Death of a Notary: Conquest and Change in Colonial New York by Donna MerwickDeath of a Notary: Conquest and Change in Colonial New York by Donna Merwick

Death of a Notary: Conquest and Change in Colonial New York

byDonna Merwick

Paperback | March 28, 2002

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"He was the only one. He was the only man to have committed suicide in the town's seventeenth-century history." So begins Donna Merwick's fascinating tale of a Dutch notary who ended his life in his adopted community of Albany. In a major feat of historical reconstruction, she introduces us to Adriaen Janse van Ilpendam and the long-forgotten world he inhabited in Holland's North American colony. Her powerful narrative will make readers care for this quiet and studious man, an "ordinary" settler for whom the clash of empires brought tragedy.

Like so many of his fellow countrymen, Janse left his Dutch homeland as a young adult to try his luck in New Netherland. After spending a few years on Manhattan Island, he moved on to the fur trading settlement today known as Albany. Merwick traces his journey to a new continent and re-creates the satisfying existence this respected burgher enjoyed with his wife in the bustling town. As a notary Janse was, in the author's words, "surrounded by stories, those he listened to and recorded, the hundreds he archived in a chest or trunk." His familiar life was turned upside down by the British conquest of the colony. Merwick recounts the changes brought about by the new rulers and imagines the despair Janse must have felt when English, a language he had never learned, replaced his native tongue in official transactions. In any military adventure, truth is alleged to be the first casualty. Merwick offers a poignant reminder that the first casualties are in fact people. As much a musing on what history obscures as what it reveals, her book is a superior work by a master practitioner of her craft.

Title:Death of a Notary: Conquest and Change in Colonial New YorkFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.29 inPublished:March 28, 2002Publisher:CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801487889

ISBN - 13:9780801487880

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Editorial Reviews

"Death of a Notary compellingly evokes the vanished Atlantic world the seventeenth century Dutch inhabited. Through Donna Merwick's amazing reconstruction of the life of a humble man, notary Adriaen Janse van Ilpendam, we understand his Dutch sense of place, both in the physical landscape and in his context of books, reports, and carefully crafted legal documents. Merwick allows us to comprehend the magnitude of change felt in all the minute details of daily life when conquered New Netherland became New York. All the certainties became uncertain as English practice replaced Dutch, and ordinary men and women found in countless daily ways that their assumptions and arrangements were now worthless. . . . The English and their historians reduced Dutch concerns to caricature and the caricature is repeated still. Donna Merwick's Death of a Notary makes such repetition impossible."—Karen Ordahl Kupperman, New York University