Rindert Jagersma
De Utrechtse knechtsbus ‘voor alle boek-drukkers en lettersetters knegts’ 1742-1792
In: Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis, 25 (2018), pp. 106-121.

Dit artikel is een uitwerking van het twintigste hoofdstuk van het Groeiboek-project dat verschenen is als: R. Jagersma, Drukkersknechten in een bus. [Ruurlo]: [De Ammoniet], 2017. Zie ook: Oud-Utrecht (2019).

Website: VanTilt; AUP (current publisher); DBNL

In 1741 werd in Utrecht ‘voor alle boek-drukkers en letter-setters knegts’ een bus opgericht als verzekering voor ziekte, ongevallen, ouderdom en begrafeniskosten. Aan de hand van de gedrukte reglementen en de in het Utrechts Archief bewaard gebleven Rekeningen van de bus- en rekenmeesters van de Letterzetters- en Boekdrukkersknechts-gildebus, 1742-1792 is een goed beeld te schetsen van deze organisatie. Daar er, op sporadische vermeldingen na, weinig bekend is over letterzetters en drukkersknechten in de Nederlandse Republiek in de vroegmoderne periode, kunnen deze bronnen over de Utrechtse bus nieuw licht werpen op deze beroepsgroep. In dit artikel wordt het reglement en haar wijzigingen door de jaren heen besproken, evenals een overzicht van vijftig jaar knechtsbus aan de hand van bewaard gebleven jaarrekeningen die zeer gedetailleerd inzicht geven in het (sociale) leven van drukkersknechten in de achttiende eeuw.

This article is Open Access available.
Read online: Full Text (DBNL)
Direct download: PDF (0,3 MB)

Rindert Jagersma – The Utrecht ‘knechtbus’, a fund for compositors and pressmen 1742-1792
In: Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis, 25 (2018), pp. 274-275.

In 1741 in Utrecht a ‘bussche, voor alle boek-drukkers en letter-setters knegts’ was established. This so called ‘knechtsbus’ was a fund for compositors and pressmen, which served as an insurance for these employees. This article describes how the ‘knechtsbus’ for Utrecht’s print shops in the years 1742-1792 functioned. In general, a ‘knechtsbus’ is a mutual fund for employees working in a certain craft or trade with written rules and regulations to provide insurance in times of sickness, old age, death, and widowhood.
Central in this article are the annual reports of the ‘knechtsbus’, and the printed rules and regulations. These sources provide an overview of the foundation, the ideals of the founders, the formative years, and the decline of the ‘knechts-bus’. Analysing the annual reports provided insight in the names, lives, and careers of the members, who thus far remained mostly nameless employees of the printing shops of Utrecht in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Since employees were not allowed to join the guild of their masters, they had to start their own fund. A ‘knechtsbus’ was not a part of the guild, nor it shouldn’t be confused with a chapel – in the sense of a staff association with larger print shops. With a little goodwill, we can recognise a ‘knechtsbus’ as a fund which provided support in case of sickness and accidents, and paid pension and funeral insurance, all in one. Sick pay (50 ‘stuivers’) was paid weekly to the employee himself. Funeral compensation (36 guilders) was paid for both the employee and his wife (or the widow left behind) after death, and was paid out to the next of kin. For people disabled due to their old age there was a monthly assurance (four guilders per month): a benefit that comes close to a pension.
Membership of the ‘knechtsbus’ was obligatory for all employees working in print shops in Utrecht. The rules were approved by the city council, and printed afterwards. This study discusses the printed editions of the rules, and their content: including the contributions and the corresponding fines. The employees had to pay their contribution every fortnight: married men paid six ‘stuivers’, and unmarried men four ‘stuivers’. This difference had to do with the funeral costs for their wives and the amount of support that a widow would receive after one died.
Every incoming and outgoing ‘stuiver’ was noted, and at the end of each year an annual report was presented. The annual reports of the ‘knechtsbus’ from 1742 to 1792 have all been preserved. The first years, the ‘knechtsbus’ obtained a stable positive balance, although some rules were added or tightened. Already in 1746, the first employee received his pension of 48 guilders. However, he lived longer than expected, and too many other people were on the brink to receive a pension. In the end, it turned out that the maintenance of the promised retirement pension was an unrealiseable goal.
De ‘knechtsbus’ was created as a support fund. The question is to what extent it had been possible to provide the intended safety net with in cases of illness, old age, and death. Analysis of the annual reports shows that most employees received little support from the fund in the event of illness, and as a pension. Of all 122 names mentioned in the annual accounts in the period 1742-1792, twenty persons received only one week of sickness pay during their career, sixteen employees two weeks, eleven for three weeks, and ten employees a total of four weeks. Although almost half of the members (48.3%) received during the course of their career support in some form, this was in most cases only for a short period. Most of the employees hardly made any use of the sick pay during their careers. A good number of employees died after a sickbed. Of the 38 members who were buried in the period 1742-1792, no less than 22 received sick pay in the year of death. Some had received sick pay for months, but most of the members died after a short illness: seven men after one week’s illness, and eight men within a month.
Analyses show that in 1741 the ‘knechtsbus’ had 43 members. In the following years this number dropped somewhat, but eventually the number of members in 1792 was 42. This provides insight in the number of compositors and pressmen working in Utrecht in second half of the 18th century. For the vast majority of employees, savings may have been more advantageous. The bus as an insurance was a social system, meant to support colleagues in difficult times. Also, the gathering of all employees of Utrecht printing shops every two weeks gave the bus a strong social element.