Tag Archives: Manuscripts

Manuscript of Brandt 1799?

On February 17, 2003 Hein van der Voort received an e-mail from Poul Olsen of Copenhagen’s Rigsarkivet in which he presented a newly found manuscript of a hymn book. The text consists of 86 pages on which 76 hymns and a litany are written.  The print was stored in our archives and only a few hours ago, when I was working on the comparison of different versions of the hymn O! Planterman, it appeared to be different from the other hymn books by Danish translators.



Van der Voort thought this manuscript was likely to be of Andreas Joachim Brandt’s 1799 hymn book. A closer look shows a bulk of similarities, but also differences. The title, for instance, is never used for a printed hymn book.

An interesting incidental is the presentation of an alternative preposition like I described in my Aruba presentation (to be published). The author originally used the Dutchlike preposition in, but added the Creole preposition na above of it. The word in was not erased and so it seems as if a final decision about correct use was postponed. Eventually only Creole na was used in the titles of printed hymn books by Danish translators. In the rest of the manuscript we see erased and underlined words. In most cases of the underlined words, another word or form is added in one of the margins. For instance: regt skoon ‘truely fair’, is changed into heel skoon ‘very fair’ (p. 3). The word heel seems to be more according the vernacular than regt. In the same hymn ju Geest selv ‘your spirit himself’ is changed into ju Geest Selv, as if a capital was needed to clarify the relation between Geest and selv. Capitals are always used to indicate nouns.

New manuscripts in Corpus Negerhollands Texts

In 1995 Frans Hinskens published “Some of the documents concerning Negerhollands in the Archives of the Moravian Brethren in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. A first impression” in Amsterdam Creole Studies. In the fieldnotes of his visit to the Moravian Archives, which are included in our Corpus Negerhollands Texts, he mentions at least two interesting booklets.

In the new digital entrance to these archives, these works could easily be found and through the help of archivist Thomas McCullough we obtained photocopies of them yesterday.

The first booklet is the earliest Negerhollands Hymnal known: Isles, Samy & Georg Weber. Criol Leedekin Boekje voor gebriek Van de Neger broer gemeente Na St Thomas St Crux Overzet üt de Hoog deutse taal door Broer Samy Isles en George Weber, en een deel mee Assistantie Broer Johañes Van de Jaar 1749 tot Jaar 1753″. small format, 87 pp. >EN: Creole hymnal. >In Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in box: “Ms. Translations into Danish (Creolan). 1.) Hymn book for the Negroes of St. Thomas & St. Croix (Transl. by Sam Isles & Georg Weber, (1747-1753)”. (see our Bibliography above).

The translators are mentioned in Oldendorp’s history and we suspect the Johannes who is mentioned on the title page to be Johann Böhner, who translated several large texts into Negerhollands around 1780.

Isles&Weber 1753

The second booklet is Geskiednis na die Martel=Week en tee na die Hemelvaart van ons Heere en Heiland Jesus Christus. 132 pp. >EN: History of the Passion week to the Ascension. >In Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in box: “Ms. Translations into Danish (Creolan). 2.) The Passion Week-Ascension”.


The manuscript is not dated, but since the handwriting looks like the one of Johann Auerbach, it cannot be ca 1753, as mentioned in the Moravian Archive, but must be somewhere between 1766 and 1792.

Announcement: Praagse Perspectieven 9, Exotisch Nederlands

October 17th and 18th the Dutch Department of the Charles University in Prague organized the 9th edition of it’s Praagse Perspectieven congress. One of he two days was dedicated to Exotic Dutch. Next to a general introduction by Guy Janssens, an interesting perspective on Petjoh by Aone van Engelenhoven and a complete overview of the Dutch based language of the Mennonites by Tjeerd de Graaf, Cefas van Rossem presented a paper about the use of changes and mistakes in eighteenth century Negerhollands texts.

The conference volume is in Dutch with an introduction and the abstracts in Czech.

Hrncirova, Z., E. Krol, J. Pekelder and A. Gielen (eds). 2014. Praagse Perspectieven, Handelingen van het colloquium van de sectie Nederlands van de Karelsuniversiteit in Praag, op donderdag 17 en vrijdag 18 oktober 2013. Praag: Universitaire pers.

Van Rossem, Cefas. 2014. ‘Van de fouten kun je leren. Aanpassingen in achttiende-eeuwse Negerhollandse teksten’, in: Hrncirova, Z. et al. (eds). pp. 21-44.




Joh. Christoph Auerbach translator of third Gospel Harmony?

From about 1780 on  Lieberkühns 1769 Gospel Harmony was translated five times into Negerhollands. The first two, both from about 1780 (321 and 322 in Clarin-NEHOL), were without doubt translated and written by Johann Böhner. Of the third and fourth translation (3231 and 3232) it was clear that Johann Böhner was not the writer. The texts are probably from around 1790, about five years after Böhner’s death. The fifth translation (3110, not in Clarin-NEHOL) is the printed version from 1833 which had a circulation of  2,000 to be distributed among the Christianized slaves.

Preliminary examination of the handwriting of the letter in which the missionary Joh. Christoph Auerbach (Van Rossem & Van der Voort 1996:  8-9) presents metalinguistic information about the languages of the Danish Antilles, show that it resembles the one used in manuscript 3231.  Manuscript 3232 looks a little different, especially the initial [s] differs from the one in the letter and in 3231.

Auerbach (1726-1792) arrived in the Caribbean together with Oldendorp in 1766. In Commented Edition of the Original Manuscript of C.G.A. Oldendorp (Herrnhut 2002) his name appears a few times  in the second part/3, from p.1666 on. The most important metalinguistic remark, from 1767, is:

“Auerbach, der zum Dienst am Evangelio unter den Schwarzen, sobald er ihre Sprache könnte und insonderheit zur Besorgung der Rechnungbücher und anderer schriftlichter Sachen bestimmt war, trat gleich in diese Arbeit ein, legte sich auf die criolische Sprache die er bald fasste, (…)” (Oldendorp 2002: II, 3, p. 1682)

This quote means that Auerbach learned the language in the Danish Antilles and mastered it quickly. Unfortunately we do not have other information about his knowledge of Negerhollands, apart from the very interesting letter from 1774.

Auerbach passed away in Friedensberg, St. Croix on January 21, 1792. If he is the translator of text 3231, we can be certain it is from before that date.  If he spend his last year mostly on St. Croix, this may be the answer to the question why manuscript 3231 seems to show more English elements than the other Negerhollands Gospel Harmonies.

Please compare the examples yourself in the added file.

Auerbach 3231 3232


The Mysterious Leyden Böhner Manuscripts

In 2007/2008 the Leyden National Museum for Ethnology donated 19 notebooks to the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). One of the notebooks contains a typoscript of a Gospel Harmony, the other ones are manuscripts of several large liturgical texts, and all are written in Negerhollands.  The librarian/archivist contacted Hans den Besten to find out the importance of these texts. Den Besten immediately recognized the texts and their value for future research.


The texts appeared to be copies of Negerhollands manuscripts that had been kept in the Unitäts Archiv in Herrnhut, Germany. The notebooks have, as far as I know, been manufactured in the Netherlands, but it remains unclear who transcribed these texts. In the catalogue of KITLV these texts are dated around 1940, but I could not find a date in any of the notebooks.

In the beginning of the twentieth century D. C. Hesseling contacted Archivist A. Glitsch of the Unitäts Archiv and ordered a copy of the Negerhollands Grammar, which is kept in Herrnhut. He got the copy, paid for it and after his death, his widow donated this manuscript to the University Library of Leyden. All letters with regard to this copy are still available in the University Library of Leyden. However, unfortunately we cannot find a single clue who copied these other texts in any of Hesseling’s letters or other manuscripts. The handwriting resembles that of Hesseling, but I think it is too early to draw a conclusion about that.

A first glance in the notebooks reveals complete paragraphs of the Old Testaments that were illegible in the original eighteenth century texts we used for our Clarin-NL NEHOL corpus.


It is a nice coincidence that the typoscript is a copy of Gospel Harmony 3.2.2., the one with the metalinguistic comments in the preface.


The texts still leave us with a lot of questions, which will hopefully be answered in a next quest.

Photos by KITLV

De Josselin de Jong, February 13th 1923


In his  diary, De Josselin de Jong often mentions his linguistic fieldwork. An example from February 13th 1923:

djdj 13 feb

“’s Middags verscheen Emil Francis, een bejaarde neger van Smiths bay, East End, die door reverend Romyn op ontboden was omdat hij eveneens nog goed Negerhollandsch kent. Hij bleek ook inderdaad de taal nog behoorlijk te kunnen spreken en er veel belang in te stellen, maar hij wist niets te vertellen. Waarschijnlijk zou ik hem na 2 of 3 interviews wel aan den gang te kunnen krijgen, maar daar hij aan East End woont kan daar niet van komen. Het is intusschen wel nuttig van verschillende persoonen informatie te krijgen. Van individueele verschillen in uitspraak is heel weinig merkbaar.”

In the afternoon Emil Francis appeared, an elderly black from Smiths Bay, East End, who had been summoned by reverend Romyn because he too still had a good command of Negerhollands. It turned out that he was still able to speak the language properly and he was interested in it, , but he had nothing to tell. After two or three interviews I would probably be able to get him going, but since he lives in East End, it will not happen. Meanwhile it is quite useful to get information from different persons. Only very little is noticeable of individual differences in pronunciation, (cvr, rvs)

Emil Francis was born in 1854, and, despite his knowledge of Negerhollands, mentioned above, he only contributed just one, short text (no. XVII) to De Josselin de Jong’s Het Huidige Negerhollandsch (1926) which I present below  in normalized orthography:

“De domnee wa a doop mi si naam a Mr. Wit, domni fa Hernhut. Mi a lo lo a skool a di jaa 1871. Di skoolhus a kaa fal. So ons a ha fo hou skool a di kérek. And da di ótkweek a fin ons an ons a ha fu kuri abit it fa di kérek. An mi maa a lo draa melek a Kwati an mi di ótkweek am a kri di stibn.

Asta die gale di selef jaa di a ha kálara. Mushi fulek wa mi weet a doot. Ons na kan lo we it fa Kwati. De dómnee na listáá ons lo eenteen pat abiti it fa di plantai.”

The reverend who baptised me, his name is Mr. Wit, reverend of Herrnhut. I went to school in the year 1871. The schoolhouse had fallen down. So we had to hold school in the church. And there the earthquake found us and we had to run outside of the church. And my mother was bringing milk to Kwati (the school grounds?, Dutch: Kwartier) and during the earthquake she got the convulsions (she became very frightened). 

After the storm the same year, there was cholera. Many people that I knew died. We could not leave Kwati. The reverend did not let us go anywhere outside of the plantation. (cvr, rvs)

De Josselin de Jong did not add an English translation of this text in his work. He just remarks that “Prince (which must be Emil Francis, cvr) remembers an earthquake and a cholera epidemic about 1871.”

On St. Thomas, the earthquake raged after an attack of a hurricane, on August 21st 1871.  All houses were damaged, but more than a hundred were destroyed. About 150 people were injured or died of their injuries.  (See Delpher for more information.)

Both photo’s: KITLV, Leyden, The Netherlands

Thanks for your help, Robbert!

Unknown Negerhollands Manuscripts Library KITLV

Only a few months ago I found out that in 2008 about 18 notebooks with texts of the German missionary translator Johann Böhner were presented to the library of the KITLV (see last weeks post).

On Friday January 10th I investigated these texts. It was amazing, among other reasons, because the late Hans den Besten already examined some pages of these texts in 2007, discussed them with Sirtjo Koolhof in an e-mail correspondence and considered them of high interest.

The note books contain in total about 1280 pages of twentieth century transcriptions of eighteenth century liturgical texts. Of one of the eighteenth century Gospel Harmonies, 3.2.2. according to the code Peter Stein introduced in 1986, and which we use in our Clarin database, a typoscript is preserved.

All manuscripts were unfortunately anonymous, no writer, transcriptor or owner were mentioned, nor in the notebooks, nor on the covers. The originals of these manuscripts are stored in the Unitäts Archiv in Herrnhut, Germany, and as far as we know, no letters or bills considering these texts exist to search for a provenance. Like Hans den Besten wrote in one of his related e-mails, I ask myself: Did D.C. Hesseling, who did not use these texts for his 1905 publication, got renewed interest and ordered these transcriptions? Did he plan a new publication? It seems unlikely he transcribed these extensive texts himself. The notebooks  seem to be made by a Dutch and not a German manufacturer however…..

I hope to publish a few photographs and a list of contents of these notebooks soon.

Example of an opened page in manuscript 3.2.2. by Johann Böhner.

Negerhollands 322

New Negerhollands manuscripts!

In 2008 the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) obtained 18 notebooks with texts of Johann Böhner, the most important eighteenth century translator of Negerhollands liturgical texts.  These manuscripts  are probably copies made shortly before 1940. I hope to study these texts in a few weeks.