24 June 2021

Notes on the Over de Linden family

That Cornelis Over de Linden was custodian of the manuscript in 1867 when he first sought help getting it translated is undisputed. The earlier history of the manuscript is less certain and will be discussed below.

Ms. ownership*
Jan Andriesz Over Lende
? -1794?
Andries Over de Linden
Hendrik Reuvers, married

    to Aafje Over de Linden

Rijkent Kofman, married

    to Cornelia Reuvers

Cornelis Over de Linden I
Leendert F. Over de Linden
Cornelis Over de Linden IV

 - - - - - - -

Friesland Library/ Tresoar

since 1938
*ownership before 1848 uncertain — some would say: before 1867

If Cornelis received the manuscript in 1848, as he maintained and as several witnesses testified, it will have come from his grandfather Andries Over de Linden, carpenter and shipbuilder. If the latter had intended to have his grandson inherit it, one would expect an explaining letter of instruction to accompany it. Another possibility is that Andries instructed his son in law Hendrik Reuvers who was at least acquainted with the family since 1818 and who may have later instructed his son in law Rijkent Kofman. There are facts suggesting that Cornelis was not handed over the manuscript voluntarily in 1848 as he claimed, but rather that that there had been discord related to the handover. Cornelis may have been convinced that he was the rightful heir, passing on the Over de Linden surname, but he had not been properly instructed about the manuscript and its content.

etching for new year wish 1789
by printshop Over de Linden

Andries was the second surviving son of Jan Over Lende, who started a bookshop in 1764 in Enkhuizen. His older brother Johannes (1752-1809) continued the trade of their father in Enkhuizen, and the son of Johannes, Jan (1776-1858) did as well, besides being book printer and binder. The question arises why the manuscript was not passed down through the line of book traders rather than to the carpenter Andries. Or were there more than just one copy? Perhaps Andries was favored because he had been named after his yet unknown father's father.

The oldest known information thus far about the family is from January 1741, when Jan Over Lende, 21 years old, signed accounts in Leeuwarden as (what may be translated as) assistant of the public prosecutor. Four years later, in the summer of 1745, he got married in Harlingen, Friesland, where he and his bride Janke Hansen then lived. His surname was spelled by different scribes as Over de Lende and Over Linde respectively. Soon after the marriage they must have moved to Enkhuizen in Westfriesland, on the other side of the Zuyderzee, now IJsselmeer, because their first child was baptized there in June 1746. An older sister of Janke, Antje Hanses already lived in Enkhuizen when the latter got married in 1742, and a younger brother Oene Johannesz also married there in 1751. It is still unknown what profession Jan Over Lende had between 1741 and 1765, but in 1746 he signed five notarial documents as a witness. His signature then was Jan Andriesz, using his patronymic instead of the surname Over Linde. Also, at the registrations of baptisms between 1746 and 1764 of all his children, the surname was not used. When he and his wife signed their testament in 1783, he wrote Over Lende again. At his death in 1794, the scribe wrote Over de Linden, which would remain the spelling when family names became formalized in 1811, under French rule.

There is no direct clue as to where Jan Andriesz Over Linde was born, but it can hardly be a coincidence that a Lijsbet Andriesdr from Steggerda, married to Engele Haitzes, had a son Andries, born in Lemmer in 1763, who would later (1811 at the latest) also adopt the name Over de Linde. The Linde or Lende was and is the name of a stream in the south of the province Friesland. Seen from Leeuwarden, Harlingen and Lemmer, Steggerda lies on the other side of it. To go there, or to have come from there, one had to go over the Linde.

Is this why Jan used it as a surname in Leeuwarden in 1741 and in Harlingen in 1745 and why he initially did not use the name in Enkhuizen, because there they would not have known of a stream called Linde? Or did he move to Enkhuizen to flee from something and did he hide for a while with the more anonymous patronymic? Did he as a book trader get hold of the manuscript and keep it because of the stunning coincidence that it had been copied by an apparent namesake, or had he had it for much longer, before he moved to Westfriesland? Was Okke, son of Hidde Oera Linde, addressed on page one of the manuscript an actual forefather of Jan, or did a later ancestor start using the surname Over Linde, because he read it in the manuscript that had otherwise come in his possession?

These questions and speculations will only have value for readers who are willing to consider authenticity of the Oera Linda manuscript. With the advancing digitization of archives, relevant information may be found more easily in the future, if not about the Over de Linden family, then perhaps in other families with curious names, like Tex, Jol and Van Adelen.

23 June 2021

Language too modern?

From many of our words, the origin is unknown. Even in the fifth century BCE, Socrates speculated about etymology.

Plato Cratylus, for example 409c - 410a (transl. Fowler 1921): "Hermogenes: And what of πῦρ (fire) [...]? Socrates: Πῦρ is too much for me. It must be that either the muse of Euthyphro has deserted me or this is a very difficult word. [...] I know that many Greeks, especially those who are subject to the barbarians, have adopted many foreign words. [...] If we should try to demonstrate the fitness of those words in accordance with the Greek language, and not in accordance with the language from which they are derived, you know we should get into trouble. [...] Well, this word πῦρ is probably foreign; for it is difficult to connect it with the Greek language, and besides, the Phrygians have the same word, only slightly altered." The Fryas word for fire is the same as that for four: FJUR. In Plato's dialogue between Socrates and Timaeus (53d), the latter relates the element fire with the tetrahedron; a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces. In Oera Linda (codex p. [012], book p. 38), it is mentioned as the fourth element, after "LÒFT. WÉTER. LÁND" (air, water, land/ earth).

Although there are models, theories and speculations, we simply do not know how old our languages are and how they developed. We are discovering more about civilizations that were probably lost as a result of cataclysms, so we should be able to imagine that spoken and written languages once existed that may have been more advanced than their remnants later were. When critics of Oera Linda suggest that its syntax or vocabulary would be too modern to be authentic, their usual reference will be the oldest available, accepted sources of Dutch and Frisian. They are few and were written by scribes who had learned to read and write in the classical languages.

Latin and Greek as we know them may have been languages used primarily for the transmission of information, not for representing the language then spoken by normal people. Everyday language may have been much more similar to dialects that still exist. So, what if a text would emerge that was written or copied by someone who had actually learned to read and write the spoken language of his pre-Christian ancestors? Would this text not seem modern and strange — too easily readable, in the eyes of someone who had expected an older text to be less legible compared to that of a medieval monk?

Critics of Oera Linda have given examples of words that they consider to be modern, or that they assume must have been meant as a joke, like BED-RUM for bedroom (it can also mean: ask-, invite- or pray-room) or NÉF.TÜNIS (cousin, nephew or kinsman Tunis) for Neptune. Other words are assumed to be intentionally ambiguous. However, all such examples are speculative or arguments from incredulity (a fallacy). Old languages logically will seem ambiguous, because use and meaning of words has changed through time and there will have been regional differences. Even within and between the various texts of the manuscript, there are examples of different and changing meanings.

As far as I know, no Old-Frisian specialist has ever published a review of the Oera Linda language. The 1876 pamphlet by J. Vinckers usually referred to by people who claim that Oera Linda's falseness has long been established, was never translated into, summarized or reviewed in English, for a reason. It simply is no good.