Monthly Archives: June 2020

The Dutch Church in London archive: a fresh upload

Followers of EMLO may recall that just over four years ago the scholar and archivist Joost Depuydt contributed a catalogue of letters for Abraham Ortelius. This listing took as its starting point the correspondence published in John Henry (Jan Hendrick) Hessels’s first volume of letters from the archive of the Dutch Church in London.[1. Abrahami Ortelii (geographi Antverpiensis) et virorum eruditorum ad eundem et ad Jacobum Colium Ortelianum (Abrahami Ortelii sororis filium) epistulae, cum aliquot aliis epistulis et tractatibus quibusdam ab utroque collectis (1524–1628), ex autographis mandante Ecclesia Londino-Batava, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1887).] Threaded into this calendar were the metadata for a number of additional letters from the cartographer’s correspondence that had not formed part of the Dutch Church archive collection but which had been tracked down by Depuydt. To complement the Ortelius catalogue, a relay of EMLO Digital Fellows began to collate a calendar for the Dutch Church letters to which Hessels turned his attention in subsequent volumes. The second volume of the edition contained transcriptions of 266 letters of members of the Dutch Church, which following Edward VI’s charter of 24 July 1550 had settled in the nave of the former church of the Augustinan friary in the City of London known as Austin Friars.[2. Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes (1544–1622): Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomus Secundus, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1889).] Metadata from the listing set out in the third volume have been added incrementally to EMLO over the past few years and another batch of 465 letters, covering the years from the 1632 to January 1643, has just been made available.[3. Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes: Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomi Tertii, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1897).]

As explained in an earlier post, the two parts of this third volume by Hessels are the result of a far-from-smooth path to publication. Having worked through and transcribed the collection of letters in the Church’s Ortelius/Collius archive, and what he seems to have thought was the sum of the Church members’ letters, a significant number of additional boxes in the possession of the Church came to light. These contained thousands of manuscripts, and the poor scholar had to revisit his earlier work and embark upon substantial re-ordering to set out in print a complete chronological list.

The metadata for the latest batch of letters released in EMLO were collated by Dr Esther van Raamsdonk. Esther is a former post-doctoral fellow on the AHRC-funded project Networking Archives, of which Cultures of Knowledge is an integral partner and in which EMLO plays a central role. Esther moved earlier this year to the University of Warwick, and in consequence at EMLO we are on the look-out for a scholar or student with a good working knowledge of Dutch and Latin to pick up where she left off. There is still some way to go to bring the catalogue to completion (the letters formerly in the archive extend into the eighteenth-century) and, as we progress through the 1640s, a fascinating prospect beckons: just how many figures will crop up in both the Dutch Church archive and the correspondence within the Domestic and Foreign State Papers at The National Archives? Should you be interested in being involved in this work on a voluntary basis, please be in touch.[4. I’d be delighted to discuss the catalogue with you and tell you more about what is involved—just drop me a line.] In the meantime, to help lighten these dismal days of lockdown, should anyone wish to explore a fictional account of what Austin Friars might have been like when Thomas Cromwell was in residence, Hilary Mantel in her The Mirror and the Light is a treat in store.[5. Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate, 2020).]

Austin Friars, c. 1550. Copperplate. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)