Although the details were different in each city, they were economic entities in themselves. They paid their own expenses, which included payment to the Republic, mostly for military defense and for diplomatic relations with the world's other political rulers. Where did the money come from? To a small extent, it came from fees for renting assets or for public transport. But most of it came from taxes.

What was taxed in the Republic?

The Holland lion, shown in Leonis Hollandiae (below; click for larger size) a 1648 allegorical print by N. J. Visscher, was very expensive to keep fed. Needless to say, taxes in the Republic were high, the highest in Europe at the time.

According to Wanda Fritschy's Efficiency of taxation in Holland, the major sources of tax revenue were the "common means" (gemene middelen), a set of excise taxes (accijns) on merchants' movement of goods, which provided 72% of the revenue and the property taxes on land and houses (verponding), 23%.

As shown on the pages on the menu on the right sidebar, Delft's Treasurer's account books show the reverse. The excise taxes were a constant but not large contribution compared to the property taxes.

Excise taxes in the Republic

At one time or another during the life of the Republic, which as you can see on the table below ended in 1795 after a two-century run as the healthiest, wealthiest nation on earth, dozens of goods were taxed when they moved in and out of Delft. However, according to Fritschy, excise taxes on the following goods were in effect during Leeuwenhoek's tenure as city official, a dozen of them for the whole life of the Republic until 1795 whe the new Batavian Republic came under the influence of France. The following taxes were farmed:

  years taxed   years taxed
milling of grain
horned cattle
sown lands
slaughtered cattle
salmon and sturgeon
1574-1608 1627-1795
1574-? 1605-1795
soap, per barrel
building material
salted fish
transfer of ships
land with vegetables
incoming grain
1574-? 1622-1795
1574- >1599 1659-1795

Only a dozen of these items were taxed in Delft. Most could be counted and weighed at the Waag. More important to Leeuwenhoek were the liquids that were transported in irregularly shaped barrels, not always full. More complex mathematical calculations were required for them: beer, wine, and brandy. For these, the city employed guagers (peilders), among them Leeuwenhoek after 1679.

Two taxes were collected directly.

  • land and house tax 1581-1795
  • inheritance and transfer tax 1598-1795

In addition, the taxes of 1% and 2% (100e en 200e penningen) were directly collected on the stocks (effecten) and offices (ambten) in 1652-61,1664-9,1672-80,1682, and 1687-1722.

Where did the revenue come from?

The Revenue (ontvang and incomen) sections filled the first hundred or so pages of the Treasurer's account books (Reekeningen), less than a third of the whole book. The total revenue was composed of six Somma Grossa numbered with Roman numerals, themselves composed of Somma, similarly numbered. The amounts of the Somma in the Reekeningboucks are also expressed in Roman numerals. The image on the right shows the cover of the volume for 1678.

i Somma Grossa - from the outgoing treasurer

This Somma Gross introduced every volume and had a corresponding Somma Grossa on the expenses side. The amount passed on rose steadily through the years.

ii - from the City's excise taxes

This Somma Grossa provided a steady income of between fifty and almost sixty thousand guilders per year. Learn more about excise taxes on the menu on the right sidebar.

iii - from leases on buildings, grounds, land, and annuities

The City owned and leased a large number of assets, from wagon yards, warves, and lumber yards to market stalls, tax collection offices, and storage lofts. In addition, it sold a few annuities every year.

iiii - from various domains, tithes, and ferries

Historically, several of the large estates in the area around Delft were still legal domains or shires of their own. They paid Delft a yearly fee because of the benefits they enjoyed due to the proximity. This Somma Grossa ran about half that of the excise taxes, most of it from the four ferries. See left sidebar for the ferries and the map below right (click to enlarge) for the shires and domains (ambachten). Originally, the area shown on the map was all the Count of Holland's Hof van Delft. The City itself was the first to split off, and eventually, so did the other shires on the map (source: Niemeyer's Delft en Delfland.) It gives the impression of clear boundaries, which were not as clear to the people of the time.

v - from Delfshaven

Delfshaven was less than ten kilometers away down the Schie canal on the north bank of the Maas River with easy access to the north sea. It had its own government with most of the financial structure that Delft itself had. This Somma Grossa was very low, maybe a tenth of the excise taxes. The benefits from having its own harbor and not having to pay Rotterdam's taxes for all of its exports and imports made Delfshaven more than worth its expense.

vi - from property taxes

This Somma Grossa had four Somma:

  • the amount distributed by the City to the Treasurer
  • property tax from Delft and Delfshaven
  • the property tax from Poortland (outside the City's walls, the darker shaded area on the map, right). Leeuwenhoek's family had garden property in the area just outside the Oostpoort.
  • the fire ladder and bucket fee. Fires in 1536 and 1618 and the explosion in 1654 caused far more damage than any invading armies had. By Leeuwenhoek's time, few of Delft's buildings were built mostly of wood.

By far the largest revenue item in the whole budget was the amount distributed by the City to the Treasurer (van penningen beij de Stadt aen de Tresorier verstrecht).