ORA - Old Judicial Archive

Archief Delft
Gemeente Delft

Delft Archive number: 13 (download pdf)

Inventaris van het oud-rechterlijk archief Delft, 1522-1811 - Inventory of the old judicial archive Delft

The following volumes listed in this inventory have information relevant to Leeuwenhoek.

ORA inv 49 4de Crimineel Boeck 1653-1684
ORA inv 50 5de Crimineel Boeck 1687-1704
ORA inv 99 Akten van Lijkschouwing 1713-1728
ORA inv 160-184 Kamerboek 1538-1808
ORA inv 214-250 Blaffert van de waarbrieven
ORA inv 281-283 1, 2 en 3 Prothocol
ORA inv 318 Register Curateelen
ORA inv 355 Successierecht 1670 1796

The ORA's archive inventory covers the years 1522 to 1811, when Napoleon incorporated the Netherlands directly into the French empire and the legal system changed dramatically. Until then, justice was administered as it had been done since the system began developing in 1246. The basic unit was the city, and every city in the Netherlands was a little different in its nomenclature and implementation. But the process was similar to Delft's: annually chosen magistrates and swift public justice.

Archive of the court of justice (Vierschaar)

The ORA has mostly the archives of Delft's Vierschaar, or the public court. It convened once a week to announce the results of the activities of the city's seven magistrates (schepenen). When they held court, they sat in the central entrance hall of the Stadhuis so that people could gather and hear. Their archive has sections on criminal, civil, and "voluntary" (vrijvillig) administration of justice (rechtspraak).

The voluntary section has documents that provide a fascinating snapshot of life in Leeuwenhoek's Delft. It includes a variety of records of things like mortages, debts, deeds, pre-nuptial agreements, and collateral. Perhaps "contracts" would be a better translation of vrijwillig. John Montias mined this archive for his book Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History.

For forty years, beginning in 1660, Leeuwenhoek was an official of this court. His title was kamerbewaarder. During Leeuwenhoek's tenure, there were several sherrifs and several dozen different magistrates. He was directly involved with their activities in their private room off the Stadhuis entrance hall, to the right in the photo above. He had personal knowledge of the human dramas behind the documents in this archive.

The documents that have been most thoroughly digitized are the real estate registers, ORA 281-283 Registers van Onroerende Goederen (Register of Immovable Goods) available online at the Historical GIS and Collection Delft websites.