skimming stones in the archive

descartes-books

Book after book after book has been written about Descartes. But of the woman who knew him, Helena Jans, almost nothing is known. I have come across only three instances of her name in the archive – once in Deventer, and twice more in Leiden.

1.

Baptism record of Francince, daughter of Helena Jans and Descartes. Deventer, July,1635.

Deventer, 1635

2.

Notary record, Leiden, May 1644, recording marriage of Helena Jans vander Stroom to Jan van Wel.

Notary record, Leiden, May 1644.

Helena's name, detail.

Helena’s name, detail.

In August 1644, Helena’s name appears once more, this time in an inventory of her effects.

3.

Inventaris van de oude notariële archieven van Leiden 1564–1811’, inv.no. 622, Folio 67

Inventaris van de oude notariële archieven van Leiden 1564–1811’, inv.no. 622, Folio 67

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 14.43.45

Detail – Helena’s name is just discernible.

Helena Jans. It’s like skimming a stone, that touches the water once, twice, three times – then sinks without trace.

@guingb

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