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Frisian planisphere

Fryske planisfear
Great news! Last Saturday, 14 November, we presented the first Frisian planisphere — or Fryske planisfear — to an alderman (well, alderwoman actually) from the municipality that has come furthest with accepting Frisian as the official language, Tytsjerksteradiel.

Frisian is the other language of the Netherlands, besides Dutch. In fact, Frisian came before Dutch. The Frisians were a great seafaring people (the North Sea was called Mare Frisicum by the Romans), one of the Frisian qualities that later became qualities the Dutch believe are Dutch.

The Frisians were the Germanic people that lived here from Dunkirk to Denmark in the times when the Romans had conquered every land up to the river Rhine. They tried to subdue the Frisians too, but these fierce warriors beat them. The Romans decided not to cross the Rhine again. Instead, the Frisians became loyal and appreciated allies of the Romans. A striking fact is that the Frisians had two kings! After the Romans had left the Low Countries and peoples in Europe started to move, the Angles went through Friesland, influencing the language of the Frisians. Also, many Frisians may have migrated to England, along with the Saxons, Angles and Jutes. That’s why Frisian has many similarities with English! For instance “cheese” in English is “tsiis”, which is pronounced practically the same. And “Tuesday” in Frisian is “tiisdei”, also pronounced the same as in English. And “planisphere” in Frisian is “planisfear”!

Friesland is now a province within the Netherlands. Part of the Dutch fame in astronomy was because of Frisian astronomers. One famous (amateur) astronomer was Eise Eisinga, who built the unique mechanical planetarium in his house in Franeker, from 1774 to 1781. It still works! See Although I had suggested my plan for a Frisian planisphere many years ago, the amateur observatory in Burgum could not afford a customised planisphere. At the start of the International Year of Astronomy, after finishing my first Finnish planisphere (and before that a Greenlandic — Inuit — version in 2007), I felt a bit ashamed that I did not even have a planisphere in the second official language of the Netherlands! That’s why I contacted the people from the amateur observatory in Burgum again, last February.

The Frisian language area is a very small one. Only some 440,000 people speak it, of which 350,000 as the mother language. Of this group only a small portion can write it perfectly. Luckily we found two of them: Lolke Dijkstra and Hinke Hoogland.

In all the years that modern Frisian has existed there has never been a Frisian planisphere. So the striking bonus is that the new Frisian planisphere is now also the standard for Frisian constellation names (well, other than those with Greek names). The Frisians that attended the official presentation of the PLN-Fr were even more proud than I am about this new product, which says a lot for Frisians!

Apart from English (for ten different latitude zones), Dutch, German, French, Spanish (40° N and 30° S) and Italian, there already were Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finish and Greenlandic designs for customers in those countries. And now we have made planispheres in twelve languages!