In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section New Netherland Literature

  • Introduction

American Literature New Netherland Literature
Jaap Jacobs
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0069


The literature of the 17th-century Dutch colony of New Netherland and its afterlife is as much part of early American literature as it is of early-modern Dutch literature. It cannot be studied without taking its American context as well as its Dutch origins into account, but requires a transnational and, at times, global perspective. Thus, New Netherland literature is connected to the culture of the written word in the Dutch Republic, as well as to the history of the Dutch language. Conceived broadly, New Netherland literature and language begins in 1609, with Henry Hudson’s voyage and extends well beyond 1674, when the Dutch government relinquished administrative control of the colonized area. The use of Dutch in written and spoken form along the east coast of North America persisted for over four centuries, with several changes to its use and character over time. In this overview, New Netherland literature is for practical purposes divided into the overlapping genres of descriptions, travel writing, letters, poetry, chronicles and pamphlets, religious writings, and linguistics, with a separate section for the main writers (Adriaen van der Donck, Henricus Selijns, Jacob Steendam, Pieter Plockhoy and Franciscus van den Enden). Sections on the Dutch Republic and New Netherland and the Dutch Atlantic have been added for background reading.

General Overviews and Anthologies

There are few works of scholarship that cover the entirety of New Netherland literature, reflecting the relatively unexplored status of the subfield. Funk 1992, Noordegraaf 2009, and van der Sijs 2009 provide general overviews and position New Netherland literature within a general framework of Dutch-American literary and history. Noordegraaf 2009 and van der Sijs 2009 also include the literary and linguistic impact of 19th- and 20th-century Dutch immigration into the United States. van Gastel 1992 constitutes an early call for the inclusion of non-English texts into the canon of early American literature. Yet textbooks and general anthologies rarely go beyond the standard 17th-century highlights. Mulford 2001 is an exception. Specialized anthologies include Jameson 1909, Snow, et al. 1996, and Waterman, et al. 2009.

  • Funk, Elisabeth Paling. “De literatuur van Nieuw-Nederland.” De Nieuwe Taalgids 85 (1992): 383–395.

    Brief overview, covering all genres and many of the relevant writers. Best introduction in Dutch.

  • Gastel, Ada van. “Ethnic Pluralism in Early American Literature: Incorporating Dutch-American Texts into the Canon.” In Early American Literature and Culture: Essays Honoring Harrison T. Meserole. Edited by Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, 3–18. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1992.

    Advocates the inclusion of Dutch texts along with those written in Spanish, French, and Native American languages into the canon of American literature. Mentions Hudson, de Vries, Selijns, Steendam, Danckaerts, and especially van der Donck.

  • Jameson, J. Franklin, ed. Narratives of New Netherland 1609–1664. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909.

    A selection of texts on 17th-century New Netherland. Includes descriptions, travel writings, letters, pamphlets, and religious texts in prose by van Meteren, Juet, de Laet, van Wassenaer, de Rasière, Michaëlius, van den Bogaert, Megapolensis, de Vries, Jogues, van der Donck, and Bogaert. Good starting point for 17th-century New Netherland literature in translation.

  • Mulford, Carla. Early American Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Contains a chapter “Dutch, Swedes, and German in North America,” including sections on Megapolensis (pp. 701–707), van der Donck (pp. 708–715), Selijns (pp. 716–719), and Maria van Rensselaer (pp. 719–724).

  • Noordegraaf, Jan. “Dutch Language and Literature in the United States.” In Four Centuries of Dutch-American Relations. Edited by Cornelis A. van Minnen, Hans Krabbendam, and Giles Scott-Smith, 166–177. Amsterdam: Boom, 2009.

    A brief overview that provides the perfect starting point for exploring New Netherland literature. Covers the 17th and 18th century, includes a caveat concerning 20th-century falsifications of “Low Dutch” texts, and provides pointers for future research.

  • Sijs, Nicoline van der. Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops: The Influence of Dutch on the North American Languages. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.5117/9789089641243

    Simultaneously published with a Dutch edition entitled Yankees, cookies en dollars: De invloed van het Nederlands op de Noord-Amerikaanse talen. Chapters on Dutch language and writings from the 17th century onward, word borrowings, and Dutch linguistic influence on Native American languages.

  • Snow, Dean R., Charles T. Gehring, and William A. Starna, eds. In Mohawk Country: Early Narratives about a Native People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

    Includes van den Bogaert, Megapolensis, van der Donck, and Danckaerts, some in revised translations. No annotation.

  • Waterman, Kees-Jan, Jaap Jacobs, and Charles T. Gehring, eds. Indianenverhalen: De vroegste beschrijvingen van Indianen langs de Hudsonrivier (1609–1680). Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 2009.

    Includes Juet, de Laet, de Rasière, Michaëlius, van den Bogaert, Megapolensis, van der Donck, Kregier, and Danckaerts in transcriptions of the original Dutch.

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