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"A most confusing text-book ... a very real tribute to its fundamental and sound theoretical basis"

Fifty-five years ago, in 1940, the American edition of the Dutch Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives by Muller, Feith, and Fruin, was pub- 1ished.l The publication of the American edition was acknowledged by the 1940 annual meeting of the Society of Dutch Archivists, some months after the Germans had occupied the Netherlands. Apparently because of the war, only a few copies of the American edition of 1940were imported into the Netherlands. In fact, the Dutch union catalogue knows of only three copies in the whole country, apart from the one in the library of the General State Archives in The Hague.

You can imagine my profound joy when Frank Evans in 1991,having attended the celebration of the centenary of the Society of Dutch Archivists, sent me his own copy of the American edition of the Manual as a personal gift. Frank had acquired that copy from Henry Howard Eddy,2Archivist of the Commonwealth of Pennsylva- nia, who must have bought the Manual when he joined the National Archives in Washington in December 1942. Henry Eddy studied the Manual diligently, as ap- pears from the many pencilled notes that he scribbled throughout the book. On an empty page he summed up his assessment:

For an American archivist, especially for an apprentice eager to learn the techniques of his profession, this is a most confusing text-book, chiefly be- cause the illustrations,inserted to make the text clearer,are utterly weird and foreign and outside our American experience...

After this severe beginning, he goes on with his review, to conclude in a positive vein:

It is important to remember, that it was written for the practical instruction of Dutch archiviststo help them in handlingDutch records. It is a manual for workers, not a philosophical treatise. The fact that we Americans can get anything at all from it is a very real tribute to its fundamental and sound theoretical basis.

"A most confusing text-book...a very real tribute to its fundamental and sound theo- retical basisv--these words written down some 50 years ago by Henry Eddy are an appropriate starting point for my article on archival theory in the Netherlands, the homeland of the Manual that solicited this comment.

The genesis of the Manual and its coming to America have been described else- where.? There is, however, one element that needs elaboration: the role that a fourth Dutch archivist, Van Riemsdijk, played in the developmentof archival theory, which was codified in the Manual of the Dutch trio Muller, Feith, and F r ~ i n . ~

Theodoor Van Riemsdijk and Sam Muller were of the same age. Upon coming down from university, trained as legal historians, they entered the archival profes- sion in their mid-twenties. In 1874,Muller started as City Archivist of Utrecht, one year beforevan Riemsdijk was appointed as City Archivist in Z ~ o l l e .Before mov- ing to Zwolle, Van Riemsdijk assisted Muller in establishing the Utrecht City ar- chives; Muller had the advantage of having previously attended some lectures at the Paris Ecole des Chartes. There, Muller remembered, "the professor who taught the

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