Monday, July 18, 2011

A Treasure in Teyler’s Archives!

By Bart Kamphuis

That’s about what I shouted when I came home last Thursday. My wife looked at me full of expectation, about the way Sophia must have looked at Schliemann when he told her about Priam’s treasure. Unfortunately, I had to disappoint her. We (Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, Jan Krans and Bart Kamphuis) didn’t find any gold in the archives of Teyler’s Foundation. But still, what we found we regard as a scholarly treasure.

In our investigation into the Dutch movement of New Testament conjectural criticism (1845-1906), we came to realize that the competition held by Teyler’s Theological Society in 1877 was of crucial importance for this movement. This society invited scholars to write about the history, necessity and main outcomes of New Testament conjectural criticism. Four scholars submitted a treatise. The first prize was granted to two of them, Van Manen and Van de Sande Bakhuyzen. Their works were published and gave a final impetus to conjectural criticism in Holland. But who were the other two scholars, whose work was found wanting? That’s what we wanted to know. But since the society employed (and still employs!) a strict policy of authorial anonymity, the only way we might get to know something, was to dig into the archives.
Jan Krans and Bart Kamphuis at Teyler’s Archives, Haarlem
When we visited the archives last Thursday, we actually expected that the two manuscripts of the losing authors would have been destructed. But we found them both! One of the authors had send a letter to the society after he lost the competition, which was kept in the archives as well. That’s why we even know the identity of one of the scholars. And we are determined to discover the identity of the other scholar, even if it would involve the analysis of handwriting!
Who wrote this? [from Teyler’s Archives 1257]
We found a lot more in the archives. For us it really felt like digging for treasures. Maybe that’s the beauty of historical research: once you get fascinated by a certain historical phenomenon, every historical relic connected to it becomes glittering gold and sparkling gems ...

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