This work contains the earliest Dutch Records that have been preserved of the territory included in the present City of New York, the earlier ones having long ago disappeared. These are “The Minutes of the Burgomasters and Schepens of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674,” but contain a very few entries preceding the former date. They are contained in six folio volumes of manuscript, in the Dutch language, as spoken and written in the middle of the seventeenth century; and are preserved in the Manuscript room of the City Library in the City Hall. Until the earlier part of this century they remained as they were written. Then the first of the six volumes was translated for the municipality by a gentleman named Westbrook, but not well done, and with it his labors ended. The next step was not taken till 1848. On the twenty-second of January in that year, the Mayor approved a resolution of the Common Council, appointing Edmund B. O’Callaghan, M.D., the author of the History of New Netherland, and editor of the four volumes of the Documentary History of New York and of the eleven volumes of the Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York (two works published by the State), to translate the remaining five Dutch volumes.
Dr. O’Callaghan, who was a competent Dutch scholar, completed the task, and his five volumes of translations, together with the one volume of Mr. Westbrook’s translations, have remained side by side with the six original Dutch volumes in the Manuscript department of the City Library unprinted, and practically unknown except to a very few students of history. The late Mr. Henry B. Dawson, it should, however, be said, published some few pages of the translations in his Historical Magazine during his life, and issued a few copies therefrom in pamphlet form.
The attention of Mayor William L. Strong having been called to the condition of the City Library in 1895, he appointed a Committee in October of that year upon that subject. On the eighth of the same month the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution, which was approved by the Mayor on the fifteenth, directing that the above-named: “a Committee appointed by his Honor the Mayor of this City, be, and they are hereby, authorized and empowered, under the supervision of the Clerk of the Board of Aldermen, to make translations of, and print, such of the Records contained in the City Library, located in room number twelve in the City Hall, as they may desire; and that the Clerk of the Board is hereby authorized to loan to said Committee such records or books as shall be necessary to carry on their work, and shall take proper receipts therefor.”
Under this authority, the Committee selected these Dutch records to be printed by them, the same to be duly edited, prepared for, and carried through the press, by a competent scholar versed in the ancient Dutch language, as well as in the history of New Netherland during the period they cover. On December 31st, 1895, the Board of Apportionment of the City voted the sum of $7,000, “to be expended in carrying out the resolution adopted by the Board of Aldermen, October 8th, 1895, for the translating and printing of such of the records contained in the City Library of the City of New York as may be directed to be printed under such resolution.”
The form of the publication, the many details of the work, the selection of a competent editor, and the form of a contract for the printing, and the choice of a proper printer, occupied the close and continuous attention and consideration of the Committee (with the exception of Mr. Charles Burr Todd, who resigned in June, 1896) for several months; especially the form of the contract for printing and editing, which under the peculiar provisions of the “Consolidation Act” of the City Ordinances, and the interpretation thereof by the Counsel to the Corporation, required the joint action of the Committee, the Editor, the Clerk of the Common Council, the Counsel to the Corporation, the Board of City Record, and the Mayor.
Of the estimates for printing called for by the Committee, that of the Messrs. Putnam, of the Knickerbocker Press, was decided to be the most advantageous for the City.
For an Editor and Superintendent of the work, the Committee have chosen Mr. Berthold Fernow, a gentleman whom they believe to be most competent, who is the best Dutch scholar they know of, and one who in his work for the State of New York for several years as translator and editor of the last three volumes of its published Colonial archives, and in other works of like character executed for private parties, has made his name well known to all historical students.
The first volume of Dutch Records above mentioned has been entirely translated anew by Mr. Fernow, discarding that of the first translator entirely. The translations of Dr. O’Callaghan have been retained, simply adapting their formal phraseology to that employed by Mr. Fernow in the first volume, and correcting a very few obvious errors. A very full index by Mr. Fernow will appear in the last volume of the series. Any information, or statement, relative to the work that the Committee may hereafter deem advisable will also be found in the last volume.
The original in the Dutch language is contained in 6 folio volumes. The first of these was translated by a Mr. Westbrook and the remaining five by E. B. O’Callaghan, about 1848. The present editor has retranslated the part translated by Mr. Westbrook
- v. 1. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, 1653-1655.
- v. 2. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, 1656 to Aug. 27, 1658, inclusive.
- v. 3. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, Sept. 3, 1658 to Dec. 30, 1661, inclusive.
- v. 4. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, Jan. 3, 1662, to Dec. 18, 1663, inclusive.
- v. 5. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, Jan. 8, 1664, to May 1, 1666, inclusive.
- v. 6. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, May 8, 1666, to Sept. 5, 1673, inclusive.
- v. 7. Minutes of the court of burgomasters and schepens, Sept. 11, 1673, to Nov. 10, 1674, inclusive. Administrative minutes, March 8, 1657, to Jan. 28, 1661, inclusive. Index