UNKNOWN. c1450 - 1470s ORIGINAL MEDIEVAL DUTCH DOCUMENT DEALING WITH ONE REGIONAL WATER BOARD'S INSTRUCTIONS ON FLOOD AND WATER MANAGEMENT AND HAND WRITTEN TESTAMENT TO THE NETHERLANDS NEVER ENDING WAR WITH THE SEA
HOLLAND THE NETHERLANDS 1470 Fair+ Dutch Elephant Folio - over 15" - 23" tall
On offer is an exceptional manuscript relic of Medieval Holland regarding the Dutch peoples' daily war with the sea. In his Natural History Pliny noted, "There, twice in every twenty-four hours, the ocean's vast tide sweeps in a flood over a large stretch of land and hides Nature's everlasting controversy about whether this region belongs to the land or to the sea." This 15th Century manuscript on three sheets, sewn together, 38" x 11.5", laid paper with writings to front and half of the back dealing with flood management. Historians and researchers will note the 15th Century was a critical juncture for Dutch progress in land reclamation with the development of wind-driven water-pumps (windmills) which would help with the issue. This was also a time as Wikipedia reminds us that "Holland could no longer produce enough grain to feed itself. Land drainage had caused the peat of the former wetlands to reduce to a level that was too low for drainage to be maintained." RESEARCH REPORT: The Netherlands around 1300-1500: why regulation on water management became necessary: Water has always been the enemy and friend of the Netherlands; high sea levels cause fear for floods, while the rivers contribute to a high welfare position. Similar to this, there are many other examples to show the importance and the dangers of water for the Netherlands. Between 1300 and 1500 it was the growth and harvest of peat that made water a friend and enemy. In the 12th century, the slowly increasing water level encouraged the growth of peat. In the 13th century the Netherlands had started harvesting peat, which would be mainly used for personal use, such as warming up the house. A landlord would assign every party or household a piece of land which would be used to harvest peat from. Landlords prohibited to sell the peat or trade it for something else (Buitelaar, 1996). As the time passed, the landlords allowed the peat to be harvested for commercial use. In order to make more money, the landlord would charge more taxes on the peat that was harvested for commercial use (Buitelaar, 1996). In the 15th century, the increased peat harvest was changing the landscape. Imagine peat as sand in a bowl full of water. As the sand is removed, only water is left over. This also happened with the landscape: as the peat was removed, a layer of water was left. The land became less and less valuable. To increase the value of the land, windmills were placed to remove all the excess water and reach to the bottom of the water. At the bottom there would be more peat to harvest, or the 'dried' land would be used as cultivated land (Bart Ibelings, 1996). Land that would be dried up after harvesting peat, could be used for cultivating (Buitelaar, 1996). The issue with cultivated land is that the top part of the land has to be kept dry in order to grow wheat or other plants on it. In other words, the top part of the land is exposed to air. This induces the process of oxidation. Oxidation is when the peat is exposed to air and the peat starts to break down. Furthermore, the drainage of water caused the soil to settle and compress (Van Engen, 2006). As one can see in Figure 2, the land would slowly, but surely get thinner and closer to the water. Eventually, the land cannot be used for plants, because it is too close to the ground water. As a result, the Netherlands was working itself deeper and deeper under sea level and a board was needed to implement laws to keep the citizens safe. The water board: The Netherlands has a water board for every region and the first water board dates from the 12th century. They have the responsibility of the water management of every region (Beekman, 1884). The 15th century is especially important for the water board, because their position in the community changes. They are more responsible and have more challenges to deal with (Van Engen, 2006). This manuscript document is on the regulation of the water management of a particular region of Holland. As explained earlier, the 15th century is a century full of challenges for the water board and the regulation that they have implemented back in the days (based on financial benefits and also for safety of people) explain the landscape of today (Geill, 2004). This is what makes the book so interesting: it gives a hint on their decision making process. Were the regulations focused to keep the people safe or were the regulations mainly there to make sure that the land would not lose its value. As mentioned earlier, every water board was responsible for its own region. However, it was not always clear where the geographical border of every water board was located. Therefore, a water board would make its geographical borders clear in their book of regulation. Other relevant material in this book would be for example where every region could drain its waters, whether anything like a dyke would be necessarily and under which circumstances a windmill would be built and who is chief in the board (Beekman, 1884). Unique about this document is that it is a primary sources showing how the people in that time tried to defend themselves against water and how relevant the economic situation was in the decision making process. Little primary sources can be found giving this information. Sources Schults, B., (1995). Historie van de waterbeheersing in de Nederlandse droogmakerijen, Tijdschrift voor waterschapsgeschiedenis, p.5 Geïll, (2004). De Nieuwe Waterstaatsgeschiedenis, Historisch Tijdschrift, p. 128-312, ISSN 0166-2511 Beekman, A.A., (1884). Nederland als Polderland Ibelings, B., (1996). Turfwinning en waterstaat in het Groene Hart van Holland voor 1530, Tijdschrift voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis Van Engen, H., (2006). Rijnland en de Steden. Tijdschrift voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis. [Report by a Dutch Professor of Hydrology]. Chips and holes with loss to upper portion and several tape repairs in same area (verso), some marginal fraying and chipping, faded staining and light soiling. Housed in an attractive though modest custom cloth folder.