The Correspondence of Johannes Saeckma

Primary Contributors:

Martin Engels and Nathalie Smit

Portrait of Johannes Saeckma on Martin H. H. Engels, Inventaris correspondentie SAECKMA (2004).

Johannes Saeckma (1572–1636)

Johannes Suffridi Saeckma was a Frisian humanist and curator who helped Franeker University to flourish in the seventeenth century. In 1591, Saeckma completed his Bachelor of Arts at Franeker University. Upon graduating, he began work as an assistant of the professor of law Henricus Schotanus (1550–1605). Three years later he moved from Franeker for Heidelberg, where he gave private lectures on the Codex to young law students. Saeckma gained his doctoral degree in Basel on 29 March 1595.

In November 1595, Saeckma returned to Friesland and registered as a lawyer at the Court of Friesland in Leeuwarden. He had hoped to return to the university but, although he applied for several professorial positions in the years that following his return, to his annoyance (having previously argued publicly that only Frisians should be employed to teach at Franeker University), he lost out on every occasion to a non-Frisian candidate. As his academic career did not progress forwards as he wished, his uncle provided him with a job as secretary to the Frisian admiralty. In March 1600, Saeckma was promoted to Attorney General at the Court of Friesland. Twenty-five years later, Saeckma returned finally to Franeker University as curator.

Alongside his political and academic activities, Saeckma was a husband and a father. He married Hylck Boner on 28 August 1603. The couple had nine children, although three did not survive childhood. He was also a poet and several of poems are discussed and praised by his correspondents. His scholarly accomplishment as a legal historian and antiquarian, however, remain largely unacknowledged because he did not publish his work.

Partners and Additional Contributors

This catalogue is based on Martin Engels’s transcription of Saeckma’s letters and on his extensive inventory of the letters that are stored in the Tresoar archive in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, and published online. Mr Engels kindly gave his permission to translate and publish the metadata in EMLO, a task accomplished by Nathalie Smit during her research internship in the Sharing Knowledge in Literary and Learned Networks (SKILLNET) project, funded by the European Research Council, under the direction of Dr Dirk van Miert (project no. 724972). This introductory text has been written by Nathalie Smit.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Brieven aan de Curator van de Universiteit van Franeker Johannes Saeckma (1572–1636) (Leeuwarden, 1995).

Martin H. H. Engels, Inventaris correspondentie SAECKMA (2004).


360 letters to and from Saeckma are known to have been preserved, but only 150 letters are included in this database. These are the letters that are preserved in the Tresoar Archive in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. The other 210 letters are spread across other archives and libraries in the Netherlands and Europe.

The letters in this dataset were written between 1593 and 1636. Nearly all of these letters are addressed to Saeckma, as only a few letters by Saeckma’s hand have survived. Although little is written by Saeckma, this body of letters reflects Saeckma’s education at Franeker; the election process of new professorial positions at the university; his exchange of books and poetry with his friends; and his role in providing job opportunities for his friends and relatives. Although his correspondents are primarily reformed theologians based in Friesland, Saeckma maintained connections with professors in Leiden and with the wider European Huguenot diaspora.

All the letters in this inventory were written in Latin, with some Greek and Dutch phrases and sentences included. Most of the letters are dated, and inferred dates have been provided for those that were not.

Further resources



Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Inventaris Codex Saeckma (Leeuwarden, 1978).

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Naamlijst van Gedeputeerde Staten van Friesland: 1577–1795 (Leeuwarden, 1979).

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Hof van Friesland: Raadsheren 1578–1795: Franeker Academie: Curatoren 1586–1795: Naamlijsten (Leeuwarden, 1984).

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, et al., Universiteit te Franeker 1585–1811: Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis van de Friese Hogeschool (Leeuwarden, 1985).

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Johannes Saeckma en Hugo de Groot (Leeuwarden, 1989).

Martin Hubertus Henricus Engels, Saeckma: Van Student tot Curator van de Franeker Academie (Leiden, 1993).

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