Kiliaen van Rensselaer (1586-1643)

Designing a New World

By Janny Venema

Subjects: Biography, History
Paperback : 9789087041960, 352 pages, January 2011

Table of contents

Source materials
A Baptism
1. Images of Hasselt
The Eighty Years War
Hasselt during the war
A States soldier in Hasselt
Hendrick’s choice
2. A New Home
A farewell and a new beginning
Arrival at Amsterdam: a first acquaintance
Family life with the Van Bijlers
The church
Leisure time
Exploring Amsterdam
Entertainment in the city
A variety of people
3. Learning to Become a Merchant and Jeweler
Amsterdam’s growing trade
1602: a Chartered East India Company
Plans for a West India Company
Development of Amsterdam’s trade, 1600-1610
Gathering information
The Exchange
1609: Establishment of the Exchange Bank
The importance of South Netherlandish connections
Amsterdam’s jewelry business 100
Learning at Van Bijler’s and Van Wely’s jewelry business
A Wedding
4. To Work!
City growth and economic development, 1609-21
Continuing the jewelry business
Who was Jacques l’Hermite?
A company for the trade in jewelry
Van Bijler’s death
5. Greed and Romance
A romance
A brutal murder
An established merchant
6. Ideals and Reality (1620-25)
The establishment of the wic
Being Director
Plans for the Nassau Fleet
Preparations for the Nassau Fleet
The ambitions of the wic
An odd man out? New Netherland
Reality: a disappointment for the wic
With the Nassau fleet
At home
7. Pursuing an Idea
Family matters
Kiliaen and the Company
New Netherland
Establishing Atlantic settlements
8. 1629: Lord of Rensselaerswijck
Heerlijkheden and patroonships
The shaping of Rensselaerswijck
Company policies
Populating Rensselaerswijck
Organizing religion and government in the patroonship
Problems in the patroonship
Patroon versus settlers
9. Reflections
A home of luxury and art
A respected family
Some remaining questions
Summer and Fall 1643
A Funeral
List of Abbreviations
1. Inventories of Het Gekruiste Hart 1670, 1678
2. Keizersgracht 277, by Henk Zantkuijl
3. Genealogical information Van Rensselaer, Van Bijler and Van Wely
List of Archival Sources

A biography of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony


Winner of the 2011 Annual Hendricks Award presented by the New Netherland Institute

During the early 1600s, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was locked in a war with Spain that would last for eighty years, thousands of immigrants came to Amsterdam and greatly influenced the development of the Republic. Among them was Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a young man from a small eastern town on the war front. Young Kiliaen quickly became part of the culture of this rapidly developing city, where he was trained as a jeweler and merchant by wealthy relatives. He would work within this family network for the rest of his life, to great success. As one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company, he was instrumental in the establishment of the New Netherland colony on the East Coast of North America, becoming one of its first patroons. Although he never actually set foot in the New World, his patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, encompassed much of what is now New York State's Capital District and survived as a legal entity up until the 1840s. In this engrossing biography, Janny Venema examines the time in which Kiliaen van Rensselaer lived, his surroundings, the rapidly expanding city of Amsterdam, the great trading companies, the jewelry business, and the people in his network. Along the way, she explores his motivations and the powerful role he played in helping to establish a Dutch presence in the New World.

Janny Venema is Assistant Director of the New Netherland Research Center, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony and promoting awareness of the Dutch role in American history. She is the author of Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652–1664, also published by SUNY Press in cooperation with Uitgeverij Verloren.


"The range of source materials used by Venema in this study is an illustration of scholarly methodology for extending our knowledge of the Dutch colonial period. " — The Weathercock

"…Venema provides a good framework for those readers who are in need of a good overview of the relationship between the West India Company's affairs in Brazil and the Company's opposition against colonization of New Netherland. " — International Journal of Maritime History

"Designing a New World documents van Rensselaer's early life growing up in the Netherlands as well as his importance to the early development of the New World. Extensive citations combined with plentiful images throughout, including two color sections, serve to give the reader a clear understanding of life in and around Amsterdam in the first half of the seventeenth century. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"…the first full-length study of van Rensselaer, sheds new light on Albany's progenitor … Venema's scholarship has yielded a groundbreaking study of the first patroon and a blueprint of van Rensselaer's commercial machinations. " — Albany Times Union