Kruit Hof

Acquired from Antiquariaat Forum, 't Goy-Houten
Acquisition: 2003
Date: 1669
Size: 12 x 18 cm.
Call number: 79 L 15

On 8 July 1682 in Dordrecht the 'highly gifted and artistic lady' Margaretha Mels was buried. She was not even forty years old. Several fellow townspeople commemorated her passing with elegies extolling her virtues. She was renowned for her musical and poetic talents, which evidently were known from performance and writings. Only one of her poems was published during her lifetime: an ode to Matthys Balen's account of Dordrecht included as the introductory poem in the book. After her death, François van Hoogstraten collected several of her poems in the commemorative publication Aendacht van Philothea of de Godminnende ziele [Philothea's attention, or the god loving soul].
The only work by Margaretha Mels that was handed down is the collection presented here: Kruit Hof / nut voor alle mensche / Door Margarita Mels / besaaijt en beplant/ Beschreve / Tot Rotterdam/ 1669 [Herb garden / useful for everyone / seeded and planted / by Margarita Mels / written / in Rotterdam, 1660]. She wrote this collection, which is divided into five books, by hand. She drew the title page and instalment titles for books two, three and five and coloured them in using water colour.

One of her drawings is used as a frontispiece. She chose to portray herself as a gardener who says: 'Tree in maar met verlof' [Enter by permission only]. She makes it clear that she is the sole person allowed to open the gate to this garden. The verse above the gate carries the same message: 'niemant com hier sonder mij' [No-one is allowed here without me].
In her foreword the poet explains what can be found in her garden: 'In somma daar en sijn geen quaalen soo groot of men kander hier geneesmiddelen toe plucken' [In summary, there are no maladies so bad, that no medicines can be plucked for it]. In other words, her herb garden is a medicinal garden. The five books in the series include 'Medicine ter Saligheit' or 'Healing Medicine' (book one), 'Zin-spreuken op alderleij voorvallen' or 'Miscellaneous remedies' (book two), 'Wonderlijke en gedenkwaardige geschiedenissen' or 'Amazing and remarkable cases' (book three) and 'Troostspreuken en leeringen' or 'Consolations and lessons' (book four). The fifth and final book is filled with epigrams, numerical and alphabetical puzzles and question and answer games.
According to Mels, she collected her medicinal herbs from 'bij-leggende lust-tuijnen van geleerde bouken' [gardens of delights in learned books]. The Bible was one of these. (AL)