The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: August 1641 (page 1 of 2)

Saturday 28 August 1641

I went to see the college and schools, which are nothing extraordinary, and was complimented with a matricula by the magnificus Professor, who first in Latin demanded of me where my lodging in the town was, my name, age, birth, and to what Faculty I addicted myself; then, recording my answers in a book, he administered an oath to me that I should observe the statutes and orders of the University while I stayed, and then delivered me a ticket, by virtue whereof I was made excise-free; for all which worthy privileges, and the pains of writing, he accepted of a rix-dollar1.

Here was now the famous Dan. Heinsius, whom I so longed to see, as well as the no less famous printer, Elzevir’s printing-house and shop2, renowned for the politeness of the character and editions of what he has published through Europe. Hence to the physic-garden, well stored with exotic plants, if the catalogue presented to me by the gardener be a faithful register.

Jan Woudanus, the Hortus botanicus in Leiden (1610)

But, among all the rarities of this place, I was much pleased with a sight of their anatomy-school, theater, and repository adjoining, which is well furnished with natural curiosities; skeletons, from the whale and elephant to the fly and spider; which last is a very delicate piece of art, to see how the bones (if I may so call them of so tender an insect) could be separated from the mucilaginous parts of that minute animal. Among a great variety of other things, I was shown the knife newly taken out of a drunken Dutchman’s guts, by an incision in his side, after it had slipped from his fingers into his stomach. The pictures of the chirurgeon3 and his patient, both living, were there.

Johannes Woudanus, The anatomical theatre of Leiden University, (early 17th century).

There is without the town a fair Mall, curiously planted.

Returning to my lodging, I was showed the statue, cut in stone, of the happy monk, whom they report to have been the first inventor of typography, set over the door; but this is much controverted by others, who strive for the glory of it, besides John Gutenberg.

I was brought acquainted with a Burgundian Jew, who had married an apostate Kentish woman. I asked him divers questions: he told me, among other things, that the World should never end; that our souls transmigrated, and that even those of the most holy persons did penance in the bodies of brutes after death,—and so he interpreted the banishment and savage life of Nebuchadnezzar: that all the Jews should rise again, and be led to Jerusalem; that the Romans only were the occasion of our Savior’s death, whom he affirmed (as the Turks do) to be a great prophet, but not the Messiah. He showed me several books of their devotion, which he had translated into English, for the instruction of his wife; he told me that when the Messiah came, all the ships, barks, and vessels of Holland should, by the power of certain strange whirlwinds, be loosed from their anchors, and transported in a moment to all the desolate ports and havens throughout the world, wherever the dispersion was, to convey their brethren and tribes to the Holy City; with other such like stuff. He was a merry drunken fellow, but would by no means handle any money (for something I purchased of him), it being Saturday; but desired me to leave it in the window, meaning to receive it on Sunday morning.


  1. English term for silver coinage used throughout the Europe at the time – GS 

  2. printing-house and shop: Bonaventura (1583-1654), and Abraham Elzevir or Elzevier (1592-1652), established the Officina Elzeveriana at Leyden in 1626; and it was continued by their descendants. –AD 

  3. Surgeon -GS 

Tuesday 24 August 1641

Upon St. Bartholomew’s day, I went among the booksellers, and visited the famous Hondius and Bleaw‘s shop, to buy some maps, atlases, and other works of that kind1. At another shop, I furnished myself with some shells and Indian curiosities; and so, toward the end of August, I returned again to Haerlem by the river, ten miles in length, straight as a line, and of competent breadth for ships to sail by one another. They showed us a cottage where, they told us, dwelt a woman who had been married to her twenty-fifth husband, and being now a widow, was prohibited to marry in future; yet it could not be proved that she had ever made away with any of her husbands, though the suspicion had brought her divers times to trouble.

Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde. “The Great Market in Haarlem” (1696)

Haerlem is a very delicate town and hath one of the fairest churches2 of the Gothic design I had ever seen. There hang in the steeple, which is very high, two silver bells, said to have been brought from Damietta, in Egypt, by an earl of Holland, in memory of whose success they are rung out every evening3. In the nave hang the goodliest branches of brass for tapers that I have seen, esteemed of great value for the curiosity of the workmanship; also a fair pair of organs, which I could not find they made use of in divine service, or so much as to assist them in singing psalms, but only for show, and to recreate the people before and after their devotions, while the burgomasters were walking and conferring about their affairs. Near the west window hang two models of ships, completely equipped, in memory of that invention of saws under their keels, with which they cut through the chain of booms, which barred the port of Damietta.

Having visited this church, the fish-market, and made some inquiry about the printing-house, the invention whereof is said to have been in this town, I returned to Leyden.

At Leyden, I was carried up to the castle, or Pyrgus4, built on a very steep artificial mount, cast up (as reported) by Hengist the Saxon, on his return out of England, as a place to retire to, in case of any sudden inundations.

Frederik de Wit, De Burcht van Leiden (circa 1698)

The churches are many and fair; in one of them lies buried the learned and illustrious Joseph Scaliger, without any extraordinary inscription, who, having left the world a monument of his worth more lasting than marble, needed nothing more than his own name; which I think is all engraven on his sepulcher. He left his library to this University.


  1. The entry as to the booksellers, etc., is thus expressed in the earlier edition: “ I went to Hundius’s shop to buy some mapps, greatly pleased with the designes of that indefatigable person.Mr. Bleaw, the setter forth of the Atlas’s and other workes of that kind, is worthy seeing” (Diary, 1827, i. 32). – AD 

  2. The Groote Kerk AD 

  3. Local legend known as Wapenvermeerdering, or “Legend of the Haarlem shield” apparently false see Groote Kerk -GS 

  4. Pyrgus: greek (πύργος), a tower. Evelyn is referring to the Burcht van Leiden or Castle of Leiden.  -GS 

Monday 23 August 1641

The next day we were entertained at a kind of tavern, called the Briloft, appertaining to a rich Anabaptist, where, in the upper rooms of the house, were divers pretty waterworks, rising 108 feet from the ground. Here were many quaint devices, fountains, artificial music, noises of beasts, and chirping of birds; but what pleased me most was a large pendant candlestick, branching into several sockets, furnished all with ordinary candles to appearance, out of the wicks spouting out streams of water, instead of flames. This seemed then and was a rarity, before the philosophy of compressed air made it intelligible. There was likewise a cylinder that entertained the company with a variety of chimes, the hammers striking upon the brims of porcelain dishes, suited to the tones and notes, without cracking any of them. Many other waterworks were shown.

Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyd, The bend in the Herengracht, Amsterdam. (1685)

The Kaiser’s or Emperor’s Graft1), which is an ample and long street, appearing like a city in a forest; the lime trees planted just before each house, and at the margin of that goodly aqueduct so curiously wharfed with Klincard brick2, which likewise paves the streets, than which nothing can be more useful and neat. This part of Amsterdam is built and gained upon the main sea, supported by piles at an immense charge, and fitted for the most busy concourse of traffickers and people of commerce beyond any place, or mart, in the world. Nor must I forget the port of entrance into an issue of this town, composed of very magnificent pieces of architecture, some of the ancient and best manner, as are divers churches.

The turrets, or steeples, are adorned after a particular manner and invention; the chimes of bells are so rarely managed, that being curious to know whether the motion was from any engine, I went up to that of St. Nicholas, where I found one who played all sorts of compositions from the tablature before him, as if he had fingered an organ; for so were the hammers fastened with wires to several keys put into a frame twenty feet below the bells, upon which (by the help of a wooden instrument, not much unlike a weaver’s shuttle, that guarded his hand) he struck on the keys and played to admiration. All this while, through the clattering of the wires, din of the too nearly sounding bells, and noise that his wooden gloves made, the confusion was so great, that it was impossible for the musician, or any that stood near him, to hear anything at all; yet, to those at a distance, and especially in the streets, the harmony and the time were the most exact and agreeable.

The south church is richly paved with black and white marble,—the west is a new fabric; and generally all the churches in Holland are furnished with organs, lamps, and monuments, carefully preserved from the fury and impiety of popular reformers, whose zeal has foolishly transported them in other places rather to act like madmen than religious3.


  1. Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal -GS 

  2. a hard yellowish Dutch brick – Merriam-Webster 

  3. [See post, under 10th October, 1641, with reference to the
    destruction of the windows of Canterbury Cathedral.]-AD 

Sunday 22 August 1641

On Sunday, I heard an English sermon at the Presbyterian congregation, where they had chalked upon a slate the psalms that were to be sung, so that all the congregation might see them without the bidding of a clerk. I was told, that after such an age no minister was permitted to preach, but had his maintenance continued during life.

I purposely changed my lodgings, being desirous to converse with the sectaries that swarmed in this city, out of whose spawn came those almost innumerable broods in England afterward. It was at a Brownist‘s house, where we had an extraordinary good table. There was in pension with us my Lord Keeper, Finch, and one Sir J. Fotherbee. Here I also found an English Carmelite, who was going through Germany with an Irish gentleman.

I now went to see the Weese-house, a foundation like our Charter-house, for the education of decayed persons, orphans, and poor children, where they are taught several occupations. The girls are so well brought up to housewifery, that men of good worth, who seek that chiefly in a woman, frequently take their wives from this hospital.

Thence to the Rasp-house, where the lusty knaves are compelled to work; and the rasping of brasil and logwood for the dyers is very hard labor. To the Dool-house1, for madmen and fools. But none did I so much admire, as an Hospital for their lame and decrepit soldiers and seamen, where the accommodations are very great, the building answerable; and, indeed, for the like public charities the provisions are admirable in this country, where, as no idle vagabonds are suffered (as in England they are), there is hardly a child of four or five years old, but they find some employment for it.

Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde, The Old Exchange of Amsterdam, (Circa 1670)

It was on a Sunday morning that I went to the Bourse, or Exchange, after their sermons were ended, to see the Dog-market, which lasts till two in the afternoon, in this place of convention of merchants from all parts of the world. The building is not comparable to that of London, built by that worthy citizen, Sir Thomas Gresham, yet in one respect exceeding it, that vessels of considerable burden ride at the very quay contiguous to it; and indeed it is by extraordinary industry that as well this city, as generally all the towns of Holland, are so accommodated with graffs2, cuts, sluices, moles3, and rivers, made by hand, that nothing is more frequent than to see a whole navy, belonging to this mercantile people, riding at anchor before their very doors: and yet their streets even, straight, and well paved, the houses so uniform and planted with lime trees, as nothing can be more beautiful.


  1. Dolhuis, mad-house. –AD 

  2. Dutch: gracht, a waterway in the city with streets on both sides of the water – GS 

  3. Dutch: molen, a windmill – GS 

Saturday 21 August 1641

About seven in the morning after I came to Amsterdam, where being provided with a lodging, the first thing I went to see was a Synagogue of the Jews (being Saturday), whose ceremonies, ornaments, lamps, law, and schools, afforded matter for my contemplation. The women were secluded from the men, being seated in galleries above, shut with lattices, having their heads muffled with linen, after a fantastical and somewhat extraordinary fashion; the men, wearing a large calico mantle, yellow colored, over their hats, all the while waving their bodies, while at their devotions.

From thence, I went to a place without the town, called Overkirk, where they have a spacious field assigned them to bury their dead1 , full of sepulchers with Hebraic inscriptions, some of them stately and costly. Looking through one of these monuments, where the stones were disjointed, I perceived divers books and papers lie about a corpse; for it seems, when any learned Rabbi dies, they bury some of his books with him. With the help of a stick, I raked out several, written in Hebrew characters, but much impaired. As we returned, we stepped in to see the Spin-house2 , a kind of bridewell, where incorrigible and lewd women are kept in discipline and labor, but all neat. We were shown an hospital for poor travelers and pilgrims, built by Queen Elizabeth of England; and another maintained by the city.

Joachim von Sandrart, the Company of District XIX commanded by Captain Cornelis Bicker, 1640

The State or Senate-house of this town, if the design be perfected, will be one of the most costly and magnificent pieces of architecture in Europe, especially for the materials and the carvings. In the Doole3 is painted, on a very large table4, the bust of Marie de Medicis, supported by four royal diadems, the work of one Vanderdall, who hath set his name thereon, 1st September, 1638.5


  1. Boyd Hill, in a comment to the about page,  identifies this site as the Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel –  the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. I have added information provided to this entry and the entry for Ouderkerk aan de Amstel 

  2. a former house of correction for prostitutes especially in England in which inmates were often made to work at spinning – Merriam-Webster dictionary 

  3. Civic guards headquarters -GS 

  4. [The tablet, or panel on which a picture is painted. Evelyn frequently uses the term for the picture itself (see post, under 8th October, 1641) –AD.] 

  5. Maaike Dirkx makes the case that Evelyn is referring to the painting  “the Company of District XIX commanded by Captain Cornelis Bicker” by Joachim von Sandrart, 1640 

Friday 20 August 1641

Next day (the 20th) I returned to Delft, thence to Rotterdam, the Hague, and Leyden, where immediately I mounted a wagon, which that night, late as it was, brought us to Haerlem.

“Delft: A View of the Town Hall Seen from the Grote Markt” by Jan Ten Compe (1745-1755)

Thursday 19 August 1641

We returned to the Hague, and went to visit the Hoff, or Prince’s Court1, with the adjoining gardens full of ornament, close walks, statues, marbles, grots, fountains, and artificial music. There is to this palace a stately hall, not much inferior to ours of Westminster, hung round with colors and other trophies2 taken from the Spaniards; and the sides below are furnished with shops.


  1. appears to be referring to the Stadtholder’s Quarters, part of the Binnenhof – GS 

  2. As Westminster Hall used to be down to the beginning of the reign of George III. [The banners taken at Naseby and Worcester, at Preston and Dunbar and Blenheim, were all to be hung in it in the years to come.] –AD

Wednesday 18 August 1641

From hence, we went the next day to Ryswick, a stately country-house of the Prince of Orange, for nothing more remarkable than the delicious walks planted with lime trees, and the modern paintings within.

Huis ter Nieuwburg (Ryswyk palace)

Tuesday 17 August 1641

I passed again through Delft, and visited the church1 in which was the monument of Prince William of Nassau,—the first of the Williams, and savior (as they call him) of their liberty, which cost him his life by a vile assassination2. It is a piece of rare art, consisting of several figures, as big as the life, in copper.

Family in the Nieuwe Kerk with the monument of Willem the Silent, by Dirk van Delen, 1645

There is in the same place a magnificent tomb of his son and successor, Maurice. The senate-house hath a very stately portico, supported with choice columns of black marble, as I remember, of one entire stone. Within, there hangs a weighty vessel of wood, not unlike a butter-churn, which the adventurous woman that hath two husbands at one time is to wear on her shoulders, her head peeping out at the top only, and so led about the town, as a penance for her incontinence.


  1. the Nieuw Kerk or New Church – GS 

  2. [William I. the Silent, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584, was
    shot (July 10) in the Prinsenhof at Delft (now the William of
    Orange Museum) by Balthasar Gerards, a Burgundian agent of
    Philip II. of Spain. His monument, by Hendrik de Keyser, is in
    the Nieuwe Kerk.] –AD. 

Friday 13 August 1641

We arrived late at Rotterdam, where was their annual mart or fair, so furnished with pictures (especially landscapes and drolleries, as they call those clownish representations), that I was amazed. Some of these I bought and sent into England. The reason of this store of pictures, and their cheapness, proceeds from their want of land to employ their stock, so that it is an ordinary thing to find a common farmer lay out two or three thousand pounds in this commodity. Their houses are full of them, and they vend them at their fairs to very great gains.

Elephant, 1641 – Rembrandt van Rijn.
© Trustees of the British Museum

Here I first saw an elephant, who was extremely well disciplined and obedient. It was a beast of a monstrous size, yet as flexible and nimble in the joints, contrary to the vulgar tradition, as could be imagined from so prodigious a bulk and strange fabric; but I most of all admired the dexterity and strength of its proboscis, on which it was able to support two or three men, and by which it took and reached whatever was offered to it; its teeth were but short, being a female, and not old. I was also shown a pelican, or onocratulas of Pliny, with its large gullets, in which he kept his reserve of fish; the plumage was white, legs red, flat, and film-footed, likewise a cock with four legs, two rumps and vents: also a hen which had two large spurs growing out of her sides, penetrating the feathers of her wings.

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