Willem Sewel

Willem Sewel (1653-1720) was a translator, journalist, poet and editor. He was qa2multi-lingual (Dutch, English, Latin, Greek, French and German), translating A Large Dictionary of English-Dutch; A Compendious Guide to the Low Dutch Language; New Voyage Round the World; and Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament, among many other works. He wrote regularly for the Amsterdam Courant.

Sewel was a member of Amsterdam (Netherlands) Meeting. He was the first Quaker historian, his History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People called Quakers being published in 1717. Among other sources, the book was based on Quaker correspondence and Fox’s Journal. He translated several English Friend’s writings into Dutch, including William Penn’s No Cross, No Crown; Good Advice; and Further Account of… Pennsylvania; and Stephen Crisp’s Way to the Kingdom of Heaven. He also wrote Oratio in Luxum, a remonstrance against luxury. Sewel was a close friend of Penn, who invited him to head the Quaker school at Bristol. He translated for English Quakers when they visited the Netherlands. Unusually for early Friends, he allowed his portrait to be drawn by Gerhard Rademaker.

Dutch Friends began to gather in 1656 due to the missionary efforts of William Ames, William Caton and Stephen Crisp. Many were imprisoned, especially in Embden. Even so, several Quaker communities were founded and, with English Quakers, they spread Quakerism to Germany. By the mid-1700’s, because of persecution, most Dutch Friends had migrated to Pennsylvania. Friends gathered there again only in the 1920’s, with Netherlands Yearly Meeting now containing eight Meetings.

September 2015


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