By Marijke Holtrop
The wax tablets in this context are thin rectangular planks of wood bearing a layer of wax. They were found on the Maarland Zuidzijde in Brielle in 2002 during excavations that were being carried out by the Bureau Oudheidkundig Onderzoek (Archaeological Research Department) of Rotterdam City Council. The wax tablets date from around 1450.

At that time wax tablets were used as notebooks by schoolchildren and students, and by merchants to make business notes. You could write in the wax on the planks with a metal object. The wax on the planks is still largely present, and the text is visible on three of the planks. The texts relate to the proceeds from barrels of herring, mention the holy spirit (referring here to one of Brielle’s hospitals) and list the names of herring merchants in Brielle. The texts can be linked to the ‘godspenning’ (‘God’s penny’): a tax levied on the sale of fish which benefited the churches and hospitals in Brielle. The godspenning was introduced by Frank van Borselen. The wax tablets would have had a cover and a stylus. These were also found on the Maarland in Brielle.

Wax tablets with a case and stylus have only been found on four previous occasions in the Netherlands.