Donated by Willem de Ridder


After the Utrecht Psalter was taken to the Netherlands by Arundel (see ch. 13) it is unknown what happened next to the manuscript. Only in 1716 it turned up again in the sources. Immediate cause was the death of Willem de Ridder as bejaard jonghman- in other words, bachelor - on 18 March 1716. He was buried in the Utrecht Catharijnekerk. Willem de Ridder lived on 5 Janskerkhof with his mondige suster, Deliana (‘adult sister Deliana’), also unmarried.

The donation of the Utrecht Psalter

On 3 April Deliana opened his secret will in the presence of solicitor Nicolaes Vonck who recorded the opening of the will, although the will itself has been lost. However, it is doubtful if there was a provision about  the manuscript that we now know as the Utrecht Psalter. On 6 April the secretary of the city council of Utrecht, the body that also governed the City Library (also University Library) noted the following:

Secretary Wachendorff has brought and delivered to the meeting a very old manuscript on vellum of the Latin psalms of David and other songs of the Holy Scriptures, illustrated with old drawings in Roman clothes, which manuscript once belonged to the estate or library of clerk de Ridder, now deceased, who himself on his deathbed ordered the manuscript as a donation after his death to be brought to the city library, and which is now according to the wish of the deceased brought here by the deceased’s sister and heir and having discussed the matter, the council has accepted the said donated manuscript as pleasing and an ornament to the city library, and the aforementioned secretary Cornelis Antoni van Wachendorff is commissioned and authorized to thank Madam de Ridder for this present in name of the city (transcription in Dutch in Engelbregt 1965, p. 13-14).

The secretary who recorded this was Cornelis Anthony Wachendorff (1667-1730) himself, who was married to Aletta van Sypesteyn, second cousin of Willem and Deliana. Together with her two sisters, Aletta was to inherit 5 Janskerkhof when Deliana died in 1726. Wachendorff  took his law degree in 1691 at the University of Utrecht, but was originally from Cleves.

Books and prints

According to the description above the old manuscript is a praesent, a present or gift donated by  Willem de Ridder on his deathbed. In the manuscript itself is written on the verso of the flyleaf Bibliothecae urbis Trajectinae donavit D(ominus) de Ridder: `To the library of the city of Utrecht donated by Mr. De Ridder’. Strictly speaking there is no question of a (testamentary) legacy.

At the time of his death, Willem was registrar of military affairs which he had become in 1697. Thus he belonged to the higher echelon of county officials. In 1693 he had already risen to first clerk to the States of Utrecht. This meant that he and his sister could live in relative wealth. Willem had some interest in books. Two years after his death, on 6 October 1718, Deliana ordered that after her death her brother’s books and the collection of prints were to be sold by auction. However, books or prints (engravings) with his name on it are unknown.

The de Ridder family

There are no clues how or via whom Willem de Ridder acquired the Utrecht Psalter. Yet it is important to discuss his family, only to prevent a mix-up with other Willem de Ridders who lived around this time in Utrecht, and with whom ‘our’ Willem de Ridder has been confused. The Willem de Ridder in question was baptized on 17 June 1649; so he was 66 when he died. His father Cornelis de Ridder (d. 1653) and his mother Jannigje van der Woert (d. 1673) had six sons and one daughter: Sebastiaan (1636-fl. 1693), Gijsbert (1639-died in infancy), Peter (unknown and probably died in infancy), Johannes (1646-fl. 1693), Willem (1648-died in infancy), Willem (1649-1716) en Deliana (unknown-1726).

After Jannigje’s death the oldest son Sebastiaan de Ridder inherited the house on 5 Janskerkhof. However, he got into debt all the time and was soon forced to rent the house out to solicitor Gysbert van Bylevelt. In addition, he had to mortgage the house several times to pay his debts. In the end he sold the house to Willem in 1684, but Van Bylevelt only moved out until his wife Cornelia’s death in 1697. After all this time Willem could move back to his parental home. Janskerkhof 5 still looks out on the Janskerk where the City Library (also Universitiy Library) was then housed (now to the right of Hemingway, no. 6 and Bijleveld Bookshop on the corner, no. 7). We may wonder if Willem would have donated the psalter to the library if he had lived elsewhere in the city.

Willem’s father, Cornelis de Ridder, had also been a clerk at the States of Utrecht. He was the son of Sebastiaan de Ridder (d. 1621), the son of Jan Willemsz de Ridder (fl. 1608). Further back in time his family tree can no longer be reconstructed with certainty. Cornelis had married Jannigje van der Woert in 1634 who inherited 5 Janskerkhof from her father Gysbert van der Woert. He also had another daughter, Catharina, who married Everardus van Sypesteyn (1637-1716), a member of the Utrecht council, in 1660. In 1670 he acted as guardian of Willem, he was also the father of Aletta van Sypesteyn, mentioned earlier.

A remarkable manuscript

Both the minutes of Wachendorff and the inscription about the donation in the Utrecht Psalter itself show that the people involved acknowledged the fact that the old psalter was a special manuscript, ’an ornament’. In the Catalogus Bibliothecae Trajectino-Batavae from 1718 the psalter has already been included (p. 455) under shelf number N.280a*. The first part of the description from Cotton’s days is literally copied in the catalogue and so it was assumed that it dated back to the period of the Roman emperor Valentinian (III). In spite of the remarkable condition of the old psalter we unfortunately do not know how and when it came into the hands of Willem de Ridder.

Further reading

This chapter is for the largest part a summary of:

J. H. A. Engelbregt, Het Utrechts Psalterium: een eeuw wetenschappelijke bestudering (Utrecht 1965), pp. 13-14.

Koert van der Horst, ‘The Utrecht Psalter: picturing the psalms of David’, in The Utrecht Psalter in medieval art: picturing the psalms of David, eds. K. van der Horst, W. Noel & W. C. M. Wüstefeld (’t Goy 1996), pp. 22-84: p. 36.

Caroline Pelser, ‘Huizen aan het Janskerkhof: Janskerkhof 5’ (inclusief Genealogie Van der Woert / De Ridder),, consulted on 25-9-2015.