Tag Archives: Frisia

Finding Frisia’s culture and legal history

Screenprint website Leeuwarden 2018

Since many years the European Union gives every year two cities the title European Cultural Capital. Cities compete with elaborate bid-books to get this coveted title. In 2018 La Valletta, the capital of Malta, and Leeuwarden, the main city of the Dutch province Friesland (Frisia), share the honours. In this post I will look at Frisian culture and history. However varied the program of events, i would like to look at more enduring institutions and projects which bring Frisian culture and history to you. Legal history has its own place in this context.

A matter of languages, and much more

Logo Leeuwarden-Friesland Capital of Culture 2018

The most striking element of the portal Leeuwarden 2018 is the absence of Frisian as a language to view this commercial website. You can choose between Dutch, Frisian, English and German at another portal, Leeuwarden-Fryslân – European Capital of Culture 2018. Here, too, you will find a calendar of events, but their cultural dimensions are given more prominence. Among the cultural events the parade of three giants in Leeuwarden made a great visual impact. Events took place in many Frisian towns and villages, ranging from opera to a heroic solo swimming tour along eleven towns to raise money for the treatment of cancer. Building the community, mienskip, was a central theme.

Frisia’s legal history

It would be almost easy to foucs here on either medieval Frisian law, with remarkable texts such as the Lex Frisionum, late medieval regulations on water management or the Roman-Frisian law during the period of the Dutch Republic, Frisia’s own version of the Roman-Dutch law. Tresoar provides us also with an overview of sources at Alle Friezen (All Frisians), available in Frisian, Dutch and English. The links section of Tresoar is most useful, You might want to look at other Frisian archives as well, easily found using the Fries Archiefnet. However, I have chosen an other subject within Frisia’s long legal history.

Start srcreen Tresoar with Viglius vn Aytta

Amidst all events for Leeuwarden 2018 you could easily miss the opening on October 19, 2018 of the exhibition at Tresoar, the Frisian archive and library in Leeuwarden, around a Frisian lawyer, and the uncovering of a statue in his honor by Herman van Rompuy.  Wigle van Aytta van Zuichem (1507-1577) latinized his first name to Viglius. He was born at the Barrahuis estate (stins) in Wirdum near Leeuwarden. His uncle Bernard Bucho was a councillor of the Hof van Holland in The Hague and saw to Viglius’ education. As many students from the Low Countries Viglius started his studies in Leuven (Louvain) where he arrived in 1522, but a few years later he went further abroad. In 1526 he was at the university of Dôle. In 1529 he received his doctoral degree in Valence. He continued his travels to Bourges to become a student and assistant of Andrea Alciato. Soon his career started. In 1532 and 1533 he taught the Institutiones Iustiniani in Padua, in 1534 he became the official (ecclesiastical judge) for the bishop of Münster, in 1535 and 1536 he was at the Reichskammergericht in Speyer before teaching law at Ingolstadt between 1537 and 1541.

Painting of Viglius by Jacob de Punder - image Tresoar

Painting of Viglius van Aytta as chancellor of the Order of the Golden Fleece, 1564, by Jacob de Punder (1527-around 1570) – Leeuwarden, Fries Museum

His political career started at an amazingly high level in 1540 when he became a member of the Conseil Secret (Geheime Raad, Secret Council), one of the most important institutions in the Habsburgian Low Countries. In 1549 he became its president, first until 1569, and again from 1573 to 1575. Meanwhile he had joined in 1543 also the Groote Raad van Mechelen (Great Council of Malines), a very important high court for the Low Countries. He conducted the negotiations for Charles V for the Burgundian Treaty of 1548 which led to a more coherent status of the Low Countries in relation to the Holy Roman Empire. In 1554 he became the president of the Raad van State, the state council. At the abdication of Charles V in 1555 he wanted to step down from his functions, but king Philip II convinced him to stay with for example the promise to become abbot of the rich St. Bavon Abbey at Ghent. Viglius’ wife Jacqueline Damant had died in 1553,. In 1562 he had been ordained to the priesthood by Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, the trusted councillor of Philipp II and at the height of his powers as recently appointed archbishop of Malines. By now it will not surprise you Viglius presided since 1563 as chancellor of the Order of the Golden Fleece. I could have chosen a more sober portrait of him painted by Frans Pourbus the Elder, now in the Louvre, but the painting at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden is most telling.

Legal historians can encounter him as a legal humanist. In 1534 Viglius published the editio princeps of the Greek paraphrase by Theophilus of the Institutes (Institouta Theophilou antikēnsōros) [Institutionum iuris civilis in Gracam linguam per Theophilum antecessorem olim traductae (…) (Basel: in officina Frobeniana, 1534: online, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)], followed by a Latin translation in 1536. Also in 1534 appeared his lectures on the Institutes held in Padua, Commentaria Viglii Zuichemii Phrysii in decem titulos Institutionum (…), published in Basel by Froben (online, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek). When you check the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC; University of St. Andrews) for early editions of works by Viglius you will find a notice about an edition Lyon 1533 held at Montauban, but the database of Lyon15-16. Bibliographie des éditions lyonnaises 1473-1600 makes clear this is probably an edition printed at Lyon in 1564. Only posthumously appeared a series of lectures held at Ingolstadt, Praelectiones in titulum pandectarum, de rebus creditis, et ad titulum codicis Justinianaei, de edicto divi Hadriani tollendo (Cologne: Gervinus Calenius and heirs of Johann Quentel, 1582; online, Universiteit Gent).

The USTC shows a number of pamphlets from 1543 by Viglius from the years on political matters. His Confutatio defensionis ducis Clivensis super jure ducatus Geldriae ac comitatus Zutphaniae (…) (Antwerp 1543), reprinted the same year as Serenissimae reginae Mariae contra ducem Clivensem justificatio also appeared in Dutch, De onschult der coninginnen vrou Marie regeerster der Erf Nederlanden tegen den hertoge van Cleve (…) (Antwerp 1543). Mary of Hungary, governor of the Low Countries, asked Viglius to act as her ambassador at Nuremberg and to speak up against the aggressive policies of duke William of Cleve who claimed the territory of the duchy Guelders (Gelre).

Finding out about Viglius

There is a considerable body of literature about Viglius life and works. The two volumes of the biography by Folkert Postma stand out, Viglius van Aytta als humanist en diplomaat 1507-1549, (Zutphen 1983) and Viglius van Aytta. De jaren met Granvelle 1549-1564 (Zutphen 2000). Not all of Viglius’ writings were published in the sixteenth century. At the multilingual portal site Dutch Revolt only the Dutch version has a section with numerous biographies, the one for Viglius mentions a number of relevant titles. The long article on Viglius by Postma in the Nationaal Biografisch Woordenboek is available online, too, but alas this, too, is in Dutch [NBW VIII (1979), col. 837-855]. The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences has created a bio-bibliographical lexicon of Dutch humanists between 1500 and 1700, but this resource, too, is only accessible in Dutch, as is the one for Viglius by Toon van Houdt. He notes for example an earlier pamphlet by Viglius dealing with the Cleve-Guelders controversy, Assertio ivris imperatoris Caroli hvivs nominis Quinti, in Geldrię ducatu, & Zutphaniæ comitatu (…) (Antwerp 1541; online, Universiteit Gent). Some works have received attentions only in the last decades. Regina Sprenger wrote about Viglius’ notes about his work as a judge (Assessor) at the Reichskammergericht, Viglius van Aytta und seine Notizen über Beratungen am Reichkammergericht (1535-1537) (Nijmegen 1988). This Protokollbuch is kept at Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, ms. Van der Gheyn, nos. 2837 to 2840. Paul Nève and Regina Sprenger have published together articles about his time in Speyer. Joost Pikkemaat has studied the lectures held at Ingolstadt [Viglius van Aytta als hoogleraar te Ingolstadt (Nijmegen 2009)]. Earlier he wrote for example about Viglius’ inaugural lecture at Ingoldstad [‘De inaugurale rede van Viglius van Aytta aan de universiteit van Ingolstadt’, in: Van oud en nieuw recht : handelingen van het XVde Belgisch-Nederlands rechtshistorisch congres, Dirk Heirbaut and Daniël Lambrecht (eds.) (Ghent 1998) 53-65]. There is a brief biographical article in English on Viglius by Michael Erbe in Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation, P.G. Bietenholz and T.B. Deutscher (eds.) (3 vol., Toronto 1985-1987; reprint 2003) III, 393-395, where Viglius’ position in the network around Erasmus is concisely charted.

Viglius is remarkable also for his historical work and an autobiography. He collected maps and he acted as the first librarian of the royal library in Brussels. A number of his letters, too, were published. You can consult four original letters sent to Viglius in the image library of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The Kalliope guide for manuscripts and personal papers in Germany alerts to some letters and to 23 volumes at Göttingen, and to a volume with letters in Giessen. In Paris the BnF has among its archives et manuscrits a volume of the Manuscripta Zwichemiana (Nouv. acq. fr. 6168) and some letters from king Philip (Mélanges Colbert 409, VII, no. 817). If you search for Viglius at the Dutch archives portal you will find in particular in Leeuwarden and Utrecht archival records. When you use the Archives Portal Europe you will find even more. At Mémoire vive, the digital portal of the city Besançon you can find materials concerning Viglius within the Collection Granvelle. For those with access to the licensed Picarta resources, for instance via the Dutch Royal Library, you will find more letters in the Nederlandse Centrale Catalogus, and you will wonder why only two letters are listed in another Picarta resource, the Catalogus epistularum neerlandicarum, a database for finding Early Modern letters in a number of Dutch public collections. The two volumes of Postma will help you to trace even more.

It is entirely fitting a former president of the European Commission was asked to uncover the statue of Viglius at Leeuwarden. His published works were often reprinted during his life and some of them even afterwards. His letters and manuscripts ended in major libraries after periods in the hands of many scholars and collectors who appreciated Viglius’ contacts with celebrated humanists. Important archival records can be found in Brussels, Vienna and Simancas. Viglius’ life shows eminently how a an able man seemingly from a far-away corner of Europe could come close to the very nexus rerum of his time. Although he clearly felt much at home in Ghent he never forgot his Frisian roots. In this sense Leeuwarden can indeed claim to be a European capital. Once upon a time studies about Viglius were colored by nationalism and religious positions. If we see him now more as a true European with strong ties to his origin, this might teach us a lesson for our century. At some turns legal historians might have deplored his early goodbye to legal humanism, but it is more sensible to respect his efforts to steer clear of many problems in the middle of Europe’s political turmoil of his time which led to revolt and civil war in the Low Countries and many other parts of Europe.

Love and natural law

Homepage Natural law project, Universität ErfurtSometimes a title can be very evocative or curious. When I read about an upcoming conference about Love as the principle of natural law. The natural law of Johann Gottlieb Heineccius and its context at Halle on November 24 to 26, 2016, I simply wanted to know more about this event. What is the connection between love and law? What is the role of love in or for natural law? In this post I would like to make a foray into the history of natural law, an important movement in the European legal history of the Early Modern period. The event at Halle is organized by the platform Natural Law 1625-1850, an international research project led by scholars at Erfurt, Halle and Bayreuth – see the postscript for the 2021 URL.

Love is the word

The project Natural Law 1625-1850 aims at studying natural law as a phenomenon which connects law with other disciplines, such as philosophy, political thought, theology and the arts. Natural law as a concept or a set of ideas gained importance not only in Western Europe but also in North and South America. To help achieving this aim the project website will eventually contain digitized sources, a scholarly bibliography and a biographical database, all surrounded by a scholarly network with accompanying events.

Portrait of J.G. Heineccius

Portrait of Heineccius by Christian Fritzsch in his “Opera posthuma” (1744) – Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel / Porträtdatenbank Franckesche Stiftungen, Halle

The conference in Halle has as its objective getting Heineccius out of the shadows cast by his much more famous colleague Christian Wolff (1679-1754). In fact the main venue of the conference, the Christian-Wolff-Haus at Halle, is the very house where Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681-1741) lived for some years, too. Heineccius’ major book concerning natural law, his Elementa iuris naturae et gentium (1737) was certainly as influential as any of Wolff’s publications. Before you start arguing that the scope of this conference is rather small, it is good to be aware of a second conference organized by the platform around the theme Sacred Polities, Natural Law and the Law of Nations in the 16th-17th Centuries (Budapest-Olomouc, November 10-12, 2016). Exactly the impact of natural law across the borders of Northern and Southern Europe, continental and common law, and the exchanges between Protestant and Catholic Europe will be discussed at this event.

One of the reasons to focus on Heineccius is the simple fact that although his works both in the field of Roman and natural law are famous enough, his own life and career and the development of his views is still a field to be discovered. Luckily there is at least one modern biography by Patricia Wardemann, Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681-1741). Leben und Werk (Frankfurt am Main, 2007). In the first edition of Michael Stolleis’ Juristen. Ein biographisches Lexikon. Von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert (Munich 1995) Klaus Luig did not mention at all in his contribution Heineccius was first trained as a theologian before he started studying philosophy and law. In this respect the concise article by Rolf Lieberwirth for the Neue Deutsche Biographie 8 (1969) 296-297 is better. The online version of this article at the portal Deutsche Biographie has as great assets direct links to various online projects in which persons appear. The conference program has a judicious mixture of contributions focusing on the person of Heineccius on one side, and on the other side papers discussing in particular his impact in various European countries. Alas only the introductory lecture by Knut Haakonsen and Frank Grunert, with Diethelm Klippel founders of the platform, will address directly the theme of love as a principle of natural law. Here Klaus Luig’s short biographic article is helpful with a terse note that Heineccius meant love as a command of God. Natural law tends to be viewed as an attempt to build a legal system without massive reliance on Christian religion or at the best a decidedly Protestant legal order. Luig adds that precisely this religious character made Heineccius’ views also interesting for lawyers in Catholic countries.

Heineccius published his work in Latin whereas Wolff became famous for his use of German in his learned publications. He gained even praise for his excellent grasp of Latin. Interestingly, there is a modern German translation of Heineccius’ Elementa iuris naturae et gentium by Peter Mortzfeld, Grundlagen des Natur- und Völkerrechts, Christoph Bergfeld (ed.) (Frankfurt am Main, 1994). One of the things that merit attention when looking at natural law is the interplay between theology, philosophy and law. Maybe natural law deserves our attention exactly because it forces you to see legal history in a wider context.

Searching for portraits of Heineccius luckily brought me to the English translation by George Turnbull (1741, 1763) of Heineccius’ Elementa iuris naturae et gentium, now available online in the Online Library of Liberty. The modern introduction to this translation offers a welcome sketch in English of Heineccius’ views and the role of love as a guiding principle. It becomes clear he saw love not as an infatuation, an affinity or an Affekt, but as “the desire for good”, working in our relations to God, ourselves and other people.

Natural law has its attractions as offering a supranational foundation beyond existing legal systems, but in reality either religious influences or Roman law became their actual source. In this respect attempts to create a system for natural law are flawed, but they offer for historians fascinating views as a kind of projection screen for the vision of the lawyers working in this direction. For me it is also the changing character of nature itself that has made me cautious about natural law and its supposed independence of existing forms of law and justice.

A Frisian connection

Banner Franeker Universiteit

Another reason for me to look at Heineccius is the period he spent at the university of Franeker between 1723 and 1727. The university of Franker existed from 1585 to 1811. Heineccius quickly came into contact with for example Cornelis van Bijnkershoek. He wrote a preface to Van Bijnkershoek’s Observationes iuris Romani in the edition Frankfurt and Leipzig: ex officina Krugiana, 1738. In the licensed database of the Corpus Epistolarum Neerlandicarum (Royal Library, The Hague and Picarta) I could find just one letter to Heineccius written by Tiberius Hemsterhuis (Leiden, UB, BPL 3100). Using the search portal for Dutch archives I could find Heineccius as one of the people mentioned in the correspondence now part of the StadhouderlijkerArchief kept at Tresoar, the combined Frisian archive and provincial library at Leeuwarden.

Alas I checked in vain for Heineccius in several online projects dealing with Early Modern correspondence and networks. The project Cultures of Knowledge give you a selection of relevant links. Only the Kalliope Verbund has records for a few letters to and by Heineccius in the holdings of German libraries. The Archivportal Deutschland mentions a portrait of Heineccius and a letter of king Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia from 1737 who did not allow Heineccius to become a professor at Leiden. Just like the university of Harderwijk Franeker was for a considerable number of professors only a stop to go to either Utrecht or Leiden. The letter at the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich [BayHStA, Gesandtschaft Haag 2532] is also traceable through the portal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, but there is no access to a digitized version of this document. By the way, the Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Universiteiten van Groningen en Harderwijk tot 1811, B.S. Hempenius-Van Dijk et alii (eds.) (Amsterdam 2013) can be downloaded as a PDF, as is the case, too, with the volume Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Utrechtse Universiteit tot 1811, edited by Margreet Ahsmann, Robert Feenstra and Corjo Jansen (Amsterdam, etc., 1993). You will spot several professors who climbed from minor universities to the most famous! It has to be said that these volumes do not offer complete bibliographies in the sense librarians and book historians use this term. They should be seen as extensive finding lists with descriptions of copies of the works of these professors found in major libraries around the world. Robert Feenstra wrote an extensive bibliographical article about Heineccius in the Low Countries, ‘Heineccius in den alten Niederlanden : Ein bibliographischer Beitrag’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 72 (2004) 297-326, and Klaus Luig, too, should be mentioned again, now with his article ‘Heineccius, ein deutscher Jurist in Franeker’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 77 (2011) 219-227.

Heineccius in context

If you want to delve into Frisian history the website of Martin Engels contains lots of transcriptions of documents on many subjects, including the history of the university in Franeker. In the corner Iuridica of his colourful website Engels presents things of more general interest for legal historians. He has created a webpage with the contents of the Practisijns woordenboekje by Franciscus Lievens Kersteman (Dordrecht 1785), a concise glossary of Dutch legal terms. There is a page about the Soevereine Raad or Hof van Gelre in Roermond, a court in the province Guelders. For Frisian legal history Engels made extracts for a glossary of Frisian law in the Early Modern period from S.J. Fockema Andreae, Proeve van een woordenlijst der aan Friesland (onder de Republiek) eigene bestuurs- en rechtstermen (Leeuwarden 1967). The very core of his website are pages about the copy at Leeuwarden of a sixteenth-century collection of legal treatises, the Oceanus iuris, meaning the Tractatus universi iuris or Tractatus illustrium (…) iurisconsultorum (Venetiis 1584-1586), originally donated in the early seventeenth century to the university of Franeker. Engels scanned and indexed the lists of authors in the Oceanus iuris. I wrote here about this massive legal collection and its forerunners in an earlier post. When studying publications by lawyers from Franeker it is useful to look at the Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Franeker universiteit tot 1811, Robert Feenstra, Theo Veen and Margreet Ahsmann (eds.) (Amsterdam 2003). Personal reasons forced Heineccius to return to Germany. The website on the history of the Franeker Universiteit contains concise but interesting information centered around the Museum Martena in the historical buildings of the Martenastins, a stately mansion in Franeker from 1506. I did not spot Heineccius among the selection of portraits of professors on this website. A search in the rich online databases of the Dutch Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague yielded no results for Heineccius.

Banner IZEA, Halle

In the team of scholars leading the project on the history of natural law between 1625 and 1850 Frank Grunert (Halle) is clearly the one closest to the German luminaries of the eighteenth century. At the Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung of the Universität Halle he leads the projects for the modern critical edition of selected works of Christian Thomasius (1655-1728) and his correspondence. Eventually the volumes of the edition of Thomasius’ letters will be put online. The website of the IZEA can be visited in German, English and French. There is also a digitized version of a current bibliography for Thomasius [Bibliographie der Thomasius-Literatur 1945-2008 (Halle 2009); PDF], and you might also want to use Gerhard Biller, Wolff nach Kant. Eine Bibliographie (2nd edition, Halle 2009). Among the recent publications of the IZEA the Handbuch Europäische Aufklärung: Begriffe, Konzepte, Wirkung, Heinz Thoma (ed.) (Stuttgart 2015) stands out, a volume with fifty contributions about central concepts, ideas and the impact of the Enlightenment.

The IZEA is located in the former Rote Schule, the building of the girls school on the grounds of the famous Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle, the institution which supported the influential pietist movement started by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), becoming eventually a major phenomenon in German culture. Its buildings survived the DDR period, but it is still chilling to see the highway above street level directly opposite the beautiful grounds and buildings. The Franckesche Stiftungen have created a fine portrait database in which you can find images of many German people. In the digital library of the Franckesche Stiftungen I did notice the Epistolar Franckes, a project for digitizing Francke’s correspondence, but currently there is no trace of Heineccius. Let’s not forget to mention that the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt in Halle is one of the libraries participating in the project VD18, the overview of eighteenth-century German imprints. Its digital library contains a number of Heineccius’ works. The Repertorium Alba Amicorum contains records for the entries in 1719 of Heineccius, Wolff and Francke himself in the album of Immanuel Petrus Geier [Halle, Frankesche Stiftungen, Archiv: AFSt/H D 133].

Within the project Natural Law 1625-1850 four scholars look at German universities (Frank Grunert, Diethelm Klippel, Heiner Lück and Gerhard Lingelbach); Wilhelm Brauneder will focus on universities in Austria. For other countries individual scholars come into action. I would have expected more information on the project website in the very month two scholarly events take place, but perhaps the energy of the organizers was focused for good reasons on these events! Hopefully the attention to the European context of the great figures in the history of natural law and their interest in and connections with other disciplines will lead to interesting results.

A postscript

The eternal plague of webmasters and anyone interested in projects older than one or two years are changing web addresses. Only seldom redirects are created by those in charge of moving sites and databases on servers… You can find project information now both in Erfurt and at the IZEA in Halle, the database is hosted in Jena.

Dutch legal history and digital libraries

A month ago I made a promise to offer here more on Dutch digital libraries and their importance for legal history. The list of projects maintained by DEN, the Dutch knowledge center for digital heritage, seemed worth checking again. On my blog and my website you can use the collection of links for Dutch and Belgian legal history, but it just might be the case more can be found out there on internet than you will find on these pages. When you wonder reading this post why I do almost not mention projects at Amsterdam, Leiden or Utrecht this is mainly because they have already been included earlier on. Surely I can have completely missed an important site or two or even more, and it cannot do much harm to check this project list which unfortunately is maintained only in Dutch. In order to focus as much as possible Belgium will follow another time.


Let’s start with the happy part of my hunt for Dutch digital libraries. In particular for Friesland (Frisia) legal historians can point to a number of websites. The first digital library has figured already in an earlier post. At Leeuwarden (Ljouwert), the Frisian capital, forces have been united to create the Tresoar, Frisian for treasury. The provincial archive and the provincial library work together in this institute. The website is accessible in Dutch, English and Frisian. In contemporary law Frisian is – a historian must add: again – allowed in court proceedings. However, the digital collection of the Tresoar can only be accessed using an interface in Dutch, but the Digital Treasury Room can be viewed in three languages. The normal approach offers the choice between a list presentation and a thumbnail list, and although distinctly less colorful it is more practical than the fancy looking Treasure Room site which seems to aim at a young audience. Sources for Frisian law are present in this digital collection: the incunable with the Freesk Landriucht, strangely placed among the manuscripts, is one of the highlights. The section Dossiers offers dossiers on three famous trials. The Codex Roorda and two manuscripts of the Hunsingoër Landrecht stem from the collection of the German legal historian Karl von Richthofen. Among the digitized genealogical material is a criminal court register for the period 1838-1844 (“Strafzaken”). The Tresoar also presents sources for the history of the University of Franeker, prints, historical maps and poetry.

The second Frisian website is named after a librarian, Geert Aeilco Wumkes (1869-1954). On Wumkes you will find a small but very well stocked digital library for the history of Frisia. Among the digitized books are a source edition for medieval Frisian law, Zeventien Keuren en Vierentwintig Landrechten, Nikolaas Egbert Algra (ed.) (Doorn 1992), downloadable in the PDF format (23 MB), sources editions by M. de Haan Hetttema (Oude Friese wetten), the famous book Hedendaagse rechtsgeleertheit by Ulrich Huber (1686) , and more works by Karl von Richthofen, the pioneer of the study of medieval Frisian law. Worth reading is also the study by Johann Samuel Theissen, Centraal gezag en Friesche vrijheid [Central authority and Frisian freedom] (Groningen 1907) , the starting point for the modern study of Frisia’s position within the medieval Low Countries. The Wumkes site has as its strengths the Bible in Frisian, a geographical dictionary for Frisia, the acts of the Fries Genootschap and the journal De Vrije Fries.

A third website not mentioned by DEN is maintained privately by Kees Nieuwenhuijsen who presents OCR-scanned texts. His collection is still growing and being refined. Not only the Lex Frisionum and the Lex Francorum Chamavorum (Ewa quae se ad Amorem habet) are presented with a commentary, but now also other sources for Dutch medieval history, such as the Cartularium Radbodi with the possessions of the diocese of Utrecht in the tenth century, and the Codex Eberhardi, a list with the Frisian properties of the abbey of Fulda in the ninth century.

The DEN list does mention one project started by the Fryske Akademy, the Frisian Academy. On its website in Dutch, Frisian and English the Fryske Akademy presents a number of projects; the English version of the project lost is not complete. The Fryske Akademy supports the Wumkes digital library, but apart from that there is only one major digitization project, HISGIS, a historical geographic information system in which the data of the 1832 Dutch land registry and pre-cadastral information from written sources is projected on maps. Apart from Friesland data have been entered for the provinces Groningen, Overijssel and Utrecht. Readers of my posts on Terscheling can look at Skylge.

Scattered findings

The list offered by DEN shows a wealth of digitization projects, but it is not easy to find projects in this list which bear immediately on legal history. For example, one of the oldest Dutch public libraries, the Stads- en Athenaeumbibliotheek of Deventer, has an interesting digital library, but only the pamphlet from 1781, Aan het volk van Nederland [To the Dutch people] by Joan van der Cappellen tot de Pol, which inspired the Dutch Patriotic Revolt (1785-1787), is really important. Luckily for legal historians it is the first item in the digital collection with the promising name Topstukken (Highlights). This library holds certainly more treasures.

Looking at the DEN project list I increasingly become aware that digitization projects concerning books form a tiny minority. Thus I worry even whether to present at all more here when you can already find the most important Dutch digital libraries on the page for Dutch legal history. Dutch projects clearly focus on digitizing images and archival records, on education and promoting interest in Dutch cultural heritage. It will not do any harm to present here briefly some of the projects which to some extent touch upon legal history.

At the Erasmus University Rotterdam Paul Schuurman and Wiep van Bunge have created the Digital Locke Project for the digital edition of manuscripts by John Locke (1632-1704). It is curious that the website of this project is maintained in Amsterdam. The Erasmus University does not have a digital library with digitized books, but open access is advocated, and you can find publications from Rotterdam in an e-repository. The tulip books digitized at Wageningen University can offer you a good background for the study of the Dutch tulipomania in the early seventeenth century, the rage for tulips and the gulf of speculation on the prizes at which tulips were sold. In the e-Depot of Wageningen University, a university focusing on agricultural sciences, you can find for instance the study by Jaap Buis on the history of Dutch forestry. The Technical University Delft presents in its Multimedia Portal historical maps and images. At Tilburg University is no digital library, and only a part – some 20 percent – of the Tilburg e-repository is freely accessible. The catalogue of the Brabant Collectie, the rich collection on the history of the province of Brabant with books, manuscripts and audiovisual materials, can be searched online, but the interface is only in Dutch.

For Maastricht University you can check the links on the legal history of Limburg. Among the digital exhibitions of Maastricht University Library you might like The Dutch Bridge, on the historical relations between Japan and the Netherlands. When you leave out Utrecht, Leiden and Amsterdam you might think nothing can be added anymore. Academisch Erfgoed, “Academic Heritage”, is a portal of six universities in which university libraries and museums cooperate to create several digital collections; so far I have not found a collection related to legal history.

The Dutch ethnological collections have their own portal website, SVCN, but alas they do not digitize their books. The Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam has digitized exactly one book from its collections, Reize naar Suriname (..) by John Gabriel Stedman (1799), translated from the English original. However, the digital presentation gives only a selection from this book, which recently has been digitized completely for Early Dutch Books Online. All possible defects are redeemed by the variety of other activities of the RTI. Colonial maps from the RTI’s collection have been digitized, as is a fine image collection. The Royal Institute for South Asian and Caribbean Studies at Leiden supports a number of initiatives, among them, the Aceh Digital Library. In fact the link collection of this institute explains why I hesitate to create my own page on Indonesia, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. For Dutch colonial history in East Asia one can visit the Indisch Knooppunt portal with a lot of useful links.

Back to Dutch universities we find at Groningen University a very well-ordered digital repository. You can search chronologically for digitized dissertations at Groningen Law Faculty from 1920 onwards, for example the 1934 Ph.D. thesis by Herman Jan Scheltema on the actiones arbitrariae, and Thomas van Bochove’s dissertation on Byzantine law (1996). At Groningen, too, historical maps have been digitized. This is the place to refer to the Oddens link collection at Utrecht University on historical maps; sadly this repertory is no longer updated.

The digital collections of Leiden University Library offer their full strength only to subscribers and card holders. To me this situation at Leiden has always created the image of an immense treasure trove of which you can only visit the porch, but not really enter without special admission. You get a tantalizing glimpse of things, your appetite is wetted by often very extensive descriptions of holdings, but not a complete view of them. “Leiden has it, but it is not for all”, might be your quick conclusion. When you look for example at the selection of early printed books you will find among some sixty items a number of archival and manuscript collections and only a few books and pamphlets. Is it our good fortune that the two pamphlets have been digitized and are freely accessible? The first pamphlet is the famous Dutch declaration of independence from Spain in 1581 (Placaert vanden Staten Generael (..); PAMFLT 1581:237), the second a pamphlet against private trade issued by the Dutch East India Company (Pamphlet tegens den particulieren handel, Amsterdam 1630; THYSF 3516). I could not find a persistent link to these items, and therefore I give the signatures. How very old-fashioned and time-honoured! I am quite willing to applaud Leiden University, but this state of affairs seems to detract from usual Leiden standards.

Special subjects

Among other research institutes the International Institute for Social History (IISH). Whenever I see the site map of this institute I am truly impressed by the width and variety of archival records, visual materials and activities. Today I would like to point to Occasio, “Digital Social History Archive”, an internet archive for social history, with in particular sources on the wars in former Yugoslavia. Checking the IISH link list on the history of internet and various efforts to archive the internet is really worth your attention. The IISH supports a number of other institutions as well, for example the Dutch Press Museum. An online exhibition on censorship includes a bibliography on this subject. However, the IISH has only a few digital collections, and the most rewarding are perhaps the William Morris Collection and the Sylvain Maréchal Collection.

Aletta, formerly known as the International Archive for the Women’s Movement, has an open access image database. The Gerritsen collection on the history of the women’s movement has been digitized, but is accessible only at subscribing libraries and their card holders, and for card holders of Aletta. This enables you to use two other digital collections as well.

The Dutch Royal Library has an impressive list of digitization projects, but it is remarkable that only a few of them concentrate on books. Often they can be searched using the Memory of the Netherlands Portal, but books form only a small part of this imposing gateway to almost one hundred Dutch digital collections. Some projects are accessible through separate website, in particular the Dutch parliamentary papers from 1814 to 1995. The latest project of the Dutch Royal Library to go live is Early Dutch Books Online with books from the period 1780-1800. You can search on a sub domain website in a growing selection of digitized Dutch newspapers from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The interface is in Dutch. One of my few irritations with the website of the Dutch Royal Library is, its lack of consistent and updated English version of webpages.

The Second World War

The Institute for Dutch History cooperates with the Royal Library in digitizing its source editions. The Second World War looms large in the Dutch collective memory, but the Institute for Dutch History has steered safely from this period, because another research institution, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, was originally created as the special center for war documentation. The NIOD holds a large number of archival records and maintains a number of online services and websites. The NIOD points to a large number of related websites elsewhere. Digitized pamphlets at the NIOD are accessible again through Memory of the Netherlands portal. The 2002 NIOD report on the events in Srebenica in July 1995 has been digitized. Together with the Royal Library and the Dutch National Archive the NIOD will soon launch a new portal with sources concerning the Second World War.

In view of the sheer number of printed publications on the Second World War it is difficult to envisage a digital library for this period. The indelible imprint of this war on many Dutch lives and the Dutch imagination is reinforced by the proliferation of images and image databases. The NIOD supports at least two images databases on the Second World War, a more classical one and one as part of a portal. Interviews with witnesses of the Second World War figure on a special site. Fourteen war diaries held at the Historical Center Overijssel in Zwolle can be viewed at the Memory of the Netherlands.

Changing focus

No doubt this tour of Dutch digital libraries is a bit long in comparison to the number, quality and relevance for legal history of the websites mentioned here. However, this conclusion should not cause too much distress and despair, for not only digital libraries can support research in legal history. The projects for the digitization of newspapers listed by DEN offer open quick access to an important source on public views and discussions. The list documents also the great activity of Dutch archives for digitization.

Maybe it is now time to finish my series on digital libraries and to change my focus. Digital archives are every bit as interesting, diverse and important as digital libraries. When encountering digital libraries especially American libraries have also digitized archival collections. When I will look at digital archives I will not forget books and manuscripts. In fact I have already often been tempted to look closer at digitized archival records and their role and importance for legal historians, but in earlier postings often it was more sensible to stick as closely possible with the fascinating subject of digital libraries.

A postscript

In view of the restricted number of Dutch digital libraries that I found fit for inclusion here I would like to make good the omission of the image database at the library of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. As for now you will find engraved portraits, some digitized medieval manuscripts, historical maps and clay-tablets from the Ancient Near East in the Van der Meer-Cools collection. This collection might awake the interest of some legal historians. The library promises to publish soon more digital collections. In October 2011 I have added another post on Dutch digital libraries which can be read as a sequel to this post.

Four years later

The Dutch Royal Library has created a new overview of Dutch digital projects (PDF) where you can find not only books, but also maps, journals, newspapers, images and graphic materials. In the version of December 2014 Leiden (Digital Special Collections), Utrecht (the Objects database for the Bijzondere Collecties) and Groningen (Digital Collections) are sadly absent, but even with these lacunae it is a useful overview. However, surely it is time to update the overview here at the page for Old Dutch Law and at the similar page of my legal history portal.

What makes a book rare?

No doubt in 2011 rare books will show up in this blog. But what makes a book rare? I had no idea I would write about rare books in my first posting this year, and perhaps this fact helps to understand the word rare better. Instead of rare, meaning only seldom seen, known to be present at only a few locations, rare often has the added quality of being unlooked for. The departments of research libraries for Rare Books and Special Collections often combine this approach of bringing together manuscripts and books that have survived the centuries, editions of texts once common but now only found after extended research, and books and items brought into the possession of a scientific institution in a remarkable way. A scholar left his book collection, his research notes, lectures or papers to a university library, or a librarian succeeds at an auction in buying books on a particular theme. Sometimes a particular book was already a rarity at the time it left the press because of its contested contents or of its beautiful layout. It could have been printed on expensive paper or even parchment, and a priceless luxury binding increased its value, too.

You might have guessed that I somehow could not help spotting old books today, completely against the planning for new postings. I surfed to Belgica, the digital library of the Royal Library in Brussels. As an example of valuable editions now digitized the Royal Library presents in its showcase a volume with 43 juridical dissertations defended between 1652 and 1655 at the University of Franeker under the aegis of Johann Jacob Wissenbach (1607-1665). The accompanying note states these dissertations are not included in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN). The STCN aims at presenting data on Dutch imprints between 1540 and 1800 present in a generous selection of major Dutch libraries.

Which facts would enforce the conviction that these old juridical dissertations once defended at a university in Frisia are indeed rare and worth digitizing? The volume came originally from the library of the dukes of Arenberg and was confiscated after the First World War. This story accounts at least for the unexpected way this volume came into the possession of the Belgian Royal Library, but surely more can be done to estimate its rarity. One of the major projects for digitizing old dissertations is housed at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte at Frankfurt am Main. To its holdings belong more than 70,000 juridical dissertations defended at universities within the borders of the former Holy Roman Empire. At Frankfurt 31 dissertations from Franeker have been digitized, and the dissertations at Brussels are not among them. This fact can rightfully form an indication that the 43 mid seventeenth-century dissertations are rare indeed.

I will not make this post any longer than necessary, and therefore I will just indicate which further steps need to be taken to ascertain more about the rarity of this volume. One step is to look at the holdings of libraries worldwide for particular dissertations within this set. Modern meta-catalogues are truly catalogi omnium catalogorum, foremost among them the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog. The KVK enables you to search in many catalogues – including collective catalogues – at the same time with just one search action; text search is one of the latest additions to the KVK. Neither the KVK nor a few other major collective catalogues mention these particular dissertations. The other way to tackle this question is the road of bibliographies. Ferenc Postma and Jacob van Sluis published for the Frysk Akademie a bibliography of publications from Franeker, Auditorium Academiae Franekerensis. Bibliographie der Reden, Disputationen und Gelegenheitsdruckwerke der Universität und des Athenäums in Franeker 1585 – 1843 (Leeuwarden 1995). Postma and Van Sluis did every effort to find disputations from Franeker wherever held. In my opinion one can state safely whether an old edition from Franeker is rare or not by referring to their bibliography. Tracking juridical dissertations and establishing their authorship is something for specialists indeed. On publications by lawyers from Franeker it is also useful to look at the Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Franeker universiteit tot 1811 by Robert Feenstra, Theo Veen and Margreet Ahsmann (Amsterdam 2003).

Tresoar at Leeuwarden is the institution which combines the forces of the Frysk Riksarchyf and the Provincial Library of Frisia. For curiosity’s sake and because of the rich holdings housed at the former Treasury I checked for Johann Jakob Wissenbach in its catalogue. For Douvo Mellinga who held a disputation in 1654 contained in the set at Brussels a small volume survives with laudatory words by Wissenbach; to guess from the abbreviated title poems are concerned.

To round off for today, some books are certainly unlooked for! You will not expect Frisian books at Brussels. However, take for a random example a digitized book on Danish litterature at Tresoar in Leeuwarden, the edition Hafniae (Copenhagen) 1651 of [Runir] seu Danica literatura antiquissima by Ole Worm, is less surprising in view of the relatively small distance between Frisia and Denmark. I look forward to find more at the Belgica collection at Brussels, even if I have to inform you that the search function for this digital library does not work as expected. Using the normal catalogue and being alert for URL’s in the search results brings you to the digitized items, not just books, but also maps, music scores, drawings, engravings and medals.

A postscript

In this post I did not give a clear and succinct answer to the question whether the Brussels volume is rare indeed, but I can now safely vouch for its rarity. Checking for Douvo Mellinga in the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog led me to the Gemeinsamer Verbund Katalog which shows at the Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg a volume with two sets of disputations from Franeker, 43 in the first and 59 in the second, all presided by Johann Jakob Wissenbach, printed by Arcerius (Franeker 1658). In this volume the first disputation by Bartholomaeus Franck seems to be identical with the first disputation in the Brussels convoluted set, and the eleventh disputation in both sets is by Douvo Mellinga. It seems the Hamburg online catalogue shows old or incomplete bibliographical data, or more probable, one assumed the publisher of the second set to be also the publisher of the earlier “first” set. Cataloguing old juridical dissertations is a task for experts, and I do not want to offend any librarian. Ferenc Postma send me a comment stating he and Jacob van Sluis have found some 500 “new” titles for a supplement to their bibliography.

Terschelling revisited

Two weeks ago I left my blog for a holiday on Terschelling, one of the five Dutch Waddeneilanden, the Frisian Islands. It is time to come back to my post about these islands. Reading it again it clearly needs some additions and clarification. Thanks to my recent visit I can really complete a line of thought which loomed at first rather dim and hesitant.

The Staatsbosbeheer camping for groups at Swartduin

The Staatsbosbeheer group camping at Swartduin

At the heart of my post on Terschelling was the struggle between the protection of natural beauty, represented by Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch National Forest Service, and the interests of tourism, the core of the economy on these islands, represented by both the municipalities and the citizens of the Wadden Islands. The Dutch National Forest Service wants to increase the long lease rents due to them drastically. It is easy to see that the conflict here is also about the power of a public body in the role of a private land owner with a position tantamount to a monopoly. Whatever the outcome of this clash which implicates the boundaries between public and private law it is bound to be of interest to legal historians.

My search for legal documents about Terschelling has still barely started, but I could have pointed already to the very useful collection of sources presented at the website Regelgeving in de Nederlanden (Legal administration in the Low Countries). Alas you will not find here any sources which pertain only to the Frisian Islands, but among the sources for Frisian law you can find the main law texts, for instance the Lex Frisionum. The Dutch national website on jurisdiction, Rechtspraak, offers on the page of the Leeuwarden court a short general history of the Frisian courts.

The air touches the earth on the west beach of Terschelling

“…where you doubt whether it is a part of the sea or of the earth.”

I owe you the exact reference to the words of Pliny the Elder about the Wadden region: it is in Naturalis Historia, 16.1.2. The striking thing is of course the nearly seamless transition between land, air and sea. Walking on the Groene Strand, the Green Beach, makes you wonder why this particular area is not a national park. Now only the area around a number of dunes where artic terns (Sterna paradisaea) have their nests is marked as a bird reserve. In fact it has long been pleaded to make the Dutch Waddenzee into a National Park. Nature is such a scarce commodity in the densely populated Low Countries. Why should one hesitate to take action?

The Frisian Islands came into existence in the late thirteenth century when a former wall of dunes was finally broken by the power of the sea, thus creating the Waddenzee. I mentioned in my July post on Terschelling the fact that the Boschplaat has been added to the island since the second half of the nineteenth century when the former strait of the Koggendiep silted up. Geologists see a long-term development in which the Frisian Islands slowly move to the east. The Dutch National Forest Service invites groups of volunteers to help removing firs from the dunes. Dune areas should not become woods any more. One can certainly distinguish areas of outstanding natural beauty on Terschelling and the other Dutch Frisian Islands, but the question is exactly whether these islands have a distinct and definitive natural form. To my eyes nature here is in an eternal flow. Islands will move. The tides reshape their form not just twice daily, but also in the long run. Creating screens and dikes on sand plates and fostering dunes is an act of man making nature obey to some measure to his wishes. In the end, however, the forces at work here escape man’s grasp. The great paradox of natural beauty is indeed being often only recognized by making it a part of a landscape park, almost the Enlightenment version of the Garden of Eden. The very word landscape was first used in English to describe Dutch paintings representing outdoor scenes situated in a landschap, a man-made environment.

It is not my objective to dispute the ecological wealth of the Waddenzee or to doubt the need for protection. My question is not just which natural environment is most outstanding, but what does the concept of nature mean when it is so clearly fluent? Can one point to the original state of the Waddenzee? How can one use nature as a juridical concept when you have to acknowledge the fact that nature does not equate automatically with a stable order nor with utter chaos? In this light natural law most definitely emerges as a man-made argument par excellence.

The original idea of a vacation period was to free one self from daily doings and squalid affairs. Theologians wrote about vacare Deo, free one self for God. Hopefully your own holidays help you to look freshly again at anything and everything.

To finish things let me point to the Tractatus Tiberiadis from 1355 by Bartolo de Sassoferrato, the first treatise on legal geography as Osvaldo Cavallar wrote in his article ‘River of Law: Bartolus’s Tiberiadis (De alluvione)’, in: A Renaissance of Conflicts. Visions and Revisions of Law and Society in Italy and Spain, John A. Marino and Thomas Kuehn (edd.) (Toronto 2004) 31-129, with an edition of Bartolo’s treatise. You can read online the version of the text in a Lyonnese edition from 1555 of Bartolo’s consila and treatises in the digital library for legal history at Milan, starting at fol. 139 verso (page 278). For more information and images you can also read this post on the blog of the Fonds Anciens at the Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Lyon.

I would also like to mention the Tractaet of dyckagie by Andries Vierlingh (circa 1507-1579), a treatise on dike building. The 1920 edition by J. de Hullu and A.G. Verhoeven has been digitized by the Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, The Hague. More information in English about the history of Terschelling and other Dutch islands is presented by Ruud Bijlsma at his Islas website. Old maps of Terschelling are discussed and presented in a study by Marijke Donkersloot-de Vrij, Scellinge.Vijf eeuwen kartografie van Terschelling (Utrecht 2002). The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences has started a Waddenacademie.

A postscript

Somewhat belatedly I noticed Terschelling is home to seven duck decoys. A recent study has been devoted to them by Piet Lautenbach, Eendenkooien. De laatste heiligdommen van Terschelling [Duck decoys, the last sanctuaries of Terschelling] (Assen, 2011). The National Forestry Service pointed at its Terschelling blog in 2011 to the fact that some of these duck decoys have one owner, but others have multiple owners, and indicated also differences in the maintenance of them.

The theme of alluvial growth of land in Frisia and its impact on legal history is pursuited in a recent article by Kees Kuiken, ‘Opstrek of aanwas? Bezits- en rechtsverhoudingen in en om Het Bildt in Friesland tot 1506’ [Increase or alluvion? Properties and legal relations in and around Het Bildt in Frisia until 1506], Pro Memorie 14 (2012) 31-54.

Summer holiday on a Frisian island

It is summertime, and the living is easy! Time to leave my home town, and to spend a few weeks without e-mail or internet, even without any major library, archive or museum within train, biking or walking distance. The Frisian island of Terschelling is my holiday destination for the third successive year. Legal history will not be on my mind, but a couple of days ago I realized there is a connection between Terschelling and legal history which I have mentioned several times on my blog. Is there no escape possible from Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch National Forest Service?! You can check my March posts on the fortifications around Utrecht and the Breukeleveen duck decoy for it. Looking at the history of Terschelling yields some interesting facts on legal history, and the National Forest Service, founded in 1899 and since 1998 an independent service formerly part of the Ministry for Agriculture, is just a new element in it.

Arriving at Terschelling

The Frisian islands form a part of the fifty islands in the North Sea from the Dutch navy port of Den Helder up to Denmark. Nowadays five islands belong to the Dutch Waddeneilanden, Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. At some moments in history several Dutch islands have been abandoned because they changed into sand plates. The most eastern Dutch island in the Wadden Sea, Rottumeroog near the estuary of the river Ems, was the last abandoned island, now reserved for bird life.

Until the Saint Hubert Flood of 1287 Terschelling was not an island at all: one could reach it on foot from Frisia. Soon the island became important for the Hanseatic fleets. For centuries the city of Zwolle was in charge of keeping the sea route of the Koggediep. In 1322 count William III of Holland gave Terschelling as a fief, including the low and high jurisdiction, to Klaas Popma, a scion from a mighty Frisian family. From 1322 to 1615 Terschelling remained a fief of Holland; its archive is kept at the Dutch National Archives in The Hague. An inventory of it was made in 1976 by C.E. Schabbing, now available also online. Terschelling was ruled as a grietenij, a Frisian district. In 1482 Rienck Popma concluded a commercial treaty with the English king Edward IV. The Popma family was not the only claimant to the jurisdiction of Terschelling: the provost of the Saint Donatus at Brugge and Cornelis van Bergen competed with them in the early sixteenth century. The final possessor at the end of the sixteenth century, Charles of Aremberg, discovered he owned an impoverished island. In 1499 troops of a Frisian warlord had plundered the island, and in 1569 the castle of the Arembergs had been burnt down. In 1615 he sold it to the States of Holland. In 1666 English troops devastated Terschelling during Holmes’ Bonfire. They left only the Brandaris light house undamaged and captured a Dutch commercial fleet. For this the Dutch took their vengeance with the Raid on the Medway, the famous 1667 raid on the Thames. In the eighteenth century whaling helped the islanders to gain some prosperity.

In 1612 Terschelling had been divided into two separate municipalities. During the reign of the Dutch Patriot government, in 1805, Terschelling – Skylge in Frisian – became again a Frisian island, but in 1814 it was added to the new province North-Holland, and the island was united into one municipality. The archive of the two nedergerechten is kept at Tresoar – Frisian for treasury -, the Frisian provincial archive and library in Leeuwarden. In 1942, during the German occupation of the Netherlands, it was decided to add Terschelling again to the province of Friesland, a decision confirmed by Dutch law in 1951.

In 2009 UNESCO added the Dutch and German part of the Wadden Sea to the World Heritage List, thus acknowledging the natural beauty and ecological quality of this natural area. This surely crowns the efforts of the Dutch Waddenvereniging, the society for the protection of the Wadden Sea. Schiermonnikoog is even owned by Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Society for Natural Monuments. Lots of tourists visit the islands to enjoy all this, and this puts a serious threat to nature. The Dutch National Forest Service takes the main responsibility to protect the rich variety of landscapes, not just the dunes, beaches, moors, woods and polders, but also the shallows, the archetypical Wadden, a wetland environment altering eternally with the tides. Pliny the Elder wrote you cannot decide what belongs here to the sea and what is definitely land. The Boschplaat, formerly a sand plate, became from 1866 onwards factually part of Terschelling, formally confirmed by the building of a nine kilometer dike between 1931 and 1937. It is now the largest natural reserve, a third part of the island.

On Texel, Vlieland and Terschelling the Dutch Forest Service leases most houses and plots (in long lease); in fact even the use of dunes for water supply is leased this way by Staatsbosbeheer. Last year they announced a very substantial increase for the rents due to them which had not been changed in fifteen years. This enormous increase threats the local economy which centers around tourism. No wonder the inhabitants and municipalities of these isles protest vehemently against this proposal. Next year the Dutch Forest Service which runs also a number of camping sites, will raise its prices there drastically, too. Complaints have been expressed in the Dutch Parliament and even at the level of the European Commission, also about the alleged policy of forcing house owners to raise the official tax value of their properties.

Ameland dimly visible from the beach of Terschelling

Terschelling is not the only Frisian island with an interesting legal history. Schiermonnikoog – literally “Island of the Grey Monks” – belonged to the Cistercian abbey of Klaarkamp near Rinsumageest. After 1580 the States of Friesland held this island as confiscated ecclesiastical property, but between 1638 and 1945 it was a privately owned island. The lords of Ameland claimed from 1424 even the status of an independent principality, a status preserved by the Frisian States in 1704 when they became the lords. Only in 1814 Ameland became fully integrated in the Dutch administration. On Amelands legal history F.A.J. van der Ven has published  ‘”It takes three generations to make a gentleman”, oftewel enige opmerkingen en mededelingen over de rechtsgeschiedenis van Ameland’, Groninger Opmerkingen en Mededelingen 25 (2008) 51-74; earlier she wrote Een omstreden eiland. De eigendom van het eiland Schiermonnikoog in geding (Ph.D. thesis, Groningen 1993).

I have skipped the period in which Jacoba of Bavaria – to English readers better known as Jacqueline, countess of Hainaut – held Terschelling as a fief, but I would like to mention the fine new biography on her by Antheun Janse, Een pion voor een dame. Jacoba van Beieren (1401-1436) (Amsterdam, 2009). I could have pointed to the longevity of the particular Terschelling form of customary rights, the nabuurschap, of which some forms still exist. The variety of small museums on Terschelling can give you a vivid image of this and much more. Archival records concerning Terschelling are present not only in The Hague and Leeuwarden. The municipal archive from 1811 on is in West-Terschelling. Thanks to the Dutch archival search portal Archieven.nl, a website with a multilingual interface, one can search at home for many records. Medieval charters from Frisia published in the Groot placaat en charter-boek…van Friesland (5 vol., Leeuwarden 1768-1793) and also the Ostfriesisches Urkundenbuch (2 vol., Emden 1878-1881) can be found at the website Cartago. Tresoar, the Frisian archive at Leeuwarden, has its own digital treasury, with for example an incunable of the Freeska Landriucht, and you can use the Digitale Historische Bibliotheek Friesland. More Frisian archives are present on Fries Archiefnet. Enough is enough for now! I am sure I will enjoy Terschelling even more than before, and I am happy that during the coming weeks I will not escape completely from legal history. I hope you have enjoyed this long post, but much more can be said about Frisia and legal history.