar-general of a bishop, the vicario capitular functioning during a sede vacante in a diocese. The vicario foraneo is a judicial official representing episcopal jurisdiction in a district. A vicario coadjutor is the figure closest to a parish vicar, an assistant to the curate. With the vicario apostolico we encounter another familiar figure in canon law, the administrator of a region without diocesan organization. The function of the vicario castrense was created in the seventeenth century as an army chaplain. The last vicars in this article are the vicarios within religious orders, the officials representing the provincial, sometimes for visitations as a visitador. In the last section (pp. 17-23) Frias offers a concise historiographic conclusion and a substantial list of primary sources and secondary literature used for this contribution. With ample references to the sources in each section this is clearly the kind of dictionary article which can both help you quickly to gain basic knowledge and offer you also the necessary background information.

Faustino Martinez divides in his abstract his contribution Sentencia on verdicts into two sections, a general section on the place of verdicts within a trial, and a section focusing on developments and characteristics of verdicts within the Spanish empire. This is exactly also the abstract in Spanish and English at SSRN. I had expected to find at the beginning of his article with 48 pages a visual overview the headings of the subsections, but he lists in fact the nine sections in the last lines of his introduction. An indication of their respective importance would be welcome. After ten pages it is clear the section Elementos y modos de la sentencia is such part of his contribution (pp. 7-17). All other sections are rather short but densely packed with information. I would single out the sections on nullity of sentences and on abuse of justice by starting a process based on invalid claims. They put things really into relief. The section on typical developments in the Spanish colonial empire, too, is relatively short (pp. 32-38), as is the historiographic balance which points out a substantial number of matters to be investigated. There is much space at the end for the primary sources and scholarly literature. On balance the subject deserves indeed a long and intricate contribution with relatively short sections. On purpose I have not tried to summarize every section, because this would not tell you how much Martinez has to offer here, both on Spanish and colonial legal history.

The DCH in context

How should one judge this scholarly project? At some point during writing my mind turned to the project Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. This dictionary has a similar long and telling title, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (8 vol., Stuttgart 1972-2007), edited by Reinhard Koselleck, Werner Conze and Otto Brunner. GG contains in 9000 pages some 120 articles on a number of key concepts for German history, politics and society. This example must surely at some moments have crossed the minds of the Salamanca team, too. I suppose we should applaud the fact we can consult online in open access the entries of the DCH! The DCH is an international project dealing with a much wider part of the world forthe Early Modern period.

My two choices for first impressions of the DCH happen to deal in particular with institutional history. The strong point of the DCH and the Salamanca project at Frankfurt am Main and Mainz is its aim of putting things at their right place within wider contexts, and thus institutions get their due. For me the veil from the abbreviation DCH has been lifted! You can learn a lot from the entries that have already appeared, starting with the bibliographical sections, but I am sure you will encounter much else that is interesting for your own research and general knowledge of the vast Spanish colonial empire and its impact on Latin America’s history and society.

As for the sources used you can bet the MPILHLT at Frankfurt am Main has several editions or even several copies of the main works used by the team. It is sensible to look beyond the works digitized for this purpose. Apart from the portal for the School of Salamanca you can look also at De Indiarum iure. My earlier post does point to some other projects elsewhere as well, but it told you less about some digital resources now available. For copies of works held by libraries and archives in Latin America you might want to look also at my web page for digital libraries. In particular in Mexico there is a large number of digital libraries. For tracing Early Modern works you can benefit from the Catálogo Colectivo de Impresos Latinoamericanos hasta 1851 (University of California at Riverside), a union catalog for Latin American imprints, and a number of bibliographical projects and works for and from Mexico. My remarks about the visibility of the DCH blog will no doubt soon be superfluous, because curious readers surely will find the DCH quickly. Our thanks should go to the international team making such a project feasible. Bringing canon law into view as a major element of the Spanish transatlantic empire and its legal history is just one of its qualities.

A postscript

On January 19, 2022 the first of the four general introductory chapters was published. Faustino Martinez contributed an article on procedure in canon law. I should like also to alert you to the series of colorful videos created by the research team for the DCH blog.

For those interested in the development of the Spanish language in their colonial empire it is useful to mention here the Corpus Electrónico del Español Colonial Mexicano (COREECOM), a project of the Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Ana Arango kindly pointed me to the fact the dictionary for political-juridical thought of the School of Salamanca project in Mainz is a different project. Hopefully this difference can be indicated at the crucial points of the websites for both dictionaries.

It can do no harm to mention here the digital collection of Spanish legal documents (15th-19th centuries) created by the Library of Congress. 106 documents were labeled Canon law. At its crowdsourcing platform By The People the Library of Congress runs a campaign for transcribing these records, Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents.

I would like to point here also to the digital versions in open access of the volume The School of Salamanca: A Case of Global Knowledge Production, edited by Thomas Duve, José Luis Egio and Christiane Birr (Leiden-Boston 2021; Max Planck Studies in Global Legal History of the Iberian Worlds, vol. 2; online, (PDF, 50 MB)), and to Conceptos, autores, instituciones. Revisión crítica de la investigación reciente sobre la Escuela de Salamanca (2008-19) y bibliografía multidisciplinar, Celia Alejandra Ramirez Santos and José Luis Egio (eds.) (Madrid, 2020; online (PDF, 1,8 MB)).

A shared past. Zeeland and the Dutch slave trade

Banner "Zwart verleden. Het verhaal van de Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie"

You do not expect after the six o‘clock news on television on two following evenings a documentary movie about slavery and the role of the Middelburg Commerce Company and its rich archive held at the Zeeuws Archief in Middelburg, yet exactly this could be seen on Dutch television on November 2 and 3, 2021. The series Zwart verleden: Het archief van de Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie [Black past] with six items was shown in two installments, each during some twenty minutes. On the tv playback platform NPO Start you can retrieve both videos which appeared in a series called Noord-Zuid-Oost-West [North-South-East-West] produced by Dutch regional broadcasting institutions and sent also by the broadcasting society Omroep MAX. The stories to be told using the materials at Middelburg are special indeed. In this post I will look at both videos created by Omroep Zeeland and at the archival records and other resources offered online thanks to the services of the Zeeland Archives.

A very active company

The story of the Middelburgsche Commercie Compagnie (MCC) is perhaps not unfamiliar to historians, but for the general public it is first of all revealing that this company existed at all outside the province Holland. It was not a part of the Dutch East Indies Company nor of the West Indies Company. By giving the story of Dutch slave traders a place within in a city this subject in Dutch and world history becomes more alive. The MCC, a privately owned company, was active as a sailing company from 1720 until the early nineteenth century; as a wharf it existed until 1889.

The first video starts with Hannie Kool, director of the Zeeland Archives, reading a letter from people on the Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao asking the company to send them twice a year 250 to 300 new enslaved persons, with very precise specifications for their personal qualities such as age and length. The directors of the MCC answered they could not fulfill this request, because they depended on the fortune of commerce. Fortune or misfortune led to 113 outbound voyages between 1720 and 1800 on the trans-Atlantic slave trade routes between Europe, West-Africa and the Caribbean.

In the second part of the first video archivist Ad Tramper looks at the voyages of the ship d‘Eenigheid (Unity), a ship measuring just 23 meter (70 feet). The journey to buy slaves in Africa could take as many as 200 days, and sailing to the Caribbean took some ten weeks. Tramper underlines the fact society in the eighteenth century could be very hard. The harsh treatment of slaves was taken for granted, but for many people this literally came not within view. The third part focuses on a person aboard the d‘Eenigheid who did professionally have a closer look at enslaved people. Ship surgeon Petrus Couperus kept a journal about his activities and medical care. He wrote for example about an enslaved woman dying from melancholy and sadness, and he noted how many enslaved jumped overboard. The book by D.H. Gallandat, De noodige onderrichtingen voor den slaaf-handelaren (1769) is also mentioned.

In the second video you look with Roosanne Goudbeek of the Zeeuws Archief at the voyages in general. European commodities were sold in in Africa to buy not just enslaved persons, but also gold and ivory. The voyage of the d‘Eenigheid did not end in Suriname. In a letter to the directors its captain wrote he judged it wiser to sail westwards to the colony Berbice. At Fort Nassau on the Berbice river the enslaved persons were auctioned. A report from this auction is part of the archive. The names of the enslaved people were not recorded nor their destination. Records about the sale of a plantation give you an idea of the way life and work were organized. The slaves belonged to the inventory for sale, and they are mentioned with their name and function. A letter even survives with felicitations to the directors of the MCC for the high prices fetched at the auction.

The fifth item in the series shows Gerhard Kok, known for his efforts to creaet quick access to computer transcribed acts concerning Dutch colonial history among the records of the Durch East Indies and West Indies companies and the colonies Suriname, Berbice and Guyana. He looks at the economic importance of the slave trade for the Dutch economy, amounting to between 5 to 10 percent around 1770 for Middelburg, and presumably more in the nearby port of Vlissingen (Flushing). He presents also a chilling document about the gruesome treatment of enslaved persons on the ship Middelburgsch Welvaren [The welfare of Middelburg] leading to their horrible death after a mutiny. The case is known thanks to the investors wanting compensation from an insurance company.

Resistance and protest

The letter about the escape of Leonora - image Zeeuws Archief / Omroep Zeeland
The letter about the escape of Leonora

In the final installment of the series a number of 113 voyages with some 30,000 enslaved persons between 1732 and 1803 is given. Roosanne Goudbeek looks at some remarkable stories of slaves trying to escape their fate in the Dutch Caribbean. The slave Leonora succeeded in getting aboard an inbound ship from the harbor of Curaçao, and captain Jan Bijl wrote about the sheer surprise when she was detected after a day on the Atlantic. The owners of Leonora reclaimed here from the directors of the MCC, but these responded they could not do this, in particular because she was at the very point of becoming a Christian by baptism in the Dutch reformed church. This was not the only form of resistance. During at least twenty voyages mutinies occurred. Slaves refused to eat, other slaves tried to jump from a ship. Some women threw their children into the sea, and many tried to escape from plantations.

In Zeeland some people protested in public against slavery and its consequences. Ad Tramper is shown reading the sermon against slavery preached by vicar Bernardus Smytegelt in the first half of the eighteenth century, printed in his book Des Christen eenige troost in leven en sterven (Middelburg 1747). Tramper mentions the distance between the actual practices stemming from slavery and Europe as a determining factor for the very low number of people protesting. Things happening far away can seem less important. Goudbeek stresses the unique richness of the MCC archive. Tramper ends the video expressing his hope that understanding this period of Dutch history both from white and black perspectives will help to gain more understanding of a shared history.

Using the archives of the MCC

From my brief summary of this television series of just 40 minutes you can hopefully see the clear effort of the creators to present a balanced view of the involvement of Zeeland and this company in Middelburg in slavery during a relatively short period. Some elements in the video are definitely not new. The engravings of the plan of a slave ship are just as well known as the drawing by Aernout van Buchell of The Globe theatre in London. The sermon by Smytegelt duly figures for example in the book accompanying in 2011 the television series De slavernij discussed here, too [De slavernij. Mensenhandel van de koloniale tijd tot nu, Carla Boos et alii (eds.) (Amsterdam 2011)]..

Logo CCvM / MCC - image Zeeuws Archief

Let’s look at the online resources created by the Zeeuws Archief for getting acquainted with the story of the MCC and studying its archival records. The English version of its website opens immediately with an image and a button bringing you to a page for the MCC and the history of the Transatlantic slave trade. You can follow the voyages of the Unity from 1761 to 1763 on a separate website with a Dutch and English version. In 2011 the UNESCO entered the archive of the MCC into the Memory of the World register.

Startscreen "Into the triangle trade"

Some years ago I already encountered the splendid online exhibition of the Zeeuws Archief On the Triangle Trade at the Google Arts & Culture platform. This colorful exhibition contains much that has been now retold in the short television series. For English readers this is surely the quickest way to get a picture of the history of the MCC and its role in the slave trade. Only the blog Atlantic Slavery Voyage with the daily sequence of the voyages of the Unity has disappeared. The explanations about the blog on The Unity website suggest the blog still exists, but the actual link is not anymore present, nor have the entries been relocated on this website. The blog about The Unity is up and running, and in March 2022 the daily progress of the ship’s voyage has luckily resurfaced, but the Atlantic Slavery Voyage blog is not functioning anymore.

On a second page at the website of the Zeeland Archives follows the actual concise research guide in English for the MCC and its role in the slave trade. The archival collection of the MCC has been completely digitized (toegang (finding aid) no. 20, Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie, 1702-1889). The finding aid is in Dutch. I will highlight some aspects of it. In the 1951 inventory archivist W.S. Unger had changed the actual name of the company, Commercie Compagnie van Middelburg (CCvM) into Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie, an unusual thing for Dutch archivists. Apart from the 1951 introduction there is a new foreword from 2011, and you can benefit from three bijlagen (appendices), among them a list of relevant scholarly literature held at the Zeeuws Archief or at the Zeeuwse Bibliotheek in Middelburg. All handwritten maps in the collection of the CCvM / MCC were destroyed in the fire caused by bombs hitting Middelburg in May 1940. Only the printed maps survived. Luckily Unger had contributed before 1940 to some important editions of archival sources held at Middelburg. In an article from 1962 Unger gave a brief introduction to the ship journals. The Zeeuwse Bibliotheek has an online image database, and it hosts the project Zeeuwpost for some 600 digitized letters, a number of them with transcriptions, from Zeeland among the Prize Papers in the collection of the High Court of Admiralty at The National Archives, Kew.

New vistas to be explored

Last year I could applaud here the efforts of the Zeeuws Archief to tune the most used archival system in the Netherlands into creating a very simple and most useful list of all its digitized archival collections, an example still in need of swiftly copying by most other Dutch archives. The city archive in Amsterdam and the Nationaal Archief, The Hague, have created easy access for and visibility of their digitized collections. The temporal disappearance of the voyage blog is only an example of the fragility of the internet infrastructure and the need to give finished projects a proper place within normal productivity, management and existence of any organization.

The archival collection of the CCvM / MCC should perhaps not be called unique, but with all its remaining riches and its online availability it is certainly a singularly important resource for Dutch Early Modern history enabling you to see the characteristics of the Dutch East and West Indies Companies in a different perspective. The recent computerized transcriptions of archival records of these trading companies made accessible at Zoeken in transcripties open new research possibilities for scholars worldwide. These archival records put slavery in its contemporary context, reminding us of the distances in perceptions, time and locations. The digitized records can bring you closer to dark periods in the past and show you developments and details that matter.

Grotius through students’ eyes

During summer some lighter subjects can come into view, but sometimes you suddenly notice something well worth looking at. In order to protect you from too much centenary celebrations I try to choose every year just a few of them. A new virtual exhibit concerning Hugo Grotius starts with a winning title, Grotius: A life between freedom and oppression has been launched in March 2021 by Leiden University Library on a new platform for its web presentations. One of the most celebrated historic events in the canon of Dutch history is the escape of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) from castle Loevestein in 1621 where he was imprisoned as the chief follower of the late Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the statesman who had done so much in creating the blossoming Dutch Republic. An exhibition in Amersfoort on Van Oldenbarnevelt and prince Maurits (Maurice) came into view here a few years ago, and just like in that summer post a particular historical object will figure here. The matters under discussion here are in the end not just light-weight, and thus I finished this post only in autumn.

A canonical figure in Dutch legal history

Before you sigh at the prospect of going on well-trodden paths with me you should know nine students of Leiden University College in The Hague prepared the virtual exhibit in English. Together with their supervisors Hanne Cuyckens and Jacqueline Hylkema they did choose five focal points which are just different enough to make you curious again about Grotius. In the first section, Leiden, the student, he forming years of the child prodigy form the subject. Grotius matriculated at Leiden in 1594 at the age of ten years. For each subject a number of objects are shown, in this case for example the matriculation register, a portrait of Grotius at fifteen, the earliest printed map of Leiden and a portrait of the famous philologist Joseph Justus Scaliger, the best known teacher of Grotius. Grotius started at Leiden with literary studies, not with jurisprudence, freedom indeed for this child prodigy to develop himself in many directions. In 1598 he obtained his doctoral degree in law at Orléans.

In the second section we do not jump at once to his major publications such as Mare Liberum (1609), followed by De iure belli ac pacis (1625) and the Inleidinghe tot de Hollandsche rechtsgeleerdheid (1631). Even a young superstar as Grotius had to immerse himself in at least one subject not just in learned books and contemporary theory, but also in daily practice. Grotius was admitted in 1599 as an advocate to the Hof van Holland, the high court of Holland in The Hague. His position as a lawyer made him for Van Oldenbarnevelt the obvious candidate to set out at length the Dutch position on the freedom of the seas. Already in 1598 Grotius accompanied him on a embassy to France, and afterwards the two men stayed in contact with each other. In this section there is also attention for Grotius’ religious views articulated in his work Ordinum pietas (1613). It put him firmly on the side of the Remonstrant movement favored also by Oldenbarnevelt.

Cste Loevestein - image Wikimedia Commons
Castle Loevestein – image Wikimedia Commons

The third section brings you to Grotius’ imprisonment at Loevestein Castle on ground of his religious and political views. The castle is placed on a marvelous strategic spot in the Rhine delta where several of its branches come together. The nearby towns of Gorinchem and Woudrichem are not easily reached. The background with the execution of Oldenbarnevelt in 1619 gets due attention, as are his religious views. You can also look at two letters. When you try to navigate to subsequent items this does not always function correctly. I had expected a link to the online version of the edition of Grotius’ correspondence at the portal of the Huygens Institute in Amsterdam nor to the version at its philological platform Textual Scholarship or to the catalogue at Early Modern Letters Online, but you can look at scans of original letters held at Leiden. The project Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the 17th-Century Dutch Republic could be added as well.

At Loevestein Grotius was allowed to borrow books from Leiden university library. These books were transported in a large and heavy chest. Hidden in the book chest Grotius could famously escape on March 22, 1621 from castle Loevestein. In 2020 a part of the television series created by the Rijksmuseum on Historisch bewijs (Historical evidence) was devoted to establishing which book chest of three chests held at the Rijksmuseum, Loevestein and Museum Prinsenhof in Delft was probably the original book chest. The chest in Delft has suitable dimensions and a more reliable provenance from the Graswinckel family who was closely connected to the De Groot family in Delft, but no evidence was adduced to confirm its actual use beyond any doubt. Thus the chest is a kind of objet de mémoire connected with an almost mythical heroic story, and the natural point of focus at castle Loevestein, a typical nationalist lieu de mémoire on a beautiful spot at the point where the Waal branch of the Rhine and a branch of the Meuse come together.

In the fourth section of the online exhibit we arrive with Grotius as an exile in Paris. In this town he completed his treatise De iure belli ac pacis. Apart from letters and a map of Paris poetry by Grotius and a poem by Joost van den Vondel come into view here.

The autograph manuscript of  "De iure praedae"  (Leiden University Library, ms. BPL 917) - image Leiden University Library
The autograph manuscript of “De iure praedae” – Leiden University Library, ms. BPL 917 – image Leiden University Library

The fifth and final section of the virtual exhibit deals with the major treatise by Grotius on prize law, De iure praedae. The Leiden manuscript BPL 917 is the sole handwritten and even autograph witness to the text of Grotius’ treatise on prize law and booty composed between 1604 and 1609. Only one chapter was published during his life as Mare Liberum (1609). The restoration of this manuscript and the subsequent digitization for the full digital edition published in 2015 are the very heart of this section.

By choosing four actual locations – Leiden, The Hague, Loevestein and Paris – the nine students succeed easily in freeing Grotius from a too narrow view of him as only a figure in Dutch history who became first a victim of religious strife and later on a figure head in the struggle for tolerance. These backgrounds do matter indeed. No doubt some Dutch people will be surprised to find the article on Grotius in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its rich bibliography. He is regarded as the very founder of natural law. Thus there is an entry for Grotius, too, in the database Natural Law 1625-1850, one of the fruits of a research project of the universities at Halle, Erfurt and Bayreuth. By showing not just works by Grotius, and not only his legal works, but also his poems and a treatise on religion, the students show him as a major intellectual in European history. You might with me deplore the lack of further links or an essential bibliography, but there is surely a place for the approach chosen for this virtual exhibit.

Recently Leiden University launched a new platform for its online exhibits. Among the digital collections of Leiden University Library is a section with nearly fifty virtual exhibitions; in some cases only a PDF remains available.

As for creating a Grotius Year the museum Loevestein can readily be pardoned for seeking a way to attract visitors after the corona lockdowns in the Netherlands. The website for the public events around the Grotius commemoration does mention his importance as a lawyer, diplomat and theologian. Themes as the freedom of thought and religious tolerance are vitally relevant in our contemporary world. Showing things have been very different in the past shakes (young) people free from thinking the present has always been there as a a most natural thing.

In earlier posts about Grotius, in particular the one about a rare early edition of De iure beli ac pacis, I provided information about his main legal works concerning the first printed editions, modern editions, translations and digital versions. I would like to point again to the presence of text versions and seventeenth-century or modern translations into Dutch for a number of his works at the portal of the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL). In the DBNL you can find also digital versions of numerous older publications about Grotius, and the entry for his historical works by E.O.G. Haitsma Mulier and G. van der Lem in their work on Early Modern Dutch historiography, Repertorium van geschiedschrijvers in Nederland 1500-1800 (The Hague 1990).

The riches of the Peace Palace Library

Logo Peace Palace Library

The Peace Palace Library (PPL) in The Hague is the natural starting point for any research on Hugo Grotius. Lately this library has put its digital collections on a new separate platform, but for some silly reason the actual URL is not easily found at the website of the PPL, as are alas some other web addresses. A few years ago I wrote here about the Scheldt River collection which now can be found, too, at this new platform. It seems the PPL provides for each collection on this platform a special page with the correct link. However, there is no page or news item for the new platform itself, or maybe it has only to be added to the top bar menu. A platform with eight interesting collections in open access merits a place in the spotlights.

The PPL contributes two collections in open access to LLMC Digital, but no direct links are give on the PPL’s special page for its collections at LLMC Digital. It is only fair to say that finding these collections at the LLMC portal is a feat in itself. So far my attempts to locate them simply failed. Both LLMC Digital and the website of the PPL lack a general search function and a sitemap. The collections at both websites deserve better accessibility. As for the licensed digital collections and also for the databases accessible through the PPL you might contemplate acquiring a library card of this library. For this choice, too, hving a clear overview of digitized materials and their access is most practical.

Grotius figures of course also on the website of the PPL, starting with the chat function called Ask Hugo! The web page on the Grotius Collection tells you about the general background and the famous bibliography by Ter Meulen and Diermanse [J. ter Meulen and P.P.J. Diermanse (eds.), Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (The Hague 1950)] and a more recent catalogue of the PPL’s holdings of works by Grotius. Instead of the direct link to the licensed Grotius Collection Online: Printed Works of Brill only a link to the title in the PPL library catalogue is provided, yet another minor howler. In fact this digital collection contains also numerous works dealing with Old Dutch law, and I would even single it out as a very representative selection of legal books from the Dutch Republic brought most conveniently together. A research guide for Grotius would be a welcome addition to the thirty existing online guides on the website of the Peace Palace Library. A quick search for a nutshell guide to Grotius brought me only to a very concise guide created by the Alexander Campbell King Law Library at the University of Georgia. It is sensible to look at the Grotius pages of Wikipedia in several languages.

Gaining a wider view

I would like to end this post constructively, and not with criticism on defects. Grotius belongs to the group of thinkers students and scholars cannot approach completely straightforward. Often there is abundant scholarly activity, there might be opposing schools and roads of interpretation and across linguistic borders studies can take refreshing turns closed to those staying content with Anglo-American scholarship. Luckily regularly guides are published in the form of essay volumes by an international team of distinguished scholars to bridge such gaps and bring together different views and themes surrounding a major thinker. In September 2021 the Cambridge Companion to Hugo Grotius appeared in print and online, edited by Randall Lesaffer and Janne Nijman. Interestingly this seems to be the first companion volume to Grotius. There is not yet A Very Short Introduction on Grotius from Oxford, presumably exactly because his versatility can hardly be sufficiently shown in a slim volume by a single author. Hopefully different views on Grotius find space in the scholarly journal Grotiana with apart for the printed version some articles published online in open access.

Logo Open Access Week

This year’s International Open Access Week will take place from October 25 to 31, 2021. The existence of a number of vital online resources for doing research on Grotius only accessible as licensed resources, most often through the services of libraries, diminishes the chances for those outside the circle of blessed beneficiaries to learn more about Grotius or about other major intellectuals whose thought changed the world forever. Institutions not caring or simply forgetting to provide even links to their own digital collections, be they in open or licensed access, should reflect on their duties and capacities to help both scholars and the general public. Of course in some cases it is a matter of discommunication or worse between for example a library staff, a project leader and the communication officers.

It might seem seducing to bring your collections under the flag of a prestigious publishing company, but if this means closing access to your priceless possessions for most of the world the ultimate blame should be in my view on their original holder. In my view individual scholars, scholarly communities, publishers and research institutions, including university presses, all have their own ongoing responsibility to discuss matters concerning access to scholarly publications. In actual life both institutions with digitized resources and publishers increasingly offer digitized materials both in licensed and in open access, depending on their policies. Hopefully solutions can be found to create and assure wider access whenever possible and feasible for us and future generations interested in the versatile mind of Grotius and the impact of his works through the centuries. Sailing oceans with free, affordable and sustainable access to research resources would be most helpful to achieve this aim.

Fifty years selling precious prints, books and documents

Cover jubilee catalogue Forum Rare BooksTwo months ago I first looked at a most lavishly illustrated antiquarian book catalogue, and I only had to figure a moment to write about it here. In its wake I found two other recently issued illustrated catalogues of the same firm, Forum Rare Books in ‘t Goy, a hamlet near the Dutch village Houten. This year Forum exists fifty years. The jubilee catalogue is a treat in every aspect. In this post I will look at the jubilee catalogue and two other recent catalogues. Many items in these smaller catalogues can be linked with legal history, but more can be said about them.

In 2017 I discussed here another catalogue issued by Forum with books, prints and other items concerning slavery. The jubilee of Forum is a good occasion to look again for legal history in its recent catalogues.

A feast to the eye

During a period of closed archives and libraries it has been hardly possible to have old books, prints or documents in front of you in a reading room. Digital archives and digital libraries have gained a new importance. With COVID-19 virus affecting many cities, regions and countries in different degrees it is not at all certain institutions that just reopened can remain open. I admit to finding some solace in the beautifully produced jubilee catalogue (Catalogue no. 118, PDF, 32 MB) of Forum Rare Books, a firm that started in Utrecht in 1970, since a few years situated in lovely rural surroundings to the south east of my home town Utrecht.

The special catalogue contains 260 items, all of them accompanied with at least one image, in some cases printed in full page. Item after item you marvel both at something truly rare and often ingeniously illustrated. In a number of cases not only the images take your breath away, the prices indicated do this, too. If you try to forget about them, you can appreciate the catalogue as a kind of exhibit and start enjoying the objects and admiring the descriptions.

Title page of "Los emblemas de Andrea Alciatto tradcidos en rhimas (Lyon 1549) - image: Forum Rare Books

Title page of “Los emblemas de Alciatio traducidos en rhimas Españolas” (Lyon 1549)

Item no. 8 is a rare edition in Spanish of the emblems collected by Andrea Alciato (1492-1550), the famous legal humanist, published in Lyon in 1549. Alciato founded and shaped the emblem genre, the combination of images and a motto, often in verse. The catalogue tells you about the new images in this edition and its place in the publishing history of Alciato’s emblems. Much care is taken for the description of its physical state, making clear that existing damage has not affected the images. The references in smaller cursive print are the result of patient research in many reference works, bibliographies and catalogues. When possible Forum does point to online meta-catalogues. It took me a while before I saw that the only thing you can possible add to the description of this item is a reference to Lyon15-16: Bibliographie des éditions lyonnaises 1473-1600 where this edition figures as no. 17425; information from USTC 342602 should be compared to this database.

A second item worth mentioning here is no. 26, a book by Caspar Barlaeus, Medicea hospes, sive descriptio publicae gratulationis (…) Mariam de Medicis (…) (Amsterdam 1638). It records the almost royal entree to Amsterdam of Maria de’ Medici in 1638. The text is accompanied by fine engravings with images belonging to the realm of legal iconography. This publication is an example of the Early Modern genre of festival books, a subject in a post here in 2018. In the Early Modern Festival Books Database this book figures as no. 2676.

Let’s continue our tour of this grand catalogue with no. 44, a publication by Johannes van der Bosch, Nederlandsche bezittingen in Azia Afrika en Amerika [Dutch possessions in Asia, Africa and America] (2 vol. and atlas, The Hague-Amsterdam 1818). Van den Bosch founded in 1818 also the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid [Society for Beneficence] which aimed at creating better circumstances for poor people. His scheme led to the building of labor colonies in the province Drenthe to which beggars and their families were transported. In an earlier post this year about Dutch archives I mentioned two websites concerning these colonies, Koloniën van Weldadigheid and Alle Kolonisten. Last year Angelie Sens published De kolonieman. Johannes van den Bosch (1780-1844), volksverheffer in naam van de Koning (Amsterdam 2019), a book about this most active man and his initiatives. On my way to no. 44 I had to skip a beautiful work on animals by John Audubon and a gorgeous copy of the Atlas by Joan Blaeu.

If you think one continent is missing in this catalogue you should look at no. 48, a legal treatise by William Westbrooke Burton, The insolvency law of New South Wales, with practical directions and forms (Sydney 1842). The catalogue tells us there was only one edition of this pioneer work on a subject in Australian private law.

The sheer variety of subjects, the telling images and often most interesting descriptions in this catalogue will bring you moments of immersion in a kind of time machine hovering over centuries and continents. It is truly with some difficulty that I leave it to your own curiosity to find out about the wealth assembled within its pages. At the website of Forum Rare Books you can search for web pages about individual items, provided they have not yet been sold. The website is also the source for some of the images in this post.

Autographs, manuscripts and much more

For all its qualities the great jubilee catalogue does touch only with a restricted number of items on legal history. In my view the two small catalogues in this section make up for this omission. The first catalogue, 2020 Autographs, documents & manuscripts (Catalogue 221, PDF, 4,7 MB) contains 24 items. Here you can encounter not just books and manuscripts, but also archival records. The first item is a notarial act from Antwerp confirming in 1546 an Italian notarial document for Giovan Carlo Affaitati, a spice merchant whose money supported the finances of emperor Charles V.

Trial documents from Johan van de Bergh, 1726-1729

Item no. 5 contains documents from the years 1726-1729 concerning the trial at the supreme court of Holland, West-Friesland and Zeeland of a murder case. Pieter Oostenrijck, a baker from the village Zoeterwoude, was tried for killing Cornelis Jansz. Schier, the blacksmith of the village. The documents stem from Johan van den Bergh, between 1725 and 1755 the baljuw (bailiff) of the Rijnland district around Leiden. Van den Berg was also for many years burgomaster of Leiden. The layout of the document shown on the left is typical of documents actually presented in writing before a Dutch court in the Early Modern period. The catalogue points to an advertisement for the sale of the blacksmith’s goods in 1725. It is indeed the kind of document making you curious to find out more about a case and its circumstances.

A following item worth mentioning here is no. 13, a manuscript in French about India and the castes Indiennes, written in 1743 in Karaikal. The anonymous author compares the Indian caste system to Christian belief and customs, enlivening his argument with stories. It is interesting to figure out the background of the author and the purpose of his treatise.

A charter in Portuguese, 1388

No. 16 is a royal charter from Portugal, written in 1388, with a verdict from the court in Coimbra on a case about a claim to a particular parcel land. This document shows a quite early use of the Portuguese language in an official document issued by royal judges. For archival records such as this document Forum does not provide references.

The second smaller catalogue issued this year I want to present here deals with posters, pamphlets and prints (Catalogue 235, PDF, 10,8 MB), with 28 items. The first item in it to be linked with legal history is no. 2, a poster for the auction of the Wulperhorst estate in Zeist near Utrecht in 1801.The statement neither the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog nor WorldCat contain information about copies is correct, but it is more logical to check for it in the holdings of Dutch archives using the Archieven portal where no copy is recorded. The catalogue contains three other posters for auctions, this time for the sale of ships (nos. 3, 5, and 21).

Item no. 4 is a partially colored and illustrated broadside, probably dating from the late seventeenth century, showing Charles the Bold (1433-1477), duke of Burgundy, as a judge. The engraved images are accompanied by explanatory texts. No 28 is a similar broadside showing count William the Good of Holland performing justice in 1336, also stemming from the second half of the seventeenth century.

The title page of the "Receuil van verscheyde placaten (...)

The sixth item in this catalogue is a volume with 92 printed ordinances, instructions and other documents relating to the army and navy of the Dutch Republic, issued between 1591 and 1716 with a long title, Recueil van verscheyde placaten, ordonantien, resolutien, instructien, ordres en lysten, etc. betreffende de saacken van den oorlogh, te water en te lande. The set is quite rare. The Short Title Catalogue Netherlands mentions 2 copies of this set. The description has a phrase about placaten, “publicly posted documents”, pointing rightly to the fact ordinances were indeed posted literally outside important and central buildings. However, the term stems from the word placard, stressing the fact such documents were issued with an official seal.

No. 7 is another rare broadside from 1623, Tweede basuyne. en ‘t boosdoens heylige
wraeck-spiegel …
, with an image of the execution of some of the conspirators against prince Maurits. In 2019 I wrote here about Maurits and his conflict with the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and his conflict. He was executed after a political trial in 1619. Two of his sons did in 1623 an ill-organized attempt at assassinating Maurits, helping thus to put their father’s legacy for the Dutch Republic in unfavorable light. From the events of 1618 and 1619 stems also item no. 24, an engraving by Claes Jansz. Visscher II of the hanging of the coffin with the body of Gilles van Ledenberg, secretary of the States of Utrecht and chief supporter of Van Oldenbarnevelt, who committed suicide in prison before his sentence had been pronounced.

The most famous political murder in the history of the Dutch Republic is the subject of item no. 10, a broadside from 1672 with four etchings by Romeyn de Hooghe about the killing of Johan and Cornelis de Witt by a mob outside the county prison in The Hague in August 1672. I had expected a reference to the study by historian Henk van Nierop, The Life of Romeyn de Hooghe 1645-1708. Prints, Pamphlets, and Politics in the Dutch Golden Age (Amsterdam 2018) who in some cases argues convincingly for a new date and context of several undated etchings of this artist.

My tour of this catalogue ends with two items from the late eighteenth century. No. 11 is a set of printed ordinances issued in 1805 by governor Jan Willem Janssens for the Cape Colony in South Africa. At this time the Batavian Republic (1795-1806) was the state ruling most parts of the Northern Netherlands. The rule of the Dutch East Indian Company in Cape Town had ended in 1799. In 1806 the English took over the Cape Colony after an earlier English period between 1797 and 1803. Item no. 12 is an engraving of the first meeting of the national assembly in The Hague in 1797 during the period of the Batavian Republic.

Ascertaining the provenance of all these precious books, prints and documents is surely one of the things to do before you or an institution can pay the requested amounts for a particular item, but this will not stop you from sharing with me the admiration for these items described with such care and flair, and made more tangible in fine photographs. My brief remarks cannot hide my pleasure in looking at these three magnificent catalogues. This year Forum Rare Books issued already 23 (!) illustrated catalogues. Many international book fairs are currently held as virtual fairs. Whatever the prospects of anyone wanting to possess these items, the catalogues and the website of Forum offer you a tour around the world with most interesting items.