Gysbert Japiks

Gysbert Japiks or Japicx or Japix (1603–1666) was a West Frisian writer, poet, schoolmaster, and cantor.

Gysbert Japiks
Gysbert Japix portrait by Matthijs Harings.tif
Gysbert Japicx, 1637, portrait by Matthijs Harings
Gysbert Japiks Holckema

Died1666(1666-00-00) (aged 62–63)
Occupation(s)Poet, teacher
Notable workFriessche Tjerne (1640)


Japiks was born in Bolsward, Friesland, as Gysbert Japiks Holckema or Holkema. Japiks used his patronym and not his surname in his writing.[1] Japiks was a school teacher by profession. In 1656, three of his children had died of the plague and Japiks' eye sight had been affected by the disease. Except for his son Salves, he would lose all his children and his wife to disease. In 1666 Japiks died of the plague.[1]

Japiks started writing from an early age. He wrote in Dutch, Frisian and Latin.[1] He admired the Latin poets Horace and Ovid, but was also an enthusiast for his own West Frisian memmetaal, or mother tongue.[2] His first known poetry in dates back from 1639. In his early works Japiks portrayed the life of rural Friesland, and was characterised by excessive alliteration. Much of his work were translations and reworkings of Latin poets, but also the Dutch poets Vondel and Constantijn Huygens featured prominently in his work. His first published work in book form was Friessche Tjerne (1640).[1] In 1644, Franciscus Junius was researching Old German languages, and visited Japiks for work and information about the West Frisian language.[3] Around 1650, Japiks and Abbe Freerks Gabbema started a letter exchange most of which still exists in which Gabbema encouraged Japiks to publish and avoid Dutch orthography in his Frisian writings. His publisher Rintjus however was reluctant to publish in Frisian.[3]

His work was the most notable in that language of his day and had the effect of elevating Frisian to literary status.[2] Japiks' orthography with a much more nuanced and phonetically correct spelling which is significantly different from the Dutch orthography,[4] is very similar to the current official spelling.[5] The poems of Japiks were published in Friessche Tjerne (1640) and also posthumously in Fryske Rijmlerye (1668).[6][1]


Japiks's Frisian songs were contrafacta to well-known tunes by composers such as Goudimel, Bourgeois, and Pierre Guédron. A selection from them was recorded by Frisian singers and Camerata Trajectina in 2003.[7]

Gysbert Japicx HouseEdit

The house in which Gysbert Japiks was born, was bought in 1979 by his descendants Arjen Holkema and Trijntje Holkema-Slot and turned into a museum. The museum was opened 25 September 1997 by Aad Nuis, State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science.[8] The House also contains the local tourist agency and a bookstore specializing in the Frisian language.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Gysbert Japix". (in Western Frisian). Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b Roderick Jellema, Country fair: poems from Friesland since 1945 in Frisian and English (Eerdmans, 1985), pp. xiv–xv
  3. ^ a b "Nieuw Nederlandsch biografisch woordenboek. Deel 1". Digital Library for Dutch Literature (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Nieuw Letterkundig Magazijn. Jaargang 14". Digital Library for Dutch Literature (in Dutch). 1996. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Taalweb Frysk (official spelling rules)". (in Western Frisian). Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  6. ^ Horst Haider Munske, Nils Århammar, Volker F. Faltings, Handbuch des Friesischen / Handbook of Frisian Studies (2001), p. 710
  7. ^ Gysbert Japix (1603-1666), Frisian soloists: Tetsje van der Kooi, soprano; Femke de Boer, alto; Jaap Hoekstra, tenor; Siebren Kramer, baritone; Rozemarijn Palma, song; GLO 6055
  8. ^ "Gysbert Japicxhûs". Gysbert (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Gysbert Japicxhûs". (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 June 2020.

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