29 November 2011

Foreword Ottema 1876

Posted 27 November 2011 by Alewyn Raubenheimer.

Herewith my next translation of a Dutch document for non-Dutch readers:

Foreword to the second edition of the Oera Linda Book.
By Dr. J.G. Ottema
September 1876

The first edition of the Oera Linda Book has been sold out and as a result, the opportunity has arisen to publish a second edition. I welcome this opportunity because it allows me to correct some mistakes that crept in previously or to improve on a less accurate translation.

Since its first appearance, (and) even before it was printed, the book has been criticised and rejected. Many tried to prevent it from being published or distributed.
Not only within, but also ouside the country people rallied against the book as though the well-being of the country and people depended on its authenticity.

What did the poor book do to deserve such hatred and bitterness? Is the text and language such gibberish and nonsense that it does not deserve to be read; well, people do not read it. If they do read it, they will also read what I wrote in the Introduction, the Historical Notes, the Royal Academy and the Oera Linda Book, and De Deventer Newspaper and the Oera Linda Book. Yet, this is exactly what they don’t do. People do not want to be informed about the nature, the scope or the scientific value of the book. It is much easier and enjoyable to blindly reject and shout the book down than doing a serious examination thereof. Everyone, whether they only saw the book superficiously or heard about it, consider themselves qualified to express a derogatory opinion about it. Their verdict is triumphantly published in all newspapers, cheered on by the ignorant public and the country has been saved.

Now Messrs F. Muller and P. Smidt of Gelder, Amsterdam examined the paper of the manuscript and alleged in the Nederlandsch Spectator no. 32 of 5th August 1876 that the paper was manufactured during this century and more specifically within the last 25 years in the factory (paper mill) of Messrs Tielens and Schrammen in Maastricht.

Mr Muller based his views on the following grounds:

1. Paper of the 13th century was entirely made of cotton, thick, uneven, woolly (and) with uneven and unclear lines. This paper is thin, even, hard, here and there transparent with regular clear waterlines.

Cotton Paper from the 13th century had to be specifically prepared by “polishing” before one could write thereon. The Arabians and Goths (?) did this in the same way as the Egyptians did with their paper and the Romans glossed their finer parchment by rubbing it with the tusks of wild pigs, apri dente levigatur (Plinius). To get an even surface they would burnish the paper with agate. By rubbing the paper the fibres became denser, smoother and thinner than it was.

Even so, one cannot call the paper of the Manuscript thin. The Manuscript consists of 96 pages of a thickness comparable to the best Dutch paper types which does not belong to the thinner varieties.
I must point out that the samples of paper that Mr Muller saw earlier were unprepared and unpolished and therefore we must disagree.

2. Paper from earlier times until about 1800 was thinner in the middle than outside the waterlines. This paper (the Manuscript) is even, which shows that it is from this century.

I note that the reference to earlier times does not go back further than the 14th century when linen paper instead of cotton paper was increasingly used as paper manufacturing spread throughout Europe. This observation, therefore, does not apply to cotton paper from the 13th century and cannot be used as an argument that the manuscript dates from the present.

The distinction with present paper is evident in the following four important points:

a. The width of the horizontal waterlines. Over a distance of 33 millimetres one gets 16 horizontal lines so that the width of each line is 2 mm. Machine paper shows in this distance 17 to 18 such lines with a width of not more than 1.85mm. Heavy English mail paper has 20 such lines, each with a width of 1.65mm

b. The absence of chlorine. An experiment done in my presence by the late Mr. A.P.H. Kuipers showed that the paper did not react in the slightest with silver and therefore clearly did not contain any chlorine. All paper manufactured during this century have been treated with chlorine which in the same experiment with silver leaves a white residue.

c. The absence of starch, amylum. The experiment with an iodine solution produces a pure and brilliant violet colour on machine paper but on the manuscript it had no effect and left the brown colour of the iodine unchanged, at least not more than with any other natural plant manufactured fibres because there is no amylum present in plant material. The (Manuscript’s) paper, therefore, was manufactured without the addition of starch and thus not in the present century.

d. In examining the waterlines there is another big difference between machine produced paper and the Manuscript. In the first case the lines are very clear but in the latter they are almost invisible to such an extent that Dr E. Verwijs in a letter d.d. Leiden 1 Dec 1870 (i.e. after having had the manuscript in his hands for 3 years) wrote to me: “Further, the paper appears very suspicious. It appears that the paper was hung in smoke. If one tears the paper it appears whiter at the tear. There is no watermark to be found and I have never seen paper from the Middle Ages without a watermark and I cannot even imagine that.”
Dr Verwijs therefore has not seen a watermark in all this time even when he was looking for it. It was not possible when he had machine produced paper (to compare with)

3. The paper is coloured yellow but not naturally so.

If the paper was (artificially) coloured, i.e. painted, the colouring would have penetrated the paper, but this is not the case. At the tear one can clearly see that the paper is white on the inside. The dirty yellowish black colour of the paper is solely the result of time and aging over more than six centuries.
The fact that the paper was so well preserved over this time and not damaged by damp or mildew is prove of the meticulous care taken to protect this precious family heirloom.

4. The paper was cut off very smoothly and evenly; Paper from the 13th century cannot be cut without ravelling.

This may be the case with unpolished paper but proves nothing with polished and therefore denser paper and in any event it depends on the sharpness of the knife or scissors used.

5. The paper cuts makes me think of machine produced paper, where the perpendicular waterlines (pontuseaux) could be produced but I am not aware whether the horizontal lines of paper frames could be present; if so, then I regard it as proper machine produced paper not older than 25 to 30 years. Earlier than this one could not make lines on machine produced paper.

I have in front of me an authentic statement of Messrs E. van Berk, P. Uurbanus, A.J. Leijer and T. Mooy resident in Den Helder wherein they give the assurance that between 1848 and 1850 the existence of the manuscript later published under the title of Thet Oera Linda Bok was already known.

This statement was published in its entirety in the Heldesche newspaper of 12 March 1876.

With this Mr. Muller’s argument collapses about machine produced paper which, according to his claim of 25 or 30 years, i.e. before 1848, paper could not have been made with horizontal waterlines.

The paper of the manuscript therefore was not made in the 19th century. From the 14th to the 18th century no paper was made without a watermark but in the manuscript there is no trace of a watermark.

It was thus also not manufacture in the 14th or later centuries. The only conclusion therefore is that the paper came from the 13th century.

6. The paper was bound into a book by means of holes. It is too hard around the holes to be old; also the method of binding is too modern and totally different from other old books; in addition less holes and thicker strands of parchment were used than is evident here.

If Mr. Muller saw the complete manuscript he would have noticed that the spine nowhere shows any traces of glue. That proves that it was not bound by any modern methods, nor by string, parchment or strips but rather by a very simple and primitive method of securing with needle and thread in a cover of parchment which one still find in the trade such as with calendars and so forth.
This anyone can do and this is what Hiddo Oera Linda also did because he could not entrust the Manuscript to any (professional) book binders who (by and large) performed their work in monasteries. He warned his son about monks and that they must never see the Manuscript.

7. The writing is too new for an old document. The ink lies on the paper and has not affected the paper in any way which should have happened with an old document.
The ink is too black. In olden times the ink was lighter and with time it turned brown.

In response to this I present the views of Wattenbach, in “Schriffcwesen im Mittelalter” (Middle Ages):

“In old manuscripts, the ink is black or brownish, always of a good to excellent quality. After 1300 AD, however, the ink often appears grey or yellowish and is sometimes quite faded.”

(The rest of the quote appears to explain the ingredients of the ink in German which I could not decipher)

What the ingredients of the ink was with which the Manuscript was written, I do not know; but I accept the statement of Wattenbach as to the good quality of the ink until the 13th century as proof of the Manuscript’s origin in the 13th century.

For these reasons I cannot associate myself or accept the opinions of Messrs Muller and Van Gelder whose opinions in any event are not without prejudice. They essentially asked the question whether the Manuscript’s paper in any way conforms to paper from the present time. This is however the second part of the issue. The first and more important part is how the writing compares to other manuscripts older than the 13th century.

In connection with this, I have one more remark to add. The writing was lined, possibly with lead but the age of the document caused the lines to fade and almost to disappear so much so that I could at first only suspect that the pages were ruled until Jhr(?) Hooft van Iddekinge pointed it out to me. When he first saw the manuscript he said that the paper was ruled and showed me the traces. Once I knew what to look for I could see the lines on every page. For this reason I redrew the lines on the facsimile of page 45 to show how meticulous the lines were drawn and the letters written between them. In fact it made me realise how much time and effort were spent on the Manuscript. From this I copied the script page for page onto normal ruled paper which would have taken some 300 hours. That would only be the copying. In addition, a fraudster would have had to compile the book, in a unique language which had to be different from known Frisian dialects which all differ in spelling, syntax, etc. Against this one would have had to invent a dialect that would have been spoken between the Flie and the Schelde. Lastly one would have had to invent letters and an alphabet that would be more suitable to the Frisian language than anything known.

In connection with the letters I must point out a very distinctive feature:

The alphabet had no q and s. The prefixes qu, se, sch and de c at the beginning of words were still unknown which prove that this document dated from before Roman times. The c is not use any different than ch.

In the Frisian Legal Books (Friesche Rechtboeken), the language adopted the Latin style of writing.and independent signs before vowals were lost together with the prefixes gs, ng, and th. The influence of Latin, especially since Charlemagne, simplified the alphabet by reducing the number of letters but it also made the alphabet less suitable to the unique sounds in the Frisian language. In this regard the Frisian style and spelling were corrupted to an extend that is still felt by present day authors.

A fraudster would have had to consider the spelling and the alphabet of the Old Frisian Laws without creating suspicion.

This (the Manuscript) is not some trivial task that some joker carried out just to fool somebody. To accept this is quite irregular. That however is nothing.

The negative criticism of modern science does not accept any irregularities. If they have decided that the Oera Linda book is not authentic then it must be false, whatever it takes. Now they search everywhere to find the culprit; there is even talk of a price on the head of the offender and a reward for anyone who turns him in. Yet, all this is in vain for the simple reason that such a person does not exist and never has.

In the meantime the public is frightened by the question: “Do you still believe in the Oera Linda Book?” My answer is: “Yes, Gentlemen”.

I have now spent almost six years in studying the book over and over from inside and outside, in the context of the old Greek and Latin literature but nowhere could I find any grounds for doubt. That is why I still believe that the Oera Linda Book is authentic and that is why I present the second edition.

Leeuwarden, Sept. 1876.
Dr. J.G. Ottema

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