Realia 1610-1808

Around 47,500 entries give access to more then 211,000 folio pages of Resolutions of the meetings of the Supreme Government of the VOC in Asia. These records were once kept in the General Secretary’s office in Batavia Castle. The Realia are a contemporary (eighteenth-century) repertorium (or subject directory) of more than 2,050 subjects including 47,500 references to government deliberations or decisions.

From 1882-1886 the Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences) published three volumes of this subject directory to the most important series of the VOC Headquarters in Asia: the General Resolutions of the Governors-General and Councillors of Dutch Asia. The Realia repertorium seems to have been commenced in, or soon after, 1700. Originally it included only a limited number of subjects. During the eighteenth century, some subjects were discontinued while others were added. Gradually, the list expanded and around 1800 the Realia repertorium covered more then 2,050 subjects in total.

The subjects were defined by the clerks in the office of the General Secretary (Algemeene Secretarie). With the help of an A to Z subject list, the most important decisions on a certain subject were selected from the marginalia lists which can be found in the beginning of every Resolution Book. Just as with the Daily Journals of Batavia Castle, the Resolution Books have marginalia on every folio page. After the closure of a particular year, these marginalia were listed chronologically at the beginning of each volume: the marginalia list. The person assigned to the selection of marginalia with the help of a subject list and the formulation of the realia, the realist, selected an estimated 10-15 per cent from the marginalia lists. The selected marginalia were written out in chronological order, according to the marginalia list. The next step for the realist was to add the subjects to this chronological quire. The last step was to rearrange all the marginalia by subject listed alphabetically from A – Z. Moreover, the realist also checked the text of the resolution and formulated a longer improved text. Hence, the realia may be considered improved marginalia. Now and then the annual collections of subject-arranged realia were compiled into a larger volume. The compiled realia, often covering a number of years, survived in the archives of the Supreme Government and can be found in the inventory (see 2169-2223).

The compiled realia were usually copied several times in the office of the General Secretary of Batavia Castle for different users. The remaining 53 inventory numbers in ANRI contain a number of these original or copied Realia volumes. These can be read in the Digital Archive Collections.

Apart from the Realia, the clerks at the General Secretary’s office created indexes of person’s names, the Personalia. Some 22 volumes (including copies) have survived (see 2224-2245). The Personalia were not published in the nineteenth century and are not included in this digitization project.

The 1882-1886 realia publication contains a compilation of an already incomplete eighteenth-century realia collection which was still available in the late nineteenth century. Without careful comparative text analysis, it is hard to say which of the archival realia volumes were transcribed for the 1882-1886 publication. Some volumes which were used for transcription (an exercise which took some six to seven years) might now be lost.

Analyses of the realia show that most were created during the second half of the eighteenth century. During this period the Resolution Books expanded to an enormous size. The peak year of 1759 has a total of 1,578 realia to the resolutions of that particular year. As the graphic shows, although some years show a peak number of realia, the number of subjects discussed remained fairly constant.

In 1743, the Supreme Government began to deliberate and record all matters concerning the other VOC factories in Asia and the non-Java outposts in the Malay-Indonesian Region separately. These deliberations or ‘besognes’ were recorded in a seperate series, the ‘Besogne Books’. Realia after 1743 show references to the Besogne Books via ‘Bes.’, ‘b.’, or ‘bes.’. Some of the volumes show ‘R’ for ‘Resolutions’ and ‘B’ for ‘Besognes’, but not consistently. Unfortunately, the published realia are not always accurate in their references to the Besogne Books. The digital realia list references to the Resolution or Besognes in a separate column with ‘Resolutions’ and ‘Besognes’.

Another limitation of the 1882-1886 realia publication is that it does not include folio page references. The reason is that many archival realia volumes do not have folio page references, only the dates of the meetings of the Supreme Government. Consequently, the realia in this database are linked only to the dates of the meetings and not to specific folio pages. After clicking a realium, the system retrieves all scans of a particular meeting. The researcher has to search in the scans for a text passage related to a particular realium.

The realia publication of 1882-1886 did not provide a separate subject list. This database offers a separate subject list of subjects. This subject list clearly reflects the contemporary interest of VOC officials in certain subjects. Many subjects deal with such matters as the internal organization and logistics of the Company as a commercial enterprise. The aim of a subject repertorium was to maintain an overview of the Company decisions on a certain matter.

The digital realia not only offer a reconstruction of a contemporary entry, but via the search functions  it is possible to research many more topics then given in the subject list.

To make this research database, the three volumes of published realia have been scanned. The scanned PDF files were converted with OCR (Optical character recognition) into an editable Word format. The word file of 1,137,156 words was corrected three times to reach an acceptable result. The word file was then converted into an Excel file. As a consequence, all characters in superscript turned into normal characters. In order to clarify these words, a list of words with superscript characters and acronyms has been developed, which can be downloaded in PDF format.

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You may download the data set of the realia here for your own research and analysis. 

Dataset on realia v20130531: