… to the 4th (“revised”) edition of Codex Oera Linda —
The Oera Linda Foundation was founded by Jan Ott on 14 December 2020, with the purpose of promoting research on, translations of, and publications about the manuscript known as the Oera Linda Book (OLB).
The OLB begins with a letter of instruction written in the year 1255 by the last known copyist of the writings, Hidde Oera Linda, advising his son Okke to make a copy in turn, “… so that they shall never be lost”.
This 4th edition of Codex Oera Linda, as we refer to the OLB manuscript — with its new transliteration, an English language translation of the original texts, an index of proper names, and a suggested alternative reading order, as well as images of all original pages (in near-original size) — is intended to be a public copy of the trove for modern readers. It finally replaces the only previous English translation by William Sandbach (published 1876), which itself was a translation of the first Dutch translation by Dr. Jan Ottema (1872), that included a mutilated facsimile print of only the pages with the wheel-based letters and numbers (pp. [046 – 047]).1
The manuscript came to light in 1867, when it was first submitted for examination to the Frisian Society for the Practice of Frisian History, Antiquity, and Linguistics in Leeuwarden, Friesland, by Cornelis Over de Linden [see lineage and photo below], who had inherited the manuscript in 1848 from the estate of his grandfather Andries Over de Linden, so he said. Following his death in 1874, it was inherited by his son Leendert Over de Linden, who left it to his brother’s grandson, Cornelis Over de Linden IV. The latter donated it in 1938 to the Frisian Provincial Library (now Tresoar).
The pages bear no watermarks, but waterlines are visible that appear similar to the characteristic lines of 12th century Spanish-Arab paper. The page size is 291 mm x 210 mm, or 11.46 x 8.27 inches — except for the first page, which was not numbered like the rest and contains the two letters of instruction. The whole likely consisted of bound quires (bundles of 24 – 26 bound pages), as indicated by the sewing holes and Over de Linden’s statement that he had taken it apart.2 Twenty pages of the manuscript are missing between pp. [168 – 189], two between pp. [192 – 195], and an unknown number after page  — leaving a total of 190 pages, most having 32 lines. On page , the text does not start at the first line, or even on line 30 of the previous page. It could be that the original contained an illustration here, which the copyist intended to reproduce later.
The photographed manuscript pages included in this book were provided by Tresoar in Leeuwarden. Line numbers as well as an enlarged dark background were added by the editor in this edition for a better fit in print. The photos of pages , , and  were made more recently, because the initial ones had a defect, which explains their somewhat different color and cut.
A full description of the method of transliterating would be a boring tale — readers interested in attempting to match the transliteration to the original manuscript pages, however, can easily decipher most of it for themselves using the provided images. Note, though, that where the original author or copyist had obviously misspelled a word, or where letters were not (clearly) visible, this was cured or complemented as rigorously as possible. Likewise, periods (also used in the manuscript as comma, hyphen, interpunct, etc.) and tildes (mostly used to fill space or suggest a reading pause) that were not considered functional in the transliteration were left out, while some periods were added for clarity. To accommodate reading aloud, some numbers were written out in a possible spelling [in brackets]. The separate TH- letter (Ћ) in the original was sometimes used to represent HT-. When N and G followed each other in the original, this was transliterated as N’G, in order to distinguish from use of the separate NG-letter (Ŋ).
A word on translation as well: The most literal translation is not always the best reflection of the intended meaning. Some expressions make no sense in another language, while some words, although they have perfectly recognisable modern cognates, nonetheless have a different meaning in the original. For example, on page [00a]: BOKA is obviously related to ‘books’ — but modern books are usually printed, so ‘writings’ or ‘scriptures’ might better convey what was meant. There is ample scope for ambiguity in places; LIF could be either ‘body’ (Dutch: lijf) or English: ‘life’. The latter translation was chosen after a review of other uses in context. KÉREN (ch. 7a, [047/10]) means ‘chosen/choice’ but is also related to English: ‘corn’ (maize) as well as to Dutch ‘koren’ (grain: wheat, rye, or barley). Since FOLK is such a key term in the work, it was generally left unchanged, although in some cases the modern word ‘people’ is used. Proper names were translated or left unchanged, sometimes in a more familiar spelling. After the first two pages (Letters of Instruction), footnotes were used sparingly.
In 1938, the Oera Linda manuscript was donated to the Frisian Provincial Library by then owner Cornelis Over de Linden IV, who trusted that his donation would finally lead to proper study of the document and its contents. Until today, this has never happened.3
The library states that the OLB is “commonly believed to be a forgery”. Substantiation of this belief, however, is sparse. The main evidence seems to be the fact that scholars do not take it seriously. Asking whether the manuscript or its contents might be authentic after all appears to have been taboo in Dutch academia since the late 1870s.
The last notable person who spoke favorably about Oera Linda was librarian, historian, theologian, and translator of the Bible into Frisian, as well as a member of the Frisian Society, Geert A. Wumkes:
“It is less significant to me who wrote the Oera Linda Book. What matters is its inherent, spiritual value, as a testimony to the Westfrisian love of freedom at a time when the national character was threatened with utter destruction. Both its moral and literary quality, as well as the spirituality it expresses, I consider more relevant than authenticity and historical facts.”4
Our desire is that this new edition will make the texts and the original language more accessible — may it inspire readers to appreciate their significance.
4th edition revision
This 4th edition of Codex Oera Linda is undergoing stepwise revision even as it is released. Though the original translation by Jan Ott is authoritative in its rendering of the Fryas language directly from the original manuscript, a thorough editing of the English by a team with understanding of the original language has proven invaluable. As the revision progresses, readers will be even better able to follow the original Fryas language and recognize its deep relationship not only to modern English and Dutch, but to many names of places in today’s world and stories of the past.
Bruce Stafford, acting as lead editor on the project, is a professional translator of German and Dutch. His interest in exploring the roots of, most prominently, English has led to an interest in comparative linguistics and ancient languages, including Chinese, Latin, Persian, and now Fryas.
- Manuscript pages are referred to in three digits between brackets. Line numbers are also represented between brackets, but have one or two digits only.
- As cited from one of his diaries by Jensma (2004) ‘De Gemaskerde God’, p. 305.
- The 2004 dissertation by Jensma theorizes about possible 19th century creators and their motives, but started from the assumption that it had to be a forgery. See appendix II.
- Letter to E. Molenaar, dated 22 March 1937; full text in Dutch on Fryskednis weblog 28 June 2012.