THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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38 posts categorized "Netherlands"

19 January 2018

Mapping the Christmas Flood of 1717

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This Christmas saw some pretty wet and windy weather, both in the UK and across the North Sea in the Netherlands, where I spent my Christmas holidays. Foul it may have been, but it was nothing compared to the storm that battered vast swathes of the Northern Netherlands, Northern Germany and Denmark for four days over Christmas in 1717. 

I must say, that I, like most of my fellow Dutchmen had never heard of this storm. Yet, it caused more casualties than the big flood of 1953. It was the biggest natural disaster in 400 years.  The Northern Maritime Museum,  located in two beautiful Medieval buildings in the centre of Groningen, is runnning an exhibition on this ‘Midwinterflood’, in collaboration with the Groninger Archieven. They are organising a conference about the flood on 20 January.

A prominent place in the exhibition is taken up by images of a map, which is by no means ‘only’ a topographical map, but tells the story of the flood in both cartographic and pictorial images and text. It is beautifully made, but that should not come as a surprise, since it was none other than the master cartographer Johann Baptist Homann who engraved it.

PHOTO1MapHomannMaps27095J.B. Homann, Geographische Vorstellung der jämerlichen Wasser-Flutt in Nieder-Teutschland, welche den 25 Dec. Aº 1717 ... einen grossen Theil derer Hertzogth Holstein und Bremen, die Grafsch. Oldenburg, Frislandt, Gröningen und Nort-Holland überschwemet hat. (Nuremberg, [1718?]) Maps * 27095.(6.)

Homann addresses us as ‘reader’ (‘Hochgeneigter Leser!’) instead of ‘viewer’, seemingly emphasising that the map is not just a topographical tool but a text to be read. 

PHOTO2MapHomannHochgLeser

 Detail from Homann’s map, with his address to the reader.

The most striking thing about the map is the green colouring which indicates the extent of the reach of the water. It immediately brings home the scale and seriousness of the disaster. At one point the water reached the gates of the city of Groningen, which lies 34 km inland from the coastal town Pieterburen. Estimates are that 14,000 people lost their lives across the whole of the northern Netherlands, Germany (10,000!) and Denmark. Homann gives a figure of 18,140 for casualties in Germany. Let’s hope that modern science is more accurate than he was.

PHOTO3MapHomanndetBericht

Homann’s account (above) and depiction (below) of the flood

PHOTO4MapHomannGronEmb 

The illustrations within the map, such as the water scoop, sluice and inundated village support the story. The putti holding up the banner with the quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses are crying, as a sign of the scale of the human tragedy and may-be the feelings of Homann himself. 

PHOTO5MapHomannwaterscoops

Water-scoop and sluice (above) and weeping putti (below) from Homann’s map 

PHOTO7MapHomannPutti

My first thought when I saw this extraordinary map in the exhibition was: “Is there a copy in the British Library?” As soon as I could I went online to check our catalogue and indeed, I found it at the first attempt. I reserved it immediately to be ready for me to study it as soon as I was back at work. I almost could not wait. Fortunately I had the exhibition to keep me entertained. It gives a fascinating account of what happened, how it could happen, the human, material and financial costs and it also highlights the hero of the story Thomas van Seeratt, who had been appointed provincial commissioner only the year before. At first ridiculed when sounding the alarm on the sorry state of the dikes, he was tragically proven right on Christmas night 1717.

Soon after the event pamphlets such as that by Adriaan Spinneker started to appear, telling of horrible ordeals suffered by people trying to save their lives by clinging on to trees, or roof tops, barely clothed, without any drinking water or food, exposed to bitterly cold and wet weather for hours and sometimes days on end, all the while carrying loved ones on their backs or in their arms. In the end some became so exhausted and stiffened by cold that they had to let go of their children. 

Spinniker
Adriaan Spinneker, Gods Gerichten op den aarde vertoond in den ... storm en hoogen waterfloed ... in't 1717de Jaar voorgevallen, aandachtig beschouwd …(Groningen, 1718) 11557.bbb.64

Authorities did initiate a large programme of dike building, based on van Seeratt’s designs, which involved making dikes less steep, so they can absorb the shocks of the waves much better. These days Dutch national authorities and the 22 water boards are responsible for dike maintenance, rather than private landowners.  This is just as well, because without dikes to protect it, the Netherlands would look a bit more like this.  

Netherlands compared to sea level
The Netherlands compared to sea level. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)


Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections.

Further reading

Gerhardus Outhof, Verhaal van alle hooge watervloeden in ... Europa, van Noachs tydt af, tot op den tegenwoordigen tydt toe ... Met eene breede beschryvinge van den zwaaren kersvloedt van 1717 ... (Embden, 1720) 1607/5565.

Johannes Velsen, De hand Gods uitgestrekt tot tugtinge over zommige provintien der vereenigde Nederlanden, bestaende in zes gedigten van de watervloed, in Kersnagt, van 't jaer 1717. (Groningen, 1718), in: Dutch pamphlets 1542-1853 : the Van Alphen collection (Groningen, 1999) Mic.F.977

 

11 September 2017

International Collaboration: a Dutch Polymath and a Czech Printer in 17th-Century Rome

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We do not often realise just how much collaboration took place between foreigners working abroad rather than in their native countries in 17th-century Europe. One interesting example of such a collaboration is that between a Dutchman, Cornelius Meyer, and a Czech printer, Jan Jakub (or Giovanni Giacomo) Komárek, who worked and collaborated in Rome, a veritable hive of intellectual activity at that time.

Meyer Arte de restituire tp
Title-page of Meyer’s L’arte di restituire a Roma la tralasciata navigatione del suo Tevere (Rome, 1685), 49.h.10 (1).

Little is known of Cornelius Meyer except that he was born in Holland in 1629, was generally accepted to be a polymath and trained as an architect, civil engineer and an engraver. He moved to Rome, one of the most vibrant and active capitals in Europe, in the 1680s and died there in 1701. He is principally remembered for his studies on technology, particularly his masterminding improvements to the navigability of the River Tiber in his L’arte di restituire a Roma la tralasciata navigatione del suo Tevere.

Meyer Nuovi ritrovamenti Dragon
Title-page of Meyer’s Nuovi ritrovamenti, divisi in due parti (Rome, 1689-96) 49.h.10 (2), showing the alleged dragon seen near the Tiber

He is also remembered for his description and detailed account of the sighting of a dragon ‘nelle paludi fuori di Roma’, in December 1691. Despite his detailed and beautiful engravings of the beast’s skeletal remains, Meyer’s account of the dragon was an elaborate hoax not unlike ‘Piltdown man’ but was so skilfully produced and illustrated that he duped many learned men and scientific experts.

Meyer Occhiali
Engraving of three wearers of different kinds of spectacles, from Nuovi ritrovamenti

Meyer’s engraving of spectacles and their wearers for his work on various technologies, Nuovi ritrovamenti, divisi in due parti, printed by Komarek on behalf of the Accademia Fisico-matematica, one of the most important scientific academies in Rome, is extremely finely detailed, recalling similar images by Holbein. It imparts a very human perspective on what could have been a dryish discussion of the important science of optics, which had made very considerable advances since Galileo first used the telescope to study the heavens systematically. Moreover, by depicting the wearers of the spectacles in fine detail, two with fulsome beards, all three wearing caps or bonnets, and two wearing beautifully detailed ruffs, thereby modelling their visual aids, Meyer imparts a sense of scale and proportion to his illustration and is able to show the size of the pince-nez spectacles and their respective lenses he has designed (one set of which is even tinted) to their best advantage and how well they would look and fit on the noses of prospective clients.

Meyer Nuovi Ritrovamenti 1689
Title-page of the 1689 volume of Nuovi ritrovamenti, with Komarek’s imprint ‘all’Angelo custode’.

Despite the Italianization of his forenames to Giovanni Giacomo, the printer Jan Jakub Komárek was born in Hradec Králové, in Bohemia, in 1648. He moved to Rome between 1669 and 1672 and was originally employed as a technician in the papal print works of the Congregazione della Propaganda della Fede, founded in 1622. He set up his own printing press at ‘all’Angelo custode’ and later, ‘alla fontana di Trevi’ and was active until 1700, publishing several liturgical works by Giovanni Giustino Ciampini, Andrea Pozzo’s celebrated Prospettiva, and works for the Accademia of the Collegio Clementino. The work is an excellent example of very effective networking and of the creation of considerable synergy between author and publisher and of truly international co-operation: a Dutchman having his work printed by a Czech printer in Italy.

This co-operation is also a very timely reminder of the very great debt that the whole continent of Europe, and Italy in particular, owes to Germany. It was a German, Johannes Gutenberg, who invented printing with moveable type in the 1450s, something which played such an important role in disseminating new texts and ideas, and created an ever-increasing demand for the printed word. But we should also not forget the debt owed by Italy to German printers and engravers, from Albrecht Dürer to Lucas Cranach. From the first introduction of printing to Italy in 1465 by Konrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who worked in partnership at Subiaco, printing was firmly established in Italy by German printers.

Denis Reidy, former Curator Italian and Modern Greek Collections 

25 July 2017

A rediscovered incunable

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Books in the iconic King’s Library Tower offer the most publicly visible representation of early printed books in the British Library. Specialist, in-depth catalogue descriptions  help us know and use what is there, but one vellum-bound copy of a popular 15th-century work has somehow sat neglected on its shelves for a couple of hundred years. How can this be?

The copy of Modus legendi abbreviaturas has a shelfmark 166.i.21 but has no British Library catalogue record; this effectively means nobody has been in a position to know about its existence.

Modus legendi f.1
The first printed page of Modus legendi abbreviaturas (166.i.21). The stamp used to identify King George III’s books is pressed over its first line of type.

Lists of books must be arranged meaningfully to be useful. Historically, many fashions and rules for description have been followed but key components are expected: authors and titles; the places and dates of printing and the name of the printer. A book’s title page is easily taken for granted – but how do you describe a book without the quickly accessible information contained on a title page or in a book’s colophon?

Modus legendi abbreviaturas is a reference book for studying Roman and Canon law, a glossary for unpicking the thousands of abbreviations, contractions and symbols used in Latin legal manuscripts and texts. It is, perhaps, the first manual of palaeography. More than 40 editions were printed in the 15th century alone; the first is thought to date from 1476.

Our copy that has lurked at 166.i.21 presents a problem because it is ‘Absque ulla nota’, i.e. it has no identifying marks such as printer, location or date. This may be one of the reasons why it was neglected. Past librarians could identify the work from the text but crucially could not specify where, when and by whom the book was printed.

Modus legendi KL cat Entry for 166.i.21 in the Bibliothecae Regiae Catalogus

 The Bibliothecae Regiae Catalogus compiled after George III’s death by F.A. Barnard and privately printed between 1820 and 1829, lists the book under the subject heading, ‘Jurisprudentia’ (its author was unknown at the time). Details about its 34 lines (of type) and 48 pages are given as distinguishing features. The shelfmark 166.i.21 is written in pencil but this information was apparently never carried over into the Library’s main catalogue.

Over the centuries, librarians and bibliographers have collated close studies of printers’ type to help identify where early hand-press printed works may have originated. Our copy here has a note in pencil, ‘Not in Panzer’, a reference to its absence from what was the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue incunabula, Georg Wolfgang Panzer’s Annales Typographici  (1793-1797).

 As closer bibliographic study of print type and other evidence has progressed it has been possible to identify or estimate the people, places and dates associated with elusive ‘unsigned’ works.

Modus legendi GK1

The beginning of the entry for the numerous editions of Modus legendi abbreviaturas in , ‘GK1’ - the first general printed catalogue of books in the British Museum, published in the 1890s. The attribution to the ‘R-Printer’ (now believed to be Adolf Rusch) is an example of how print types are used to identify or describe unsigned editions. The ‘161.i.21’ edition, in the collection for 70 years by this time, is missing from the record.

Research into books printed in the Low Countries suggest that the edition represented in the copy at 161.i.21 is the work of Gerardus de Leempt (active 1473-1488) and that it was probably printed in Utrecht, Nijmegen or even Cologne. De Leempt was a journeyman printer – first and foremost a skilled type-cutter – who collaborated with others to produce books. Few of his books were signed.

Modus legendi Historia colophon

Gerardus de Leempt’s name at the end of his printing of Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica (1473) IB.4 7031 – if only he had signed his name at the end of his other imprints, like 161.i.21!

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue  states that there are ten known surviving copies of this particular de Leempt imprint; the rediscovery of this book happily adds another.

Fittingly for a work dedicated to deciphering texts, further research on the text of Modus legendi abbreviaturas suggests that the author’s identity – Werner von Schussenried, a jurist from Speyer – is concealed/revealed in an acrostic formed by taking the first letters of each line in a section of the book’s text (it doesn’t exactly jump out of the page though!).

The rediscovery of this copy provides opportunity to examine the particular edition more closely and it is quite exciting to see that the watermark on the paper used for de Leempt’s edition suggests that it may actually be the earliest of the 40 or so editions of von Schussenried’s legal glossary.

Modus legendi watermark

Watermark from a page in the 161.i.21 copy of Modus legend abbreviaturas – a bull’s head, curved muzzle, and cross – used on paper in the Low Countries in 1473, perhaps dating Leempt’s book to three years before what is thought to be the first edition from 1476.

 So how was this copy saved from obscurity? Many might think it reprehensible that the book has been missed for so many years, but arguably its rediscovery is also a sign of the Library’s good custodianship. It was found by the Library’s dedicated Collections Audit Officer undertaking systematic checks of shelf ranges against catalogue holdings.

It’s not unusual for ‘unrecorded’ copies of incunabula to be discovered sitting shyly on shelves in other national libraries. A comment in a review of a new catalogue of incunabula in the Summer 2014 issue of  The Book Collector (P.1901/86.), nails it somewhat, “If one wonders how it can be that so many generations have missed incunabula sitting on the shelves ... at the same time one must be grateful that a thorough search is now being made.”

 Christian Algar, Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 Further reading:

Wytze Gerbens Hellinga and Lotte Hellinga, The Fifteenth-Century Printing Types of the Low Countries. Translated from the Dutch by D. A. S. Reid. (Amsterdam, 1966) L.R.412.d.6

Incunabula printed in the Low Countries: a census edited by Gerard van Thienen & John Goldfinch. (Nieuwkoop, 1999). 2745.a.3/36

Victor Scholderer,  ‘The Author of the Modus legendi abbreviaturas,’ The Library, third ser., II, 1911, pp. 181-182. Ac.9670/24.

30 May 2017

Prize Papers Online

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In January 2014 my colleague Annelies Dogterom wrote a blog post about a series of studies of the Prize Papers, a collection of letters and other documents taken from Dutch ships captured by the British during the many naval wars between the two countries. These documents form part of the High Admiralty Court Papers held at the National Archives in Kew.

Where Annelies’ blog discusses mainly the publications about the collections of letters and personal documents, the High Admiralty Court Papers also include a collection of court documents, in more standardised form.

When a ship was captured by the British the High Admiralty Court decided who the rightful owner of the ship and its cargo was. That is why everything found on board, including all forms of documents were kept until the case had finished. Crew members that had been captured were all interrogated by means of a standardised list of questions. The answers provide a treasure trove of information about ordinary and not so ordinary sailors: their country of origin, their profession, their ship and its cargo, the flag under which it sailed, the port of departure, the port it had tried to reach, the date the person was captured. And because it is in a standard form it is a very convenient research source.

Part of these papers, in particular the interrogations of crew members of Dutch ships, have been digitised by Brill Publishers and are available online from our Reading Rooms.

Prize Papers

Prize Papers Online Part 1 covers the American Revolution and the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1775-1784). The British Library has also acquired Parts 2 and 3, covering The Seven Years War and the War of the Austrian Succession and the First, Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars and the War of the Spanish Succession.

In the year that we commemorate 350 years of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, this resource might offer researchers a glimpse into the identities of the people who actually fought in this war.

Marja Kingma,Curator Germanic Collections

04 April 2017

The Dutch Are Coming!

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On 30 March Medway Council  and The Historic Dockyard Chatham announced the international programme of events to mark the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway (June 1667).

The battle is little known in England, but this will surely be remedied by the end of this summer, once the programme has run its course.

Whether one calls it a ‘celebration’, or a ‘commemoration’, the fact is that the events of 1667 proved to be the beginning of the end of the glory years of the Dutch and the beginning of centuries of British naval power.

At the time the Dutch wielded power over trade routes, increasingly challenged by the English. Needless to say the Dutch were not exactly going to hand anything over without a fight. 

Three fights during the 17th Century, to be precise, known as the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

Hollands Ingratitude 1103.f.65

       Anti-Dutch and anti-English pamphlets from the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Above: Title-page of Charles Molloy, Holland’s Ingratitude... (London, 1666) 1103.f.65; below Title-page of Den omsigtigen Hollander (s.l., 1667) 8075.cc.10, a ‘conversation’ between three  ‘true Dutchmen’ and and Englishman

Omsigitgen Hollander

The battle that ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667) was fought on the Medway. The Dutch attacked the English fleet as it lay moored close to the dock yard at Chatham and Upnor Castle. Although the Dutch did not succeed in their aim to destroy the dockyard and the whole fleet with it, they certainly did major damage to the fleet and to the pride of the English people and that of King Charles II in particular, whose flag ship The Royal Charles was captured, towed back to Holland and put on display. The carved stern is still in the Rijksmuseum, although ownership has been restored to the Brits.

 

BlogTDACKort

Title-page of the official Dutch account of the events of the second Anglo-Dutch War, Kort en Bondigh Verhael... (Amsterdam, 1667) 808.c.39

As part of the programme there will be three exhibitions: one at Upnor Castle, one at The Guildhall Museum in Rochester and one at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. The latter’s exhibition ‘Breaking The Chain’ will feature several items from the collections of the British Library: manuscripts, engravings, pamphlets and a poem.

BlogTDACArtvanVreedeIMG_3766

Title-page of the Treaty of Breda (signed 31 July 1667) which ended the Second Anglo Dutch-War (The Hague, 1667) RB.23.A.39646

A very special item is a manuscript volume of John Evelyn’s diaries, in which he describes the Dutch attack in some detail, as Samuel Pepys does in his diary

BlogTDACAdd_ms_78323_f186v_EvelynDiary
Page from John Evelyn’s Diary, June 1667 Add Ms 78323 f186v 

There are various published editions of Evelyn’s diary , such as the six-volume one edited by E.S. de Beer (Oxford, 2000; YC.2002.a.8453). Another title worth exploring is Particular Friends, the correspondence of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, by Guy de la Bédoyère (Woodbridge, 1997; YC.1998.b.140).

We hope to see you all in Chatham in June!

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections 

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.


GysbJpxportraitAc.966
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.


GysbJpxMapBolswardBeud
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.

GsbJpx816b36Tsjerne
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.

GsbJpx11557h27ttlp
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.

Suriname 10480.g.7. 2
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.

DutchAntills02
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.”

ELF-Writers-FB-Photos
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).

Sancho1657

 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.

DQwindmills1662

 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