Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Jan Van Naaldwijk's Chronicles of Holland: Continuity and Transformation in the Historical Tradition of Holland during the Early Sixteenth Century

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Jan Van Naaldwijk's Chronicles of Holland: Continuity and Transformation in the Historical Tradition of Holland during the Early Sixteenth Century

Article excerpt

Sjoerd Levelt, Jan van Naaldwijk's Chronicles of Holland- Continuity and Transformation in the Historical Tradition of Holland during the Early Sixteenth Century (Hilversum: Verloren, 2011). 280 pp. ISBN 978-90-8704-221-9. euro35.00.

This is a richly informative and richly illustrated book about two lengthy prose chronicles written in the first decades of the sixteenth century by Jan van Naaldwijk, the son of a Dutch nobleman. Neither of these two chronicles is well known. They survive in two autograph manuscripts, and have never before been published. This study places Jan van Naaldwijk squarely on the cultural map and shows why he deserves the attention of readers interested in chronicle writing from this period. An accompanying CD-ROM provides full transcriptions of both Dutch chronicles and adds further value to this book.

The transitional nature of the period in question makes Jan van Naaldwijk's work especially rewarding. Desiderius Erasmus, Poggio Bracciolini, and Robert Gaguin - to name but a few of the authors whose work Jan had read - are supposed to have ushered in a new humanist era of scholarship. The printing presses, unusually numerous and active in the Low Countries, were producing new types of books such as illustrated travel guides and picture-book histories. These sources, too, Jan used, for he was remarkably up to date with 'current' research. But Jan blended the knowledge he acquired from respectable sources with fantastical popular legends, Trojan foundation myths, and personal anecdote, to produce a potpourri of fact and fiction that would have dismayed humanists like Erasmus. Of course, these colourful additions are precisely the things that lovers of medieval literature are likely to find appealing, so let me give some examples of the more outrageous 'facts' that Jan relates. The Frisians, that proudly independent people, were once called Slavs; they settled in the north of Holland after being expelled from Britain by Brutus; King Arthur tried to conquer them but found they were the only people in Europe he could not subdue. …

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