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Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen

As a ‘general cultural periodical’ offering reviews on a wide variety of subjects, including literature and, more specifically, religion, arts and sciences, the Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen (Patriotic Literary Exercises) is a major source of information on publications that appeared in the Dutch Republic (and later in the Kingdom of Holland and its successor, the Kingdom of the Netherlands). For many years it was the country’s leading periodical, serving as a model for others and as a butt of criticism for the people behind the new magazine De Gids, which first appeared in 1837. Despite competition from this newcomer, the Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen (VLO) managed to survive until 1876.

In view of the magazine’s leading position and wide range of topics, works by women authors published in the Netherlands were likely to be mentioned. Unfortunately, we do not yet know to what extent works by any author were reviewed in the VLO. No percentages are known as the magazine has not yet been studied in detail.

In the course of its long existence, the VLO underwent a number of name changes. As this doesn’t make library searches for paper copies any easier, a list is given below of the names it had and the corresponding dates:

1761-1767: Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1768-1771: Nieuwe Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1772-1778: Hedendaagsche Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1779-1785: Algemeene Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1786-1790: Nieuwe Algemeene Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1791-1812: Algemeene Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen
1813-1876: Vaderlandsche Letter-Oefeningen, of tijdschrift van konsten en wetenschappen

The magazine produced a tremendous number of pages for perusal, about 500 per year, making a total of some 60,000 pages over its 115 years’ existence. A veritable mountain of paper, so it is very fortunate indeed that the former NIWI (Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information Services) - now Huygensinstituut - launched a project some years ago to publish the entire VLO on the Internet through the ‘e-Laborate’ programme. This initiative will greatly facilitate the study of the magazine itself and allow the creation of a much-needed (and sadly lacking) general framework to link the information obtained from its individual issues.

What we do know is that the VLO was started by the Haarlem minister Cornelis Loosjes and his brother Petrus Loosjes, that Jacob Yntema became editor in 1813 and that the Revd J.W. Bok was its last editor. But as it is not yet known who all the other contributors to the magazine were ? most articles were published anonymously ? we cannot simply assume that there were no women among them. Towards the end of its publishing history in the 19th century, articles were often signed with initials, which to some extent have been traced back to writers who also published elsewhere. One of them was indeed a woman, Elise van Calcar, who signed with ‘E.’ a 1856 review of a work by the important novelist Mrs Bosboom-Toussaint.

Each of the VLO’s volumes consisted of two sections, ‘Boekbeoordelingen’ (Book Reviews) and ‘Mengelwerk’ (Miscellany). We decided to focus on the book reviews, as, for our survey, we were primarily interested in information about the reception of women’s writings. We did include some publications from the ‘Mengelwerk’ section, mostly by less well-known authors.

The survey yielded a list of 1,129 articles (as at April 2007). A collaborative project between ‘e-Laborate’ and WomenWriters entitled De VLO en de Schrijvende Vrouw (The VLO and women writers) enabled us to do more than just provide the metadata on these articles in the WomenWriters database. Each record now also contains a direct link to the text itself, i.e. to a scan of the original page with an automatic transcription by OCR (Optical Character Recognition), edited where needed (the editing is still underway); the whole is included in ‘e-Laborate’. The scans are provided with notes; these are primarily intended for those who are not accessing the VLO through the WomenWriters database: the biographical and bibliographical information they contain has mostly been derived from this database, and are to be considered as an enrichment of the article’s text. The project entitled De VLO en de Schrijvende Vrouw was funded by the SURF-foundation, Utrecht (2004-2006).

The articles about work by women and the mentions of women authors (195; April 2007) also provided us with previously unknown data, e.g. about the publishers of women’s writings (study will have to be made of the archives of those publishers who appear to have been more than usually interested in the work of women writers, such as Roelants of Schiedam, who also published the Damesweekblad (‘Ladies’ Weekly’)), or about translations: we found information from the VLO for 131 translations (April 2007).

All 18th-century volumes of the VLO are now available online; for the 19th-century part only the articles about women have been digitised. The work will be completed as soon as possible. We may assume that their availability through ‘e-Laborate’, thanks particularly to the ‘fuzzy search’ function, will soon lead to the discovery of more, relevant information, and that the number of 1,129 records must surely be provisional and likely to increase. Lists of the numbers of articles per ten-year period and of the countries where the reviewed works were first published are given in an appendix.


  • Bosch, René. "Met wie las Pieter Teyler van der Hulst de Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen?" TS Tijdschrift voor tijdschriftstudies 6. (1999), 16-27.
  • Johannes, Gert-Jan. De barometer van de smaak. Tijdschriften in Nederland 1770-1830. (Den Haag: SDU, 1995), 117-138.
  • Mededelingen van de Stichting Jacob Campo Weyerman 29: 1 (2006). Special issue devoted to the Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen.
  • Van Dijk, Suzan en Karina van Dalen-Oskam, "De Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen online ! Nieuw onderzoeksperspectief: de contemporaine receptie van vergeten schrijfsters", in Mededelingen Jacob Campo Weyerman 29 (2006), p. 3-18.
  • Id. , "Literairhistorisch onderzoek en de ontwikkeling van adequaat electronisch gereedschap. N.a.v. de casus 'historisch schrijfsterschap'" (forthcoming).

Suzan van Dijk, 15 September 2006
Transl. Brenda Mudde

Most VLO reviews of women’s literature deal with work by Dutch authors (536). Other countries from where relatively important numbers of women’s work were commented in the VLO:

Austria: 24 articles and mentions (as at April 2007)
France: 150
Germany: 142
Ireland: 40
Sweden: 50
United Kingdom: 324
United States: 44

The number of reviews of women’s works per ten-year period is given below (as at September 2006):

1761-1770: 43 articles
1771-1780: 50
1781-1790: 65
1791-1800: 56
1801-1810: 43
1811-1820: 90
1821-1830: 109
1831-1840: 132
1841-1850: 128
1851-1860: 169
1861-1870: 141
1871-1876: 100

  • Note that when arriving in the database WomenWriters your status will be "not logged on", meaning that your access to the database is limited. For complete access (and participation in the project), contact Suzan van Dijk.

  • Sources > Dutch sources > Articles in the press > Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen

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