23 May 2011

About the OLB paper study

(this was posted 24 april 2011 on the UM-forum)

I would like to start discussing this article:

The Oera Linda Boek - A literary forgery and its paper
by A. Kardinaal, E. v.d. Grijn, H. Porck
published in: IPH Congress Book 16 (2006), p. 177-185

Abe and Alewyn have the PDF, and whoever wants it, can have it.
Just PM me a mail address as it is too big to attach here (480 kB).


Last year when I spent a whole day at Tresoar in Leeuwarden, the library that owns the OLB and has a collection of documentation about it. I asked for the most recent paper study report, as I had heard Jensma say in an interview that the paper was indeed found to be of the 19th century.

They said they didn't have anything, but gave me the mail-address of the head of the Tresoar collection, who gave me the address of the paper-historian of the Royal Library in Den Haag, mr. Porck, who is leading the research. I had asked both for the most recent publication, and now I got the answer that they were working on one, and that they would inform me when it would be ready. The rest you know. When after many delays it was finally published in a Dutch magazine for archivists, the result was very disappointing. I posted a translation of it on the forum on April 15 (see below).

Ott, on 15 April 2011 - 09:11 AM, said:

The Oera Linda Boek, a 'cold case' and 'hot item'.
by Henk Porck, Ellen van der Grijn, Adriaan Kardinaal

But in this article, an earlier (2006) publication was mentioned, so I asked Porck for a copy of it.
When I politely started asking difficult questions, like
1) why the Dutch article does not say anything about the new estimated paper age, and how the paper was coloured, and
2) why the 2006 publication is not in the Tresoar collection, and why he had not told me about it before,
he did not answer any of them, only that they would not share any other or further information with me.

But he was kind enough to send me the 2006 article after all, which answered my questions.

The answer is: the results don't fit into their questions, because they ask the wrong questions.

The article shows that the researchers are not neutral but have a fixed idea about what the outcome should be.
Like Jensma, they very much want to believe that the OLB is a 19th century forgery, and that the Haverschmidt-Verwijs-Over de Linden conspiracy theory is right.

This time, an 'answer from silence', is a clear answer, because if the results would have confirmed their ideas, they would not have been so hesitant to share them. It rather means that the outcome is probably in conflict with their ideas, and that they have a hard time fitting them into their belief system.

Biased approach

That their approach is biased is very clear, as the title, the beginning and the end of the article stress the 'fact' (?) that OLB is a forgery, even though this conclusion is beyond the scope of their research.

In my opinion, their questions should just be:
1) when and where was the paper made?
2) is it all from the same stock?
3) was there other paper in the possession of any of the suspects that is of the same stock?
4) was the paper coloured artificially, if so: how?
5) what can be said about the conclusions of the 19th century paper examination and Ottema's reply to that?

Since they do not study the text itself, they can not say that it was a forgery, because however old the paper is, it can still be a copy of an older original.

By accepting Jensma's theory as if it were an established fact, they limit the possible outcome of their research, and there is no good reason why they should do that.

I also find it suspicious that they have completely ignored Ottema's reply to the conclusions of the 19th century paper examination (published in the introduction of his 1876 edition of the OLB). If what he said in this reply was all wrong, they should at least have said what was so wrong about it.

Interesting detail

One question I asked earlier is now answered:

The bold fragment is quoted from "De Gemaskerde God" (2004) by Goffe Jensma, p.256:

Otharus, on 09 April 2011 - 03:30 PM, said:

...some sheets of empty paper that were discovered between the things Cornelis Over de Linden had left behind when he died. It was discovered in the 1920-s, that is some 50 years after COL had died in 1874 (rather late I would say!?). The paper was "for the most part cut in the same size and also had lines drawn with pencil just like the paper from the OLB. This paper was not made brown (yet). These pages had been (...) numbered with pencil in the handwriting of Cornelis Over de Linden" (my improvised translation). The handwritten page-numbers appeared to fit in the gaps from the OLB; 193-194 and 169-188.

This leaves us with some questions:

1. How certain is it that it is indeed Over de Linden's handwriting?

In the 2006 article the authors say about this:

"The blank sheets from Over de Linden's estate have been regarded as identical to the OLB paper and connected to it in several ways:
- the blank sheets are present in the estate of Cornelis Over de Linden
- some blank sheets are numbered in pencil just as those of the manuscript and possibly with the same hand
- ..."

So it is not certain at all that it was Cornelis' hand, like Jensma wanted us to believe.
In fact, if it would resemble his handwriting, the 2006 article would mention this, since they are on Jensma's side, but apparently they are more honest.

It is just one example of how Jensma has manipulated facts to serve his theory.

One could also simply say that he has lied.
Or do his eyes see what his mind believes?

Either way: pseudoscience.


posted April 15, 2011 on UM forum:

The Oera Linda Boek, a 'cold case' and 'hot item'.
by Henk Porck, Ellen van der Grijn, Adriaan Kardinaal

[published in the magazine of the Dutch Royal Archivists Union (KVAN), edition April 2011;
improvised translation by Jan Ott, translator notes between "[...]"]

Introduction and research question

The OLB from Tresoar (Centre for Frisian History and Literature) in Leeuwarden is one of the most remarkable manuscripts from our Dutch written cultural heritage. The only certainty we have about it is, that it is not what it pretends to be. In the manuscript, it is claimed that it was written in the year 1256, and that it is a copy of a much older text [note #1]. On 190 pages, a story is told about a mythical Frisian empire, in a unique 'rune script' [note #2]. In 1867 the manuscript became known as being in the possession of Cornelis Over de Linden who had inherited it from his family ('Oera Linda' means 'Over de Linden'). Ancestors of Cornelis would have assembled the text and passed it on to following generations.

Although some still defend the authenticity of the document, it became clear very soon after the 'discovery' that the OLB is not an original medieval codex: it was written on paper that was made by machines in a language that is a combination of old Frisian and 'modern' Dutch [note #3]. Yet, the OLB remains a great mystery and is still today a fascinating subject of research. In Goffe Jensma's thesis (2004), the text is partly interpreted as a religious allegory, while the famous poet and reverend François HaverSchmidt (Piet Paaltjens) is argued to have been the author. He would have worked together with the owner of the manuscript, Cornelis Over de Linden, and Eelco Verwijs, archivist and famous philologist. According to Jensma, the OLB was not meant to permanently deceive the readers, its aim would have been to create a temporary illusion of authenticity. Therefore, it is to be regarded as a mystification, rather than as a forgery.

Our interest in the OLB was based on the examination of the manuscript's paper in the 1870-s. Paper specialists then concluded that the paper had been fabricated after 1840 on a machine, and that the paper had been artificially coloured to make it look older. The organisation of the 19th century examination was limited, and apart from a brief inspection by a German paper-producer in the 1930-s, no new research of the OLB-paper had been done. The question behind our study was if we, with our current knowledge and more advanced research-facilities, can draw more accurate conclusions about the physical and chemical characteristics of the document, and with that about the history of its genesis.

Methods and organisation

Besides visual research of the physical characteristics of the paper, like the vergé-pattern (shining light through it), the exact size of the sheets, and the cutting edges, some physical paper-qualities were measured, like weight, thickness and smoothness. Microscopic research of the fibres was also done. The chemical composition of the material was analysed by use of several spectrometric methods: X-ray fluorescence (XRF), hyper spectral imaging (HSI and laser-ablation (LA-ICP-MS).

The research material consisted, besides the sheets of the OLB, of a pile of unused paper, that was also in the possession of Cornelis Over de Linden, but had never been examined, as well as some letters from the correspondence of Eelco Verwijs. We were obviously utterly careful doing our examinations of the material, partly because of the poor state of the material.

Initiated by the paper-historian interest and speciality of the authors, this research was only possible thanks to the cooperation with a multidisciplinary team of specialists: Jacob van Sluis (Tresoar, Leeuwarden), Goffe Jensma (University Groningen, KNAW-Frisian Academy, Leeuwarden), Georgine Calkoen (Proost and Brandt laboratory, Diemen), Andrew van Es (Dutch Forensic Institute, NFI, Den Haag), Luc Megens (National Service for Cultural Inheritance, RCE, Amsterdam), Roberto Padoan and Gabriëlle Beentjes (both of the National Archive, Den Haag). By working together with these experts and their organisations, the desired test-materials could be made available, the several tests could be done and the results of the research could be adequately discussed and interpreted.

Work in progress

The research is in the final stage and not completely finished. The results so far, specially the conclusions from the fibre-analysis, have given more clues for a more accurate dating of the paper of the OLB. The spectrometric tests most of all have confirmed the suspicion that Cornelis Over de Linden himself played an important part in the genesis of the OLB, because the unused paper that was in his possession appears to be identical to the paper of the manuscript. Another interesting conclusion of the research is the fact that the sheets of the OLB can be distinguished into several groups, based on the vergé-patterns and other physical qualities of the paper, which points to a certain chronology of the creation of the several parts that the manuscript consists of. A possible relationship to the genesis of the text of the handwriting still needs to be researched [note #4].

The first test-results were presented in 2006 at the congress of the International Union of Paper-historians (IPH) in Spain [note #5]. End of 2009 an expert meeting was held in the Den Haag Royal Library, where the provisional results of the continued research were discussed. By now yet another phase of additional research is finished and a final publication is prepared (planning: 2013).

In the end we hope that our research of the OLB can be used to reveal this intriguing mystification and the role that the 'perpetrators' François HaverSchmidt, Eelco Verwijs and Cornelis Over de Linden played in this 'cold case'.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

#1 The choice of words already suggests lies and deception (hoax), but it is very well possible that later copyist(s) just did not add notes, like the ones in 803 and 1256 AD did.
#2 The script is actually more similar to Old Greek and Roman capitals, than to Runes.
#3 What is meant here is that it contains words and expressions that have not been found in (other) old (written) sources, but that remind of more modern languages (which are more and more based on the oral language of the common people). One might also say that both old Frisian and 'modern' Dutch (as well as many other languages and dialects) still carry traces of the OLB language. Therefore, if the paper is modern, it does not mean that the information on it also is.
#4 Dutch text of this sentence: "Een mogelijke relatie met de genese van de tekst van het handschrift moet nog worden uitgezocht." This means that Jensma cannot fit the results into his current theory. Therefore the main conclusions are not reveiled and the main article about the test results is delayed until somewhere in 2013. I guess that is how long he needs to fabricate a new theory, so he can try to save his reputation and credibility...
#5 A. Kardinaal, E. v.d. Grijn, H. Porck, The Oera Linda Boek. A literary forgery and its paper, in: IPH Congress Book 16 (2006), p. 177-185.

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Paper age and colouring

The most important and most obvious results - which would have been the new, more accurate dating of the paper and how it was coloured (whether natural or artificial) - are left out of the article.

When I asked questions about this, I received the answer that they actually prefer to not give me any "other or further conclusions from the research" and that I will have to wait till the official publication, which as said is planned to happen somewhere in 2013...

I wonder...

Have I been too critical and outspoken here about the works of their undoubtedly most important research-group member professor doctor G.Th. Jensma? It's unthinkable that he would not keep a direct or indirect eye on this discussion.

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