THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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33 posts categorized "Netherlands"

05 January 2017

Gysbert Japicx: founder of Frisian literature

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Among the big literary figures we commemorated in 2016, Gysbert Japicx certainly deserves a mention. After all, he is credited with putting Frisian on the map as a literary language. Old Frisian was among the languages that formed the English language and was widely used in official, business and cultural contexts. By the mid-16th century Frisian was mainly used in popular songs. Anything more scholarly was written in Latin, French or Dutch.

Then, along comes Gysbert Japicx, schoolmaster, canon and poet.


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Gysbert Japicx, by his uncle Matthijs Harings (1637), from Hulde oan Gysbert Japicx (Assen, 1966) British Library Ac.966

Japicx was born into a middle-class family in the Frisian city of Bolsward in 1603 and died there in 1666. His father was Jacob Holckema, a cabinet maker, who held several public offices in town, up to burgomaster. The family name Holckema was not used very much and Gysbert only used his patronymic Japiks, or Japix, or Japicx.


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Map of Bolsward. From Tonneel van de Heerlykheit Friesland ...(1718). Maps C.9.e.3(44)

Gysbert was educated at the Latin school to become a school teacher, a profession he carried out all his life. Like his father he was active in the church, mainly as cantor. In 1602 he married Sijke Salves Rolwagen, daughter of a notary, with whom he had five children. Four of them died during epidemics of the plague, in 1656 and ten years later, during which turned out to be the last plague epidemic to occur in the Low Countries. This last outbreak took another child, his wife and himself. Only his oldest son Salves survived.

Japicx showed an interest in literature from an early age. He wrote poetry in Dutch, possibly Latin and his first work in Frisian dates from 1639. It is not certain why Gysbert started writing poetry in Frisian, but in any case this was well received. The fact that he put great emphasis on draughtsmanship must have played a part in this. He had great skill in applying the form of ‘inventio’, the art of making variations on a theme or work. Japicx’ work mainly consists of translations and (humorous) adaptations. He adapted works by classical poets, but also by contemporaries of his, Constantijn Huygens and Joost van den Vondel

He also wrote his own poetry; on topics ranging from religion, to love, to the lives of common people. Japicx concentrated on virtuosity and scholarly poetry and it is through these efforts that he turned Frisian into a scholarly and cultured language. Indeed, his virtuosity was so great, that very few Frisian poets have managed to equal him, even up to this day.

One of his most famous works is Friessche Tjerke, a humorous wedding poem. This was published by Claude Fonteyne, in Leeuwarden, in 1640 and is the only title to be published during Japicx’ lifetime.  The Library holds a facsimile of the 1640 edition, published in Germany in 1929.

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Gisbert Japicx, ‘FriesscheTjerne’ A facsimile of the edition of 1640 from Drei friesische Hochzeitsgedichte aus dem 17. Jahrhundert. Mit einer Einleitung herausgegeben von J. Haantjes und G. G. Kloeke (Hamburg, 1929)] Ac.9822/4

Friessche Tsjerne cemented Japicx’ name, both in the Netherlands as well as abroad.

The English linguist Franciscus Junius came to Bolsward, in order to learn Frisian from Japicx. Junius copied several of Japicx’ texts, which are still kept in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian MS. Junius 122 (22, 30)).

Frisian scholar J.H. Halbertsma extensively researched Japicx’ most famous poem and Junius’ texts in his Letterkundige Naoogst (Deventer, 1840;  816.b.36)

In 1668, two years after Japicx’ untimely death, Samuel Haringhouk published Friesche Rymlerye, the complete works of Gysbert Japicx. Japicx and Haringhouk had started on the editing of the works, when the plague took Japicx. There are three parts: Love poems , Dialogues and occasional poetry, and Psalms and other religious works.

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Gysbert Japicx, Friesche Rymlarye (Bolsward, 1668). 11557.h.27

In 1681 the historian Simon Abbes Gabbema edited a new edition, in two volumes, containing a collection of letters and translations of three French texts. (BL 839.f.22).


The commemorations of Gysbert Japicx may have closed with the passing of 2016, but Gysbert Japicx continues to be remembered in the literary prize for the best Frisian literary work, named in his honour.

One only needs to look at this video on YouTube to realise that Gysbert Japicx continues to inspire authors, poets and songwriters.

Marja Kingma. Curator Germanic Collections, Low Countries.

References:

It wurk fan Gysbert Japix [bezorgd door] Philippus Breuker. (Ljouwert, 1989). YA.1991.a.4753

Gysbert Japicx: the Oxford text of four poems . Edited with a complete glossary by Alistair Campbell. (Bolsward, 1948). 11529.e.30.

A more detailed biography and bibliography of Japicx (in Dutch) can be found here

31 October 2016

Shifting the Compass: Literature from the Dutch Antilles and Suriname

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Five years ago, from 15-17 September 2011, The Dutch Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley organised a conference on Dutch literature overseas: ‘Colonial and Postcolonial Connections in Dutch Literature’. A selection of papers presented at this conference was published as Shifting the Compass: Pluricontinental connections in Dutch Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (Newcastle, 2013; British Library YC.2013.a.14249).

In his introduction to the volume Jeroen Dewulf, states that ‘Dutch literature is much more than just literature from a tiny piece of land at the estuary of the Rhine. From the Carribean to Southern Africa and from Southeast Asia to Western Europe, the Dutch language formed a common bond in a literature that has been deeply marked by intercontinental connections.’

Dutch authors like Couperus, ‘Multatuli’, Hella Haasse, Marion Bloem and Adriaan van Dis, to name but a few, all had close ties to the Dutch East Indies. Their novels about the region address the issues surrounding colonial rule and are firmly placed in the canon of Dutch literature. This is reflected in the Library’s collections. For example, we hold various editions of Multatuli’s Max Havelaar, considered to be one the finest novels in the whole of Dutch literature.

The same cannot be said of literature from the other side of the world, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao). With the exception of writers such as Frank Martinus Arion, Cola Debrot and Edgar Cairo only in Dutch, there is not the coverage of titles as the Dutch East Indies has. An author like Astrid Roemer, who this year received the P.C. Hooftprijs, the most prestigious literary award of the Netherlands, deserves every bit as much attention as Hella Haasse does.

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A colonial-era view of Suriname, from A. Halberstadt, Kolonisatie van Europeanen te Suriname: opheffing van het pauperisme, ontwikkeling van handel en industrie (Leyden, 1872) 10480.g.7. (via Flickr)

Earlier this year Frank Martinus Arion passed away, leaving a formidable corpus of novels, poetry, essays and critiques. Why is he not as famous as Van Dis?

There may be many reasons for this: bias towards the Dutch East Indies as somehow more important than the Dutch West-Indies, bias towards authors with a white Dutch background, who knows – curators are not perfect.

And yet, the 5-volume Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur (A history of Suriname Literature) by Michiel van Kempen,  it is clear there are rich pickings to be had amongst the literature from Suriname and the same is true for the Antilles.

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Michiel van Kempen, Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur (Paramaribo, 2002) YF.2005.b.2372

I think it’s time to shift the compass and uncover the treasures of the literature from Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections 

10 May 2016

I Prefer Imagination

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Our second author Q&A post as a taster for this year’s European Literature Festival Writers’ Showcase event features Dutch author Jaap Robben, whose novel You Have Me To Love is published by World Editions

ELN Jaap Robben
Jaap Robben

How did you become a writer?

Actually I don't know. As a child I loved to read, but I never knew writing could be a real job. When I was around sixteen years old I started writing, jokes, small poems, sentences. In the mean time I went into enviromental science. I finished my studies but I'm a very bad scientist. I always preferred working on a story or a poem, instead of studying the environment. I prefer imagination to the correctness of science.

Do you have a favourite character in your fiction? If so, who? And if not, why not?

Oh, that's difficult. I don't really focus on characters when I'm reading. What I remember from the books on my bookshelf are more sentences or situations than characters.

You’re coming to London for European Literature Night. Is there a British author you particularly admire? 

Of course: Julian Barnes. At the moment I'm reading All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld for the second time and love it. I also admire Oliver Jeffers’ writing. 

Other than reading literature in translation, how else can we break down barriers between people of different nationalities and cultures?

In Dutch schools they only teach us about Dutch history, some ancient Greek, a little prehistoric, the Second World War. But we need to know more about modern European history.  We need to know who our neighbours are. We live in a union, but we don't know what happened to each other the last hundred years. For example, after I read a lot about the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States, I felt ashamed, because I had never heard about it. We need to know our stories.

Is there a book you wish you’d written? If so what is it?

Always my next book. The Flemish writer Hugo Claus  said: ‘Writing is like smashing your head against the wall, it’s always a relief when you quit.’

I think I would have been proud to be Janne Teller and and to have written her book Nothing  

What advice would you give to anyone just starting out?

That’s quite difficult. For people who want to write, but don’t get started, I don't really have a good advice. If you really want to write, you will do it. People hardly ever start with something completely new. For those people who are already writers, don’t listen too much to good advice. And try to forget yourself. it always helps me if I’m not so aware of myself while I'm writing. And put away your phone and email.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Dorthe Nors’ Karate Chop – she will also be at the European Literature Festival.  And it’s great! Her stories are like the best Tapas. Don’t eat it too fast.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

It's for children. I’m writing it together with the Flemish illustrator Benjamin Leroy. It’s called Suzy Douzy and the Smelly Finger.

ELN Jaap Robben You have me

 

09 May 2016

Our May Acronym Heaven: EU, EL, EUPL, ELIT, ELF, ELN, ACE & BL

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As European Literature Festival 2016 begins, we welcome back journalist and broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith to our blog as she introduces the events and gives a hint of what to look forward to at the Writers’ Showcase event on Wednesday 11th

For European Literature (EL) lovers, the month of May is the equivalent of Christmas, Hanukkah or Eid – it’s the festive highlight of our year when we celebrate our year-round efforts to publish and promote our beloved EL. Time to polish the champagne glasses (Boyd Tonkin), buy a new T-shirt (Daniel Hahn) and get out those red shoes (Rosie Goldsmith). This May we have an embarrassment of international literary riches: our first ever European Literature Festival and the first ever annual Man Booker International Prize (MBI)  in conjunction with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP: RIP) .

Eight years ago we had a dream, that we could gather together the best writers from the rest of Europe to London for a one-night-only special event. It had never been done before. Thanks to the mass collaboration of sponsors and partners, our dream became reality. The event became European Literature Night (ELN), initiated by EUNIC London, the Czech Centre and the British Library, and taking place in London and cities all over the continent. Over these eight years our ELN evening has become a week, then a month and this May it is the showcase event in our first European Literature Festival (ELF), embracing more than 30 countries, 60 writers and including poetry, graphic novels, literary fiction, non-fiction, crime thrillers and translation workshops. This year we also have some real British celebrities to boost the brand – Kate Mosse, Mark Lawson and Ian McMillan – and not just cut-price slebs like me and Danny Hahn. EL in the UK has itself become a celebrity. Next year maybe the cover of Vogue? Although we’ll have to do something about our acronyms.

  ELN 2015 Rosie Goldsmith
Rosie Goldsmith at the podium on European Literature Night 2015 (photo (c) MELA)

Here’s the full, fabulous programme: www.europeanliteraturefestival.org.uk and congratulations to ELF’s Artistic Director Jon Slack for making it happen.

As chair of the judges, Director of European Literature Network (ELNet) and host of ELN (keep up!), May is my personal merriest, busiest month. And I can guarantee that we have pulled it off again: the best of contemporary European literature (ok, EL!) is coming your way. British Library (BL – of course!), Wednesday 11th May.

Our six ‘winning’ writers are all literary celebrities ‘back home,’ magnificently translated and selected by us, the judges, from a pool of 65 European writers submitted by publishers and cultural organisations last November. Joining me on stage will be: Burhan Sönmez (Turkey), Dorthe Nors (Denmark), Gabriela Babnik (Slovenia), Peter Verhelst (Belgium), Jaap Robben (Netherlands) and Alek Popov (Bulgaria). They are all outstanding - unique, original, mind-expanding and fun. I love ELN and my two hours on stage, vicariously bathing in the reflected glory of our stars, conducting the equivalent of a BBC Live broadcast. (British Broadcasting Corporation!)

As our ELF Publicity promises: “The discussion will travel from the Turkish prison cells of Burhan Sönmez’s Istanbul, Istanbul to the turned upside-down-lives in Dorthe Nors’  twisted and imaginatively-realised streets of Copenhagen; to Slovenian writer Gabriela Babnik’s  seductive tale of forbidden love on the dusty plains of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; via Peter Verhelst’s deadpan Belgian humour in his Gorilla-narrated fable about the story of human civilisation (and its collapse). There is a tormented relationship unfolding between widow and son on Dutch-writer Jaap Robben’s remote and stormy island (located somewhere between Scotland and Norway); and we finish in Alek Popov’s strange and comic novel that moves between Bulgaria and New York, where two brothers question whether their long-deceased father is, in fact, dead.”

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This year's ELN line-up

As our ELF superstar-host Kate Mosse says: “At a time when the countless shared histories and stories from our many friends and strangers in Europe are danger of being lost in the politics of the EU debate, an initiative like the European Literature Festival is more important than ever.” Who needs supermodel Kate Moss on a Vogue cover when you have superstar novelist Kate Mosse?

On behalf of ELNet & EUPL & with thanks 2 ACE & ELIT I’ll c u 4 ELN @BL! LoL RGx

29 March 2016

The early illustrated editions of Don Quixote: the Low Countries tradition

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The first complete illustrated edition of Cervantes’s novel of Don Quixote appeared not in the original Spanish but in a Dutch translation, printed in Dordrecht in 1657. It contained as many as 24 illustrations, plus two frontispieces. Jacob Savery, the printer, was most probably also responsible for the engravings. In 1662, 16 of his illustrations were then reused in a Spanish edition printed by Jan Mommaert in Brussels. Then in 1672/73, Hieronymus and Johannes Baptista Verdussen of Antwerp printed an edition with the two frontispieces and 32 engravings of which the 16 were retained from the 1662 edition and 16 were new. These latter were engraved by Frederik Bouttats; the artist is unknown.

The illustrations of the three editions focus inevitably on narrative action with an emphasis on the more physical episodes. This supports the argument that in the 17th century Don Quixote was read largely as a work of entertainment. Limitations of space have restricted the current display in the British Library’s Treasures Gallery  to just two examples from this important tradition. Savery’s illustration of the unfortunate Sancho being tossed in a blanket is common to all three editions. One feature of these illustrations is the inclusion of more than one incident in a single image. Here, two incidents in chapters 17-18 of Part 1 are combined: the tossing of Sancho in a blanket (ch. 17) and Don Quixote’s attack on the flock of sheep in the background (ch. 18).

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 Sancho Panza is tossed in a blanket in the inn yard; Don Quixote attacks the flock of sheep (Background). Miguel de Cervantes, Den verstandigen vroomen ridder Don Quichot de la Mancha (Dordrecht, 1657) Cerv.114. facing p. 58.

The same technique can be seen also in Savery’s illustration in all three editions depicting the concluding moments of Part 1 chapter 8. The narrative ends abruptly with Don Quixote and the ‘brave Basque’ confronting each other with swords raised ready to strike. The interruption occurs because, so it is claimed, the source text ended at this point. (The ‘discovery’ of a continuation is subsequently described in chapter 9.). Don Quixote and the Basque are placed in the foreground, in front of a coach and its lady passenger whom the Basque is escorting. In the background we can see also the preceding incident of chapter 8, Don Quixote’s disastrous charge against the windmills.

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 Don Quixote and the vizcaíno with raised swords; the charge against the windmills (background). Miguel de Cervantes, Vida y hechos del ingenioso cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha (Brussels, 1662), vol. 1. 1074.i.5., facing p. 52.

The illustrations added to the Antwerp edition of 1672/73, engraved by Fredrick Bouttats, are technically superior to those in the editions of 1657 and 1662. Don Quixote’s meeting with the enchanted Dulcinea, the result of Sancho’s stratagem, includes the same characters, but is livelier and more expressive. Both the knight and his squire are shown kneeling in homage to the ‘lady’ Dulcinea. Moreover, unlike Savery’s 1657 illustration, it illustrates in the background the subsequent action when Dulcinea rides off and is unseated by her donkey. Quixote and Sancho come to her aid.

EnchantedDulcinea1672

Don Quixote and Sancho greet the supposedly enchanted Dulcinea; Dulcinea is thrown from her mount (background). Miguel de Cervantes, Vida y hechos del ingenioso cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha (Antwerp, 1672-73), vol. 2, 1074.i.8. facing p. 80.

On their own the images of the 1657 edition had limited subsequent circulation except in Dutch versions, but those in the 1672/73 Antwerp edition were widely used in versions in French, English, German and Spanish until well into the 18th century.

Geoff West, former Curator Hispanic Collections

References/further reading:

Patrick Lenaghan, Imágenes del Quijote: modelos de representación en las ediciones de los siglos XVII a XIX (Madrid, 2003). LF.31.a.88

José Manuel Lucía Megías. Leer el ‘Quijote’ en imágenes. Hacia una teoría de los modelos iconográficos. (Madrid, 2006). YF.2007.a.12503

Centro de Estudios Cervantinos. Quijote Banco de imágenes 1605-1915: http://www.qbi2005.com

25 February 2016

Strike!! Strike!! Strike!!

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In the poem Razzia (‘Manhunt’) the narrator is awake at night. He listens to the sounds around him, thinking about his family lying asleep in the house. Suddenly he hears a lorry driving down the street and coming to a halt.  Listening intently, his heart racing, he tries to gauge where the lorry has stopped. Then, the lorry moves on and they are safe- for now.  We do not get to know the fate of a neighbour family who may not have been so lucky. The British Library’s copy of this poem is one of only 25 made, clandestinely printed by Fokke Timmermans and donated to the Library in 1969 by Mr. Timmermans himself.

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Razzia
, anonymous poem. (The Hague, 1944). British Library Cup.406.d.9

Manhunts happened up and down occupied countries, as a way to arrest and deport Jewish citizens.

When, on 22 and 23 of February 1941 the German Ordnungspolizei  sealed off part of the Jewish quarter in Amsterdam and rounded up 425 Jewish men, aged between 20 and 35, in the first major manhunt on Dutch occupied territory during the war, the people of Amsterdam sprang into action.

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Plan, showing the sealed off area in the Jewish quarter in Amsterdam, with the Jonas Daniël

Meijerplein.  Reproduced in:  B. A. Sijes, De Februaristaking. (Amsterdam, 1978) X:702/3672


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Jewish men held by Ordnungspolizei on the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein. Photos taken by a German onlooker, of which the developer made extra copies. Reproduced in: Gerard Maas, Kroniek van de Februari-staking 1941. (Amsterdam, 1961) 9105.ee.47.

On Monday 24 February members of the clandestine Communist Party Netherlands held a public meeting at the Jonas Daniël Meijer Plein. This was where the Jewish men had been brought together to be transported to the camps Buchenwald and Mauthausen, via the oldest transit camp on Dutch soil, Schoorl. Most did not return. 

The Communists called all workers in Amsterdam to a general strike, to begin on the following day, 25 February.

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Pamphlet calling a strike. Reproduced in: Gerard Maas, 1941 bloeiden de rozen in februari. (Amsterdam, 1991) YA.1994.a.8919.

Tram drivers from the municipal transport company were the first to answer this call, so when no trams were running Amsterdam citizens knew the strike was on. Workers from the dockyards soon followed.

Civil servants were not allowed to strike, but at least 4,400 employees of the Amsterdam city council defied this rule.  Surrounding cities as far as Utrecht joined in.

Once the Germans had recovered from their surprise they declared that anyone who would continue to strike would face the death penalty. Still, the following day the strike went on. The Ordnungspolizei mercilessly struck down the strike. Nine people were shot dead, more than 40 were wounded and 200 people, some strikers, some not, were arrested and many mistreated whilst under arrest. By 27 February the strike was over.

Both individuals and institutions were severely punished for their actions. Amsterdam civil servants suffered a pay-cut and city councils were fined between 500,000 and 2,500,000 guilders.  Some paid the ultimate price, in particular the men commemorated in the most famous resistance poem of the war, De Achttien Dooden ( ‘The Eighteen Dead’), by Jan Campert, journalist and poet. These were the leaders and members of the resistance and the Communist Party who had called for the strike. They were arrested and executed by firing squad on 13 March 1941.


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Jan Campert,  De Achttien Dooden, first published anonymously 1941/42. The British Library’s edition (Cup.406.d.28) dates from 1943 and has the illustration by Coen van Hart (‘Braveheart’), pseudonym of Fedde Weidema.

The February strike was the first, and some say only, open mass protest by non-Jewish people in Europe against the deportation of the Jews. 

In 1946 the first memorial for the victims of the February strike took place at the Jonas Daniël Meijer Plein, as it is still done.  In 1952 Queen Wilhelmina unveiled the memorial ‘The Dock worker’ by Mari Andriessen and tonight people will gather there for the 75th anniversary of the February strike. This will be broadcast live by the NPO. Lest we forget.

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The Dock Worker (image from http://www.dedokwerker.nl/februaristaking.html

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections.


References and further reading:

L. de Jong, De Bezetting, Tekst en beeldmateriaal van de uitzendingen van de Nederlandse Televisie-Stichting over het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. 1940-1945  (Amsterdam, 1966). X.702/378.

O.C. A. van Lidth de Jeude, Londense dagboeken van Jhr.ir. O.C.A. van Lidth de Jeude januari 1940 - mei 1945, bewerkt door A.E. Kersten, met medewerking van Eric Th. Mos. (the Hague, 2001). 9405.p [Kleine Ser No.95-96] (A digital edition is freely available at: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/retroboeken/lidt/#source=1&page=392&view=imagePane)

J. Presser, Ondergang (The Hague, 1965) W.P.2258/10. (English translation by Arnold Pomerans : Ashes in the Wind (London, 1968).  X.709/7096.

B.A. Sijes, De februari-staking (Amsterdam, 1978). X:702/3672 (With English summary)

A. Simoni, Publish and be free:  a catalogue of clandestine books printed in the Netherlands, 1940-1945, in the British Library (London, 1975. 2725.aa.1

On the web:

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the February strike the National Institute for War-Holocaust and Genocide Studies ( NIOD ) is running a special website on the event: http://www.niod.knaw.nl/nl/nieuws/februaristaking-de-collecties-van-het-niod

The Amsterdam City Archives is calling for the general public to send in photographs of family members and friends who took part in the strike, to put faces to numbers: https://www.amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief/english/

Dutch Public Broadcasting Company (NPO) runs a feature on the strike and will broadcast the commemoration live tonight (25 February 2016): http://www.npo.nl/artikelen/75-jaar-na-de-februaristaking

The memorial De Dokwerker has its own website with a treasure trove of information (in Dutch only): http://www.dedokwerker.nl/februaristaking.html

29 December 2015

The Big Dictation: the Excitement of Spelling.

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On Saturday 19 December, two teams of 30 Dutch and Flemish spelling aficionados went head to head in the 26th edition of Het Groot Dictee, or The Big Dictation. This spelling contest is broadcast live on television in the Netherlands and Belgium, from the chamber of the Dutch Senate in The Hague, no less. In its 26 years the Big Dictation has become an institution, with its own website, Twitter feed,  and a version for children. 

So, what is it about? Now you’re asking. Is it simply about spelling, or competition, or national identity, with a (friendly!) rivalry between the Dutch and the Flemish?

Who knows? It’s probably a bit of all three. One of the attractions is probably that everyone can participate, albeit unofficially, from their own living rooms. It probably also helps that  weeks before the contest the organizing newspapers, the Dutch De Volkskrant (The People’s Paper) and the Flemish De Morgen (The Morning) as well as language organizations offer practice exercises to get people in the mood. Schools participate, too, since children can do the children’s version. Isn’t this a fun way of learning how to spell? Words you’ve always struggled with will stick for ever in your mind, once it featured in the Groot Dictee.

Dutch spelling is formalised in the standard dictionary of the Dutch language: The ‘Dikke’ (Fat) Van Dale, a commercial title and in the Woordenlijst der Nederlandse Taal (Word list of the Dutch Language), or Het Groene Boekje (The Little Green Book) as it is better known. The latest edition of the Little Green Book was published in October this year, for the first time also by Van Dale.  It is compiled by De Taalunie the body that oversees policies in the area of the Dutch language, and there is a free online edition.  

 
Woordenlijst 1872
Second edition (1872) of Matthias de Vries and L.A. te Winkel Woordenlijst voor de spelling der Nederlandsche taal, the predecessor of today’s Groene Boekje  (British Library 1608/2709.)

This formalised approach to the Dutch language is similar to that of the French. It should therefore come as no surprise that the French were the first to come up with the idea for a Big Dictation.  There it is held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is where Philip Freriks, Paris correspondent for De Volkskrant in the 1980s and 90s, first saw it and subsequently brought it over to the Netherlands.

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Philip Freriks . Photo by Maurice Vink from Wikimedia Commons

Freriks has presented the Big Dictation for many years and other journalists have contributed by writing the text, such as this year’s author Lieve Joris, journalist and travel writer. Originally from Flanders, she now lives in Amsterdam, when she is not travelling the world. She is known for her award-winning travel writing about the Middle East, for example The Gates of Damascus (London, 1996; YC.1997.a.94)

HGDLieve_joris-1450104525
Lieve Joris at the 2015 Big Dictation. Photo by Ruud Hendrickx from wikiportret.nl
 

Although it was the Dutch team that won this year, overall the Flemish contestants made the least mistakes. 31 Dutch participants made 747 mistakes, against 620 by the 29 Flemish.
This year saw a few ‘firsts’:

  1. The contest was between the Dutch and the Flemish teams, whilst before the participants selected from the readers of De Volkskrant and De Morgen were pitted against the Dutch and Flemish celebrities. 
  2. There was a final. After writing the Dictation the best Dutch reader and celebrity and best Flemish reader and celebrity battled it out over ten very difficult words. 
  3. There was a Polish participant; a ‘wild card’ added to the Dutch team. 

Needless to say any use of electronic spellcheckers is strictly forbidden, although the words for these devices pop up in the Dictation; such as ‘spellingchecker’. Now there’s a fine example of how the Dutch incorporate English words into Dutch. That aside, it doesn’t look as if spelling checkers have taken the fun out of spelling, so it is to be hoped that ‘The Big Dictation’ will see many more episodes. It is a true celebration of the richness of the Dutch language.

Marja Kingma, Curator Dutch Language Collections

Further reading
(This is a small selection of the many titles about Dutch spelling which can be found in the British Library catalogue.)

Henriëtte Houët, Grammatica Nederlands : woorden, zinnen, spelling. (Houten, 2011). YF.2012.a.14746.

F.J.A. Mostert, ‘Dutch Spelling Reform’,  Language International, vol. 8, no 2, 1996, pp. 18-20. 5155.709680

G.C. Molewijk & Vic de Donder, De citroen van de gynaecoloog : de sitroen van de ginekoloog : de nieuwe spelling: pro of contra (Amsterdam, 1994) YA.1995.a.7045.

G.C. Molewijk, Spellingverandering van zin naar onzin (1200-heden). (The Hague, 1992) YA.1993.b.9041.
 

21 December 2015

World proverbs in speech, text and image

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All the world over, wise people say “Nobody knows his own defects” and “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over”. 

You may find this an inspiring indication of the oneness of mankind, or alternatively depressing proof of the lack of originality of the human mind.

The current BL exhibition “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song” includes some small figures which are thought to refer to popular proverbs.

  African proverbs weightAs described in the exhibition catalogue, “The gold-weight [above, from the collections of the British Museum] depicting two crocodiles with one stomach embodies the Asante proverb Funtufunefu, denkyemfunefu, won efuru bom, nso woredidi a na woreko, meaning that even though they have one stomach, they fight over food when eating.” (p. 123).

It’s from Ghana, and dated somewhere in the 18th to 20th centuries.

I’m reminded of European  misericords, carvings under the seats in the choir stalls of medieval churches. These often show motifs which can  be matched to popular tales or sayings. The examples below from the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam show a man banging his head against a brick wall and another falling between two stools.  (These two images also occur in Bruegel).  

  Proverbs misericords 1            Proverbs misericords 2

 European popular proverbs are written down, in the context of Latin literature, as early as the 13th century. The most common contexts are sermons and grammar books.

Arabic proverbs (more properly learned than popular) made their entrance in the West in 13th-century Spain, and were printed in erudite bilingual Arabic-Latin collections from the early 17th century on.

African proverbs, at least in those parts which were occupied by Britain and France, were not printed until the 19th century (see Moll’s bibliography).

The BL recently acquired a book which I think is typical of the first printing of African proverbs:

Elementos Grammaticaes tp
Elementos grammaticaes da lingua Nbundu  offerecidos a S.M.F.O. Senhor D. Luis I por Dr. Saturnino de Sousa e Oliveira e Manuel Alves de Castro Francina (Loanda, 1864) YF.2015.a.25009

The context is a grammar of the Nbundu (Kimbundu) language, spoken in Angola. Early printed grammars of French (etc.)  for English (etc.)  speakers regularly included an anthology of proverbs.  And so it is in this book of 1864.

Here the Nbundu original is given followed by the literal Portuguese translation, and then the Portuguese equivalent.

  Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs
Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs


The monkey doesn’t look at his tail

Often the ant dominates the elephant

What the eyes see, causes envy

The rat is an expert in his hole

One who makes water often cannot lie down in a wet place

The witchdoctor starts with his own house and ends up outside

 

 Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References/further reading:

Walter S. Gibson, Figures of speech : picturing proverbs in renaissance Netherlands (London, 2010) YC.2010.a.7023

Otto E. Moll, Sprichwörterbibliographie (Frankfurt am Main, [1958]) Humanities 1 Reading Room HLR 398.9

Barry Taylor, ‘Los Libros de proverbios bilingües: disposición e intención’, in Corpus, genres, théories et méthodes: construction d’une base de données, ed. Marie-Christine Bornes-Varol and Marie-Sol Ortola (Nancy, 2010), pp. 119-29. YF.2012.a.22372

Barry Taylor, ‘Éditions bilingues de textes espagnols’, K výzkumu zámeckých, měšťanských a cirkevnich knihoven, ‘Jazyk a  řeč knihy’, Opera romanica, 11 (2009), 385-94. ZF.9.a.4837

West Africa : word, symbol, song / general editors, Gus Casely-Hayford, Janet Topp Fargion and Marion Wallace. 2015.

 

16 October 2015

The Truth about Waterloo?

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A few days ago I attended a talk by Belgian author Johan Op De Beeck, who specialises in the Napoleonic Wars. His latest book Waterloo: De laatste honderd dagen van Napoleon focuses on the roles played by Dutch, Belgian and Nassau troops before and during the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Photo1OdBcover (2)Johan Op de Beeck, Waterloo: de laatste honderd dagen van Napoleon. (Antwerp, 2013). British Library YF.2015.a.14916; the cover shows 1814 by Jean-Philip-Ernest Meisionier (The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

It is often said that the truth is the first casualty in war and Waterloo is no exception. Op de Beeck’s view is, that all parties involved created their own ‘truth’ and that future historians have been all too gullible in accepting highly one-sided accounts from mainly the British. After all, ‘history is written by the victor’, as Winston Churchill observed. For nearly 200 years the accepted narrative has been that the British army, under command of the Duke of Wellington secured victory practically singlehandedly. No-one contests the fact that Wellington’s army won the battle of Waterloo, but there has been a distinct lack of acknowledgement of the major and sometimes decisive contributions and sacrifices the Dutch, Belgian, Nassau and Prussian armies made on the battlefield. Wellington’s own account of affairs does not mention that it was the Dutch, Belgian and Nassau armies who held the French at bay at Quatre-Bras until British reinforcements arrived on 16 June. Nor does the Duke mention the Dutch actions that proved instrumental in securing the victory during the final stages of the battle at Waterloo.

The Dutch King William I and his son, the Prince of Orange, who had fought in the front line and was wounded, were outraged. They demanded acknowledgment of the sacrifices the European allies of the Brits had made, but to no avail.

Photo2PrinceWilliam
Prince William of Orange (later King William II), from Het leven van Koning Willem II (Amsterdam, 1849) 10760.d.8.

Things did not get any better for the Dutch and Belgians when William Siborne (1797–1849) published his History of the War in France and Belgium in 1844. In it, Siborne dismisses the Dutch and Belgians as deserters. He particularly attacks the Prince of Orange, whom he describes as ‘incompetent’ and ‘inexperienced’ , a bit of a loose cannon. Siborne’s book had such an impact that it was simply accepted as the truth by future British historians, until far into the 20th century: Jac Weller criticizes the Dutch in his 1992 book Wellington at Waterloo.

Siborne’s account was challenged as early as 1846, amongst others by Dutch Lieutenant-General and military historian W.J. Knoop (1811-1894). His reaction to Siborne appeared as a pamphlet, entitled Beschouwingen over Siborne’s Geschiedenis van den oorlog van 1815 in Frankrijk en de Nederlanden. Knoop strongly objected to Siborne’s view that practically the whole Dutch army deserted at Waterloo. The same year his pamphlet was translated into German, (M.L.df.1) and French ( 9076.ff.41) and met with great approval. In Britain it was merely noted.

Photo6Knoop
W.J. Knoop, Beschouwingen over Siborne’s Geschiedenis van den oorlog van 1815 in Frankrijk en de Nederlanden (Breda, 1847). 1435.g.4.

The Dutch government did not give up and sent Knoop’s pupil François de Bas to Britain to research Siborne’s archives. De Bas found that Siborne had been rather selective in choosing his resources, but he did not get anywhere with the Brits. On the contrary, the British views were only reinforced when Siborne’s son Major-General Herbert Taylor Siborne (1826-1902) published Waterloo Letters in 1891.

So strong was support for Siborne that the Scottish historian Sir Herbert Maxwell was accused of being ‘anti-British’, when he dared point out how important the Dutch, Belgian and Nassau contributions to the victory had been in his 1899 Life of Wellington.

However, the Brits weren’t the only ones to exaggerate their role in events. The Dutch and Belgians did the same for their sides, mainly inspired by a desire to strengthen the position of the very young new Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was only established two years earlier.

Throughout the 19th century commemorations and celebrations of Quatre-Bras and Waterloo were held at every opportunity, which led to a flood of highly patriotic songs, poems and other publications, such as those illustrated below.

Photo3Triomftogt (1)Programma van den triomftogt, te houden binnen ... Amsterdam, op den 19 Junij 1865 ... ([Amsterdam, 1865]) 1871.e.1.(108*.)

 Photo4Feestliedje
 Vooruit maar! Feestliedje ter herdenking aan den strijd bij Quatre-Bras en Waterloo.(Utrecht. [1865]) 1871.e.1.(111.) 

 Photo5Waterloolied
1815-1865 Waterloo-lied (Leiden, [1865]) 1871.e.1.(124.)

It wasn’t until well into the 20th Century that more balanced views started to be aired, both within and outside Britain. When written in English, the latter are better picked up by British scholarship, which promotes a more critical approach of earlier studies, such as Siborne’s. Jeremy Black’s The Battle of Waterloo (2010) and Alan Forrest’s Waterloo (2015) are good examples of this less biased approach.

There is of course no one real truth about Waterloo and so researchers will have plenty of work to do unpicking the truth and debunking the myths surrounding Waterloo. What better place to start than at the British Library?! Very few libraries in the country can rival our holdings published both within and outside Britain, expressing many different views, in various languages and forms.

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections

References/further reading:

William Siborne, History of the War in France and Belgium, 1815; containing minute details of the battles of Quatre-Bras, Ligny, Wavre, and Waterloo. (London, 1844) 1435.g.7-8, and online: http://access.bl.uk/item/pdf/lsidyv37be609e

Jac Weller, Wellington at Waterloo. (Greenhill, 1992). YK.1992.a.7961.

Herbert Taylor Siborne, Waterloo Letters: a Selection from Original and hitherto Unpublished Letters bearing on the Operations of the 16th, 17th, and 18th June 1815, by Officers who served in the Campaign (London, 1891) 9079.bb.36, and online: http://access.bl.uk/item/pdf/lsidyv30b6053a

Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Life of Wellington: the Restoration of the Martial Power of Great Britain ... (London, 1899) 010817.k.14.

Jeremy Black, The Battle of Waterloo (New York, 2010) m10/.15369

Alan I. Forrest, Waterloo. (Oxford, 2015) (awaiting shelfmark)

Jeroen van Zanten, ‘Hoe dapper was ‘Silly Billy’?’ Historisch Nieuwsblad, Vol. 24, no. 6 (June 2015) pp 33-39. []

Ruscombe Foster, Wellington and Waterloo: the Duke, the Battle and Posterity. (Stroud, 2014) YC.2015.a.2532

 

02 October 2015

Michiel Adrianenszoon de Ruyter (1607-1676) Navigates the British Library

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Last week Thursday the Dutch Centre screened the film ‘Michiel de Ruyter’, or ‘Admiral’ in the English version, about the 17th-Century admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, the Dutch Horatio Nelson. 

Photo1MAdR220px-Bol,_Michiel_de_RuyterMichiel de Ruyter portrait. Painting by Ferdinant Bol 1667 (From Wikimedia Commons)

I had been invited to give a short introduction about De Ruyter. Not being an expert on this topic I delved into the British Library’s collections to look for suitable material. The film’s main focus is on the three Anglo-Dutch wars (1652-1654, 1665-1667, 1672-1674). De Ruyter fought in all of them.

One of the battles during the First Anglo-Dutch war was at Scheveningen on 10 August 1653. The Dutch High Admiral Maarten Tromp (played by Rutger Hauer ) was killed and De Ruyter was the only commander to make it to Tromp’s cabin. On his orders Tromp’s death was kept secret to keep morale up.

After the battle De Ruyter wrote a letter to the Grand-Pensionary of the States General, Johan de Witt. This letter got printed and we hold a copy within a so-called ‘tract-volume’, where you will find other publications from the period about the First Anglo-Dutch War gathered and bound together.

Photo2 MAdRtoSG11081653                                 Netherlands, Proclamations, etc. 1652-1655. The Hague, 1653. British Library D.N.2/1.(29)

In the hastily-written letter De Ruyter gives an account of the battle, which lasted two days and resulted in great losses on both sides, in both men and ships. De Ruyter describes his sorrow over the death of Admiral Maarten Tromp, the chase of the English and the battle. De Ruyter’s own ship The Lamb was so badly damaged it could hardly sail and had to be towed to safety by one of the other ships.  At one point he says he is too busy to report on everything that happened. His foremast is broken and he has 40 dead and 48 injured men. That gives an amazing glimpse in the state of mind De Ruyter must have been in. Here he is, sitting in his cabin, frantically writing his letter whilst anxious to get back on deck where his crew and ship need his attention.  Note how he meticulously records the date and place where he signs off.

The death of Maarten Tromp led to the publication of many pamphlets and poems. In another collection of tracts about the First Anglo-Dutch war there is this one (published in Dutch) A Little Conversation on the Old and the New Admiral, being a defence of M.H. Tromp against several false accusations, by a true Dutch seaman.  It is a fierce defence of the old admiral's actions during the battle, presented in the form of a dialogue between two men.

Photo3 MAdRT1720Praatje
Een Praatje van denouden en nieuwen Admiraal ...  door een oprecht Hollands zeeman.
Amsterdam, 1653. T.1720.(14)

After De Ruyter’s great victory on the Medway of June 1667, one of the greatest Dutch poets of the time, Joost van den Vondel  wrote a poem in which he called De Ruyter ‘The Lion of the Seas on the Thames’. Vondel relates how God brought down Charles II, sitting on his throne in his ‘haughtiness’  (with a swipe to his executed father Charles I) and thinking the chain across the Medway will ward off the Dutch.  Vondel exaggerates a bit here by saying that the chain spans from Dover to Calais. However, God sends his very own fleet, the States Generals’ with The Lion slashing and burning its way up the Thames and Medway to thrash the English fleet. ‘What do you say now, heh, Charlie?’ continues Vondel. He ends with how at Breda (where peace was made quickly after the Raid) three men were knighted: ‘Ruiter, Gent en Ruwaert Wit.’

Photo4MAdRZeeleeuopdenTheemsJvdVondela77f4a8c02328d29e784c924791d225c8baf64a9

De Zeeleeu op den Teems, J. V. Vondel. Amsterdam, 1653 (Image taken from www.geheugenvannederland.nl from 258 C 53 [76]], Plano’s en plakkaten, Koninklijke Bibliotheek)

The best English contemporary source on the Anglo-Dutch Wars are the diaries of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703).  The diaries are available online at www.pepysdiary.com

If you prefer print editions do consult our catalogue, where you will find hundreds of titles concerning Pepys, his diaries and his role at the Royal Navy. The early 20th Century children’s series ‘World Heroes’ includes a volume about Michiel de Ruyter. It has various coloured plates depicting scenes from De Ruyter’s life and career. 

Photo5MAdR10600aa6AHHillyardDSCF4468Front cover of : Michael Adriaanszoon de Ruyter: the famous Dutch admiral ..., by H. Hillyard. (London, 1908)

Last year Robin Jacobs wrote a guest blog  about the prelude to the Raid on Chatham: Holmes Bonfire. Newly-published titles are added to the collection, so do keep coming back here to see what’s new.

 Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections

References and further reading

P.J. Blok, The Life of Admiral De Ruyter. Translated by G. J. Renier. (London, 1933). 010760.f.37.

C.R. Boxer, The Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century, 1652-1674. (London,1996). [2nd ed.] YK.1996.a.20068

D.R. Hainsworth & Christine Churches, The Anglo-Dutch naval wars, 1652-1674. (Stroud, 1998). YC.2000.b.684

Ronald Prud’homme van Reine, De Ruyter : Dutch admiral. (Rotterdam, 2011). YD.2015.b.526. This is the modern standard biography of De Ruyter.