How to become a (re)searcher with the Tinco Lycklama Foundation?

Here is how we envisage “(re)search” at the Foundation. We share with you an open-ended list of topics that relate to our current theme – the remarkable but forgotten life story of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900). Everyone can participate and engage with these topics – or suggest and pursue new ones. You can jump straight away to this form and tell us about your interests.

The activities of the Foundation revolve around three pillars : collaborative (re)search, virtual libraries, and co-creative projects. We’re now shaping up the first one – (re)search.

We make a distinction between research and search. Some people have the resources to conduct advanced research, whereas others make a tremendous contribution by simply chasing information and artefacts that contribute to the overal story.

tlf-three-pillars-of-activity-research-avatarAnyone can be a (re)searcher. You don’t have to be an academic. The skills needed for search and documentation can be acquired on the spot – by doing. And, we learn from others through collaboration – including scholars. At the Foundation, we encourage everyone to participate. – and to do so by pursuing topics that you can personally relate to such as family history, local heritage, or your general fields of interest. Each according to one’s own abilities and personal inspiration.

We explain our approach on this introduction page, from where you can also click to the open list of research topics. You will notice that some of them go beyond Tinco Lycklama and reach into more general areas – including genealogy, local history, biography, art, photography, archaeology, commercial ventures…  They also apply to a broad geography including France, The Netherlands, Russia, the Middle East – and beyond. Thanks to the tremendous digital resources that libraries, archives and museums worldwide provide, so much can be done.

We recommend these topics, but there are no limitations. You are free to pursue related topics that you are interested in. Tell us what you’d like to do using this form. Our objective is to help and orchestrate your efforts into an open online library that will benefit everyone. Plus, together, we’ll develop educational projects (publications, online narratives, exhibitions…) that build from your (re)search and reach out to the general public.

If you want to be a (re)searcher, there’s only one thing to do : join and get started! 

Paris-Tehran : the Arthur de Gobineau angle

We have been working on a who’s who of the foreign legations in Tehran as they were at the time of Tinco Lycklama’s stays in 1866 and 1867. Remember that only four countries had active diplomatic missions : Russia, Britain, France, and the Ottoman empire.

Tinco enjoyed significant protection from the Ottoman administration once he reached Bagdad. However, when in Tehran, he never mentions any of the Turkish diplomats by name, even though he affirms that he met them several times. In fact, from the account of his travels, we gather that he didn’t think highly of the Turks. About the Ottomans in Tehran, the only thing he says (in quite undiplomatic terms) is that they were all remarkably obese!

He was close to the British minister, Charles Alison, and spent considerable time with the English from both the legation and the Indo-European Telegraph Department. The Russian presence in Tehran was significant and Tinco met its diplomats regularly. However, he talks very little about his encounters with the Russians and, oddly, never even refers to the ambassador – Nicolay Girs.

Tinco is a bit more forthcoming about the French. That makes sense, as their presence and importance at the Qajar court cannot be ignored. The Shah’s personal physician was the French doctor Joseph Tholozan (1820-1897). The royal gardeners were French, as was the chief musician. And, the country’s first polytechnic – the Dar-ol-Funun – was significantly inspired by the French approach to science and counted many French teachers.

Jacques-Adolphe Cousseau, comte de Massignac (1815-1879)
Jacques-Adolphe Cousseau, comte de Massignac (1815-1879)

Shortly after his arrival at Tehran, early May 1866, Tinco’s first official visit was to Jacques-Adolphe Cousseau, comte de Massignac (1815-1879) – the French minister plenipotentiary. Unlike the English and Russian legations, which had offices in central Tehran but moved to compounds outside Tehran during the summer, the French legation had just a single mission in the heart of the capital. Before renting decent lodging of his own, Tinco stayed for a couple of days at the nearby house of assistant chancellor Emile Charles Bernay. When he moved to a house in Tajrish, in the Summer, he became the neighbour of chancellor Amedée Querry.

The French legation provided great assistance to Tinco and his practical arrangements. In fact, Tinco was traveling with a formal recommendation that sollicited the benevolence of Massignac. The intriguing question is : where did this recommendation come from?

In that respect, we need to look at a number of potential candidates – and they may all gravitate around the Ecoles des Langues orientales, in Paris. One of them is Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882). Gobineau is well-known as one of the leading thinkers on race theory. But, besides this area of debate, he was an eminent orientalist and acclaimed writer – an expert on the history and cultures of the Middle East. He was also Massignac’s predecessor as ambassador to Tehran (1855-63, serving the first year as secretary).

Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882)
Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882)

Tinco certainly did not meet Gobineau in Tehran. But, Gobineau belonged to a foreign service network that was tightly related to the Ecoles des Langues orientales. The circumstances seem to indicate (until further notice from the archives) that it was indeed Arthur de Gobineau who provided Tinco’s recommendation.

Arthur de Gobineau had studied oriental languages including Persian. When he took up his position as secretary in Tehran in 1855, he joins a legation that also comprises Charles Barbier de Meynard (1826-1908) and Amedée Querry (1825-1900). The next year, when Gobineau is appointed as minister of the legation, Barbier de Meynard returns to Paris and becomes a teacher at the Ecole des Langues orientales – where Tinco meets him in 1863-65. Amedée Querry, on the other hand, had become a close friend of Arthur de Gobineau and spent a total of seventeen years in Persia. Querry is considered one of the most important scholars and writers about law and justice in 19th century Persia.

Both Gobineau and Barbier de Meynard may have been instrumental in arranging a recommendation for Tinco’s voyage. Let’s keep in mind that, in those years, Tinco was the only European to undertake such an ambitious travel project. It is quite evident that Tinco was in touch with everyone in Paris who had some relationship to the Orient in general, and to Persia in particular. He may never have met Amadée Querry prior to his arrival at Tehran, but it must have been Querry that provided some important introductions has he had been in the region since over ten years. Massignac was courteous and generous in his assistance to Tinco – but Amedée Querry was probably Tinco’s most valuable contact.

There is so much more to discover about this trail of connections. It will help us in understanding how Tinco prepared his grand voyage. It may also shed some light on Tinco’s activities in subsequent years, his connections with the Société de Géographie and the Société d’Ethnographie in Paris, and with to scholars and travellers in other countries. And, through these connections, we should also get a better grip on his years of study (and partying?) in Paris – of which so little is known, yet.



  • For an excellent backgrounder on the people behind the French legation to Iran in the 19th centure – and in particular on Amedée Querry, we recommend the excellent monograph (in French only, at this time) by Prof. Florence Hellot-Bellier: Amédée Querry : drogman en Perse au milieu du XIXe siècle.

04/09/1866 – Moving in with Charles Alison, the British ambassador in Tehran

During his long stay of five months in Tehran, in 1866, Tinco Lycklama becomes a close friend of Charles Alison, the minister plenipotentiary at the British legation. When Alison invites Tinco to live at the Gulhek compound for two weeks, as Her Majesty’s guest, Tinco is very touched by this personal sign of affection.

Charles Alison (1810-1872)
Charles Alison (1810-1872), by Capt. W.H. Pierson, courtesy of Miss Philippa Bateman-Champain – Printed in “The English Amongst the Persians: Imperial Lives in Nineteenth-Century Iran” by Denis Wright, 2001, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London/New York.


The British minister was a pretty excentic man. Charles Alison (1810-1872) had taken up his position as the head of the British legation to the Qajar court on July 19, 1860. He came with a reputation for flamboyance, partying, and womanizing. But, since 1863, he also lived in sorrow.

Elizabeth Sorell (1823-1863)
Elizabeth Sarell (1823-1863)

Alison was new to his role in Tehran. His previous assignments at Constantinople and Damascus had been in lower positions. He spent many years in the Ottoman capital  where he had met Elizabeth Sarell (1823-1863). She was a member of an influential merchant family in the Levant and wife of Theodore Baltazzi (1798-1860) – personal banker to the Sultan and the richest person in that city. Baltazzi died in 1860. Though stationed in Tehran, Alison courted Elizabeth, and they married in Paris in 1863. The marriage was short-lived: Elizabeth died the same year, right after Christmas.

Tinco Lycklama doesn’t elaborate on this sad episode in Alison’s life. He simply writes that his friend was hiding a profound sadness – and kept it for himself.

Charles Alison was otherwise a perfect host and enjoyed throwing parties. Actually, that is how Tinco met Alison, only days after arriving in Tehran, in May 1866. The occasion was a party at the British residence. Tinco mingled with other Englishmen but also Frenchmen, Russians, Turks, Persians, and even an Indian prince. A single evening gave Tinco all the right introductions. But, there were many parties – and Tinco didn’t miss any of them.

Diplomats desperately needed parties in Tehran, as the city didn’t have much else to offer to its foreign residents. Charles Alison seems to have been a reasonably good piano-player, but Tinco writes that the best player of all was William John Dickson (1826-1900), the Oriental secretary at the British legation. With a slight display of false modesty, Tinco says he was occasionaly invited to perform as well.

Moving to Gulhek

British Legation at Bāgh-I Īlchī in 1867
The British Legation in Tehran at Bāgh-I Īlchī in 1867

The British legation was formally located in central Tehran, at Bāgh-I Īlchī. The compound dated from 1811 and was built under ambassador Sir Gore Ouseley (1770-1844). But, by the time Alison took his position, the buildings had been deteriorating, and he asked for (and obtained) the permission to acquire new lands and construct a new embassy. It was William Henry Pierson (1839-1881) – an important figure at the Indo-European Telegraph Department (also read this article…) – who conceived and oversaw the design of the new compound (and most of its execution). It was located at Ferdowsi – and entered into operation in 1872.

Tinco only saw the original compound at Bāgh-I Īlchī. And, as it was summer and the heat in Tehran was unbearable, the legation soon set up quarters at its summer residence at Gulhek – (then) located outside the city limits. This is where Tinco stayed for two weeks, September 4-18, 1866.

Charles Alison made arrangements so that Tinco could stay in a separate pavillion. It was surrounded by gardens and situated right opposite Alison’s main residence. On the 1865 map above we can identify Tinco’s pavillion as the red rectangular building above the residence (in white).

The days at Gulhek were well organized. At 8am, Charles Alison would rise for breakfast. Lunch was served at noon sharp, and dinner at 6pm. Tinco enjoyed the refined European luxury of Gulhek. Alison had even put a coach and three horses at his disposal. Of course, Alison had his official duties to tend to. But, he spent all meals and evenings in the companionship of Tinco.

Tinco describes Alison as one of the most educated people he ever met, of great elegance and good taste. In Volume II of his travel diaries (“Voyage…“), Tinco reports Charles Alison’s death, in 1872. From the sadness of Tinco’s words, one understands the deep affection both men had for each other. It is likely that they maintained correspondance.

British Legation - The Gulhek sumer camp in 1865
Sketch of the Gulhek summer residence of the British legation (sketch by Lt. Pierson, 1865)


Further reading…

  • For more information about Charles Alison in Constantinopel, as well as the Sarells, the Baltazzis, and other Levantine merchant families, we recommend the web site of the Levantine Heritage Foundation.
  • We acknowledge the Room for Diplomacy web site as the source for some of the images used. We recommend this web site for their excellent information and documentation on the history of British embassy and consultate buildings.

Tinco Lycklama and the Persian telegraph men – business or pleasure at Pas-e-Qaleh?

Around this time, in 1866, Tinco Lycklama made a brief and leasurely excursion into the Alborz mountains. Leaving his summer residence in Tajrish (north of Tehran), he traveled the same road as the one he took on August 23, on his way to the Shah’s encampment at Shahrestanak. However, this time he simply went to look for a waterfall, a few kilometers higher and beyond the village of Pas-e-Qaleh (or, as he calls it, Paskalé).

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Tinco obviously enjoyed the visit to the waterfall. But, the excursion is perhaps more interesting for the people he was traveling with. Major Smith, Captain Pierson, Doctor Baker, Mr. Mounsey, and Mr. Helm. The former three were all employees of the Indo-European Telegraph Department (1), a British government agency responsible for connecting the nascent telegraph communications in Persia into an international network. Mounsey was a secretary at the British legation in Tehran. And Mr. Helm, well, we’re not sure about him – except that Tinco calls him ‘a tourist’.

Telegraphy in Persia

One of the questions about Tinco Lycklama’s travels through the Middle East is this: how did he stay in touch with his friends and family in Paris and The Netherlands?. He tells us that he sent and received letters. He also talks a lot about (and with) the personnel working on the telegraph systems in the Middle East. He never tells us if he used the telegraph himself. We assume he did.

Siemens telegraph pole from 1870
Telegraph pole in Persia, dating from 1870

Having said that, Tinco arrived in Persia at a time when telegraphy was totally new in the region (2). Since 1858, the Persians had started experimenting with telegraphy, but only to connect a few places within the country. The first connections were established between Qajar palaces and some cities close to Tehran – allowing Naser al-Din Shah and his administration to communicate faster and excercise power in a more efficient way. As it happens, Persia was only connected ‘to the world’ from March 1865 onwards (3), when the local Persian system was hooked into the international system built by the Indo-European Telegraph Department.

Thus, when Tinco arrived in Tehran, it was theoretically possible for him to send a message to Paris (which could be useful, as his financial affairs were managed through the French capital). However, keep in mind that sending telegraph messages in those days was not like making a phone call! A message between London and Karachi would typically take 6 days, as the message had to be intercepted and re-transcribed at verious posts along the lines.

The Persian system also connected into the competing system backed by the German Siemens family – the Indo-European Telegraph Company (note the confusing names of these competing entities!). However, it’s only in April 1868 that Tehran connects through this alternative route to London, via the Caucasus, Russia, Warsaw, and Berlin (and thus after Tinco’s departure from the region).

Socializing at Pas-e-Qaleh

Interestingly, In Persia and Iraq, Tinco often traveled along the exact main routes that the overland cables were taking. And he certainly was interested in the topic of telegraphy. It is therefore not a surprise that he would make the trip to the Pas-e-Qaleh waterfall in the company of people that had a major hand in building the network.

Robert Murdoch Smith (1835-1900)
Sir Robert Murdoch Smith, KCMG (1835-1900)

Major Smith was Robert Murdoch Smith (1835–1900) (see his profile…). He was a military officer but also an archaeologist who proceeded (between 1856-61) with excavations in present Turkey and the North African Cyrenaica. During his time in Persia (1863-85), he collected valuable Persian art on behalf of the South Kensington Museum. Subsequently, he became the Director of the Science and Art Museum at Edinburgh, and was also chairman of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. But, Robert Murdoch Smith was also a major force in telegraphy. It was he who, in 1863, negotiated with the Qajar court the right for the Indo-European Telegraph Department to construct lines in Persia. He remained working for the Department until 1885 and, in 1887 (after his return to London) he became its director-in-chief.

Captain Pierson was William Henry Pierson (1839-1881) (see Wikisource…), a military officer who did duty in India between 1860-63.  He joined the Indo-European Telegraph Department in 1863 and was critical to the success of constructing large tracts of line from Bagdad into Persia. In 1866, he also did a brief stint on the telegraph lines in the Caucasus. Pierson was also the main designer and builder of the new British legation at Tehran. In 1871-73, he becomes the director of the Persian Telegraph, and later returns to military duties in England.

Doctor Baker was James Edmund Baker, the head physician to the Indo-European Telegraph Company (not the Department!in Persia. We know little of him, but he is noted for an authoritative report to the House of Commons in 1886, about the sanitary situation in Persia (4). On the other hand, we do know something about his family. James Edmund Baker was a son of a military officer named John Robinet Baker. He had several sisters. Eleanor Katherine Baker married Robert Murdoch Smith in 1869. Another sister, Frances Josephine Baker, married in 1870 to William John Dickson, the Oriental secretary at the legation in Tehran. The Bakers were a well connected family!

Augustus Henry Mounsey
Augustus Henry Mounsey (1834-1882)

M. Mounsey was August Henry Mounsey (1834-1882) (see Wikipedia…) – was not working for the Telegraph Department. He was a career diplomat who, after a few previous assignments, was stationed in Tehran in 1865 as 2nd secretary to the British legation. Together with the minister plenipotentiary Charles Alison, he is particularly remembered for the substantial relief efforts made for the Jewish victims of the pogrom at Barfurush, in May 1867. Later, Mounsey was stationed to many other places in Europe, but he is most noted for his duty in Japan, where he was a direct witness of the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 – an event about which he wrote a book.

That leaves us with M. Helm, the remaining member of the little excursion to the Pas-e-Qaleh waterfall. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to identify him. Tinco Lycklama describes him as a “young tourist, and very skilled hunter“. It is a bit unusual that Tinco, who is otherwise quite meticulous with details and information, doesn’t tell us who Helm was, or from which country he came. Given the German-sounding name, one could wonder if Helm was in any way associated with the efforts of the Siemens company  to negotiate the connection of Tehran to the telegraph system through the Caucasus and Russia (efforts that were ultimateluy successful in 1868). Dr. Baker worked for the Indo-European Telegraph Company – which was primarely backed by Siemens. But, this is just one of many possibilities.

Business or pleasure?

Tinco enjoyed very much his escapade – and the excellent company – to the Pas-e-Qaleh waterfall. They had to leave their horses behind in the village, and had some very difficult and perilous climbing to do for about 4 kilometers towards the waterfall. But, it was worth it. The waterfall in itself wasn’t that pretty, but the view was spectacular, nevertheless. They had great fun, did some hunting and had a delicious barbecue.

Ali Quli Mirza
Ali Quli Mirza, Minister of Telegraphy (and other duties) – Portrait published in 1863.

Did Tinco have more in mind than simply enjoying the scenery? Did he have a particular interest in what was happening with the telegraph systems in Persia? We don’t know. On the other hand, let’s keep in mind that Naser al-Din had appointed a new government in June 1866. The minister for Telegraphy (amongst his other attributions) was Ali Quli Mirza, a powerful advisor who was a son of Fath Ali Shah (and thus a grand-uncle of Naser al-Din). Tinco became close friends with this powerful minister, and they maintained a correspondance long after Tinco’s return to Europe. We know that Tinco was a sociable person, but there are some interesting coincidences that beg for closer scrutiny.




Further reading…

  1. About the Indo-European Telegraph Department, see the German Wikipedia page…
  2. For a history of telegraphy, check the Distant Writing web site…, and in particular its chapter about “Competitors & Allies”, which provide great detail about the operations of the telegraph companies in Russia, the Caucasus, Persia, and the Ottoman empire.
  3. A chapter on the early years (1858-1865) of telegraphy in Persia, when the system was destined only to transmit messages within Persia itself, see Iranica Online…
  4. “A few remarks on the most prevalent Diseases and the Climate of the North of Persia”, by Dr. James Edmund Baker, Report to the House of Commons, 1886


The dog that saw Persepolis

Black Russian Terrier

Vashka not only saw Persepolis. He also visited Pasargadae, Ctesifon, Babylon, Samarra, Khorsabad, Nimrud, Niniveh, and Palmyra. We believe that Vashka is the first and only dog in history to have walked so many miles and visited so many ancient sites.

Vashka is the dog of archaeology!

Indeed, Tinco Lycklama’s most trusted and most faithful travel companion on his 1865-68 trip through the Middle East was a dog. We don’t know exactly when Tinco acquired Vashka. But, we do know that it happened during his stay in the Georgian capital Tiflis, in the winter of 1865-66.

Vashka spent almost three years at Tinco’s side, all the way from Tiflis to Constantinople. He lived in Tehran and Baghdad. He traveled mountain passes, rivers and deserts. Tinco was very fond of the dog. He recalls a moment, on the way from Hamah to Homs in Syria, when he almost lost Vashka; he was overwhelmed with joy when the dog was found and returned to him.

He had huge regret that he could not take Vashka home to Frisia. Just like Tinco, the dog was exhausted and ill, and he feared that the dog would not make it in the European climate. However, good friends in Tehran had promised Tinco that they would take care of the dog if he wished to send Vashka to them. So, on September 18, 1868, when Tinco’s last two servants parted company and traveled back to Tehran, they took Vashka along.

Great was Tinco’s joy to learn, a few years later, that the dog actually recovered and was alive and well with his new owners in Tehran!

Our remaining question is, however: what was the dog’s breed? Currently, the dog in the picture is our best guess – the so-called “Black Russian Terrier“. We base our assumption on what Tinco tells us:

“My little Vashka (for that was his name, a diminutive for Vassili) belongs to the breed of the dogs of Tiflis that bears a certain resemblance to the Scottish terrier, except that one doesn’t shorten their ears nor their tail.” (see original text in French here…).

The Black Russian Terrier doesn’t look “little”. However, let’s keep in mind that dog breeding is only a recent phenomenon, and that varieties have often evolved significantly over the past 150 years. It may well be that the breed Tinco refers to does not exist any more – or wasn’t a well-defined breed at all. Also, it may be that the Black Russian Terrier evolved from Vashka’s breed. It may just be anecdotal, but is is reported that the Black Russian Terrier was Stalin’s favourite dog – and Stalin was a native from Georgia.

In all honesty, we don’t really know. So, we welcome any suggestions about Vashka!

Having said that, Vashka was definitely a most special dog. And, like Tinco, he visited amazing places that few people have ever seen in their lifetime. Certainly no other dog!

Announcing the Tinco Lycklama Foundation

TLF - Full logo on light

Encouraging public interest in history, heritage and culture by co-(re)creating “forgotten stories”.

New Foundation incubates new collaborative methods in research, library virtualization and educational projects.

Amsterdam/Cannes, August 25, 2016  —–  The Tinco Lycklama Foundation is retracing the remarkable life and work of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900). He is considered to be the first Dutch ‘orientalist’ – but he is all but forgotten. The new Foundation will exploit the effect of surprise and curiosity that such stories engender, to stimulate public interest in collective history, heritage, and culture. It will do so by adopting an innovative “co-creative” approach that involves the public in re-creating these stories. Starting with the story of Tinco Lycklama, the Foundation is already co-operating with institutions and researchers in France, The Netherlands, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

23/08/1866 – Was Tinco spying at Shahrestanak?

We couldn’t help it. The two-day excursion that Tinco Lycklama made to Shahrestanak just begs for a provocative title. In all fairness, we currently have nothing solid to suggest that Tinco Lycklama was doing anything else but traveling Persia as a tourist. However, the trip raises a few questions – just like many other things in Tinco’s writings.

For now, we’ll essentially stick to the description of the trip to Shahrestanak – a valley and village north of Tehran, deep in the Alborz mountains.

Royal encampment and summer residence of the Qajar

Tinco’s stated intention was to discover and describe Tehran how it was in 1866 and 1867 – and so he did. One of his objectives was to visit all the Qajar palaces. As such, Shahrestanak (spelled Chirastanek by Tinco) becomes a logical addition to Tinco’s inventory of the places that mattered to the court of Naser al-Din Shah. Except, Shahrestanak was not a regular “palace”…

In the summer, when 19th century Tehran suffocates under a sweltering heat, most inhabitants seek the coolness of the countryside and – those who can afford it – move higher up in the foothills of the Alborz. Tinco had done so himself in June 1866, when he rented a house at the lush village of Tajrish, just north of Tehran.

Naser al-Din Shah moved even further, to the Shahrestanak valley. The Qajar court painter Kamal al-Molk produced a fine painting, showing how the Shahrestanak Naseri palace look like in the 19th century. However, that palace was built only around 1878.

At Tinco’s time, in 1866, there was no palace but a summer encampment built of tents. It must have been a huge settlement, as the whole court in Tehran followed the shah (and his harem) to the valley. Also, his top military command and two full regiments set up base near the royal tents. In addition to that, large numbers of servants and tradesmen moved into the valley, to serve the needs of the court. Though Tinco doesn’t give us any numbers, we’re easily talking about many thousands of people!

We have no photos of the Shahrestanak encampment. However, a few pictures of a typical royal encampent and a royal tent of Naser al-Din’s father Mohammad Shah Qajar (1808-1848) can give some idea of how it looked. To house that many people at Shahrestanak, just imagine the encampment on the photo many times larger.

In the summer of 1866, Naser al-Din Shah and his court must have arrived by the middle of August (for over a month – as Tinco meets the shah in Tehran later in September). So, with all the notables gone from Tehran and the surrounding palaces, Tinco decided to follow and travel to Shahrestanak.

A perilous trip, but interesting

He set off in the morning of August 23, and took the shortest but most perilous route to get there. He traveled on horseback, accompanied by two of his servants as well as a mule to carry his equipment. He didn’t take a tent along  as one of the servants, Ismaïl, knew how to organize lodgings in the village of the Shahrestanak valley.

The trip took over 6 hours – across two major mountain passes and along precipitous ravines – before reaching the valley. The tent encampment was located at the same spot where the Qajars built the palace in 1878, and it straddled across the banks of the valley river. From higher up, Tinco had an impressive view on the layout of the camp, where the royal tents and those of the harem were clearly distinguishable by their red color.

Approximate map of Tinco Lycklama’s excursion to Shahrestanak 23-24 August 1866 – directly north across the mountains, and then back following a longer but easier road.

At the time of this excursion, Tinco had not yet met the shah in person, and he obviously traveled unofficially, so he steered clear of the encampment which was surrounded with heavily armed military posts. But, he observed that the royal tents and those of many dignitaries had the size of genuine houses and that their external decorations suggested the high level of luxury within.

In the absence of proper lodgings (Ismaïl had been too optimistic), Tinco was fortunate to come across a small farmhouse. The hospitable family was happy to allow Tinco and his men to set up their beds near the farmhouse – under the stars, but within the protection of the walled garden. The next morning, Tinco spent his time traveling the valley and examining the details of the royal encampment, which extended over a long distance along the river. The shah’s military men acknowledged him, but left him alone.

Questions remain

Tinco doesn’t tell us whether he tried to enter the camp. Nor does he tell us why it was so important to him to make this demanding trip. The fact that he even mentions it with a precise date comes as a surprise, as only few of his activities in Tehran are dated – and he is very discreet about his time in Tehran anyway. This contrasts significantly with his general approach of his books, where he easily shares dates and facts about even the most insignificante encounters. Having said that, his extended stays in Tiflis and Baghdad are both marred by the absence of such detail as well.

Even though Tinco Lycklama writes extensively about the history, the arts and the customs of these capital cities, from the narrative perspective it feels that he was doing many things there that are not coherent with the attitude of a “simple tourist”. We know that he met the most powerful men. Përhaps these local rulers and royalty may have found it interesting to meet a lonesome and somewhat excentric Dutch traveler. But, that doesn’t explain everything.

The visit to Shahrestanak is just an example for those awkward aspects of Tinco’s travel through the Orient. We simply know (today) that all the powers of Qajar Persia were present at the Shahrestanak encampment when Tinco came for a look.

After spending the night near the encampment at Shahrestanak, Tinco returns to Tajrish, taking another route – longer but easier to travel. And never mentions Shahrestanak again.




21/08/1875 – Tinco Lycklama got married

Much can be said about Tinco Lycklama’s married life. There is a lot to cover – and even more to discover. We’ll try to stick to the basics. Tinco’s marriage to Juliana Agatha Jacoba, Baroness thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg (1845-1914) definitely marks a turning point in his life. We’ll also briefly cover the love story of Juliana’s parents – who had three children out of wedlock, before marrying and giving birth to Juliana (a story that may explain a few things).

Wedding at Oosterhout

Let’s remember that, by 1875, Tinco was spending most of his time in Cannes (F). Our first trace of Tinco’s presence at the French Riviera dates from November 1869. It was a short stay, as he spends the winter in Beirut (doing some digging in the old Sidon). Upon his return to his native Beetsterzwaag (NL), he takes care of his “collection of curiosities” and his first museum.

However, he kept traveling between Holland and Cannes. Initially, he took his lodgings in the finest hotels (where he meets the best of European aristocracy). However, in 1872, he signs a long-term rental for the splendid Villa Escarras. In that same year, he publishes the first volume of his “Voyage…“, the 2,200 page opus in which he recounts his travels. He becomes a welcome guest in the “high society” of Cannes – known for his good taste and for the splendor of his parties. In 1875, he publishes his fourth (and last) book.

Marriage Record of Tinco and Juliana - Signatures
Signatures of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt and Juliana thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg – on their marriage record of 21/08/1875.

On August 21st, 1875 – a Saturday – he marries Juliana thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg (see marriage record…). Not in Cannes, nor in his native Frisia, but at Oosterhout – a small town in the Dutch province of North Brabant, near the Belgian border. In fact, this is where Juliana was born and grew up in an aristocratic family, which was in the service of the House of Nassau.

North Brabant was (and is) largely Roman Catholic. And so was the Schwartzenberg family. Tinco Lycklama was born into the reformed church, but he converted to catholicism in 1868 (in Jerusalem). Whereas Frisia had predominantly turned protestant over the previous three centuries, the catholic church was deeply rooted and remained very present.

Breda Bishop Palace - Photography by Paul van Galen, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed - CC-BY-SA-3.0-NL
The Bishop’s Palace at Breda – Photo by Paul van Galen for Rijksdienst  Cultureel Erfgoed (License CC-BY-SA-3.0-NL)

The Frisian Lycklama à Nijeholt family was not averse of catholicism. And, the catholic Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg family was not foreign to Frisia. Originating from Germany, the Schwartzenberg ancestors had first settled in the Dutch north. In fact, the Lycklama and the Schwartzenberg families knew each other very well. Tinco’s grandfather, also called Tinco Martinus Lycklama à Nijeholt (1766-1844), had been married to a Schwartzenberg – just like his great-grandfather Augustinus Lycklama à Nijeholt (1742-1789). For this reason, our Tinco had to obtain dispensation from church authorities.

Dispensation obtained, nothing prevented a marriage between Tinco and Juliana and – as the Dutch catholic newspaper De Tijd reported (see the record at source…) – the marriage took place “with the mutual satisfaction of both families“. The religious marriage was performed by Henricus van Beek (1816-1884), bishop of the diocese of nearby Breda, at his private chapel.

Juliana’s parents

Juliana was a Baroness who had inherited her title (and significant holdings) from her father – Gemme, Baron thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg (1806-1862). Juliana was a rich young lady. She had just turned 30 two months prior to the marriage, and it is quite likely that she had only recently received full authority over her inherited possessions.

We don’t know yet how Tinco and Juliana met – or if they were engaged for some time before the wedding. Both Tinco’s mother and Juliana’s father had died, and none of the surviving parents signed as witnesses to the marriage. In 1867 (while in the Orient), Tinco had inherited full ownership of goods from his deceased mother. The young couple was extremely rich, independent, and nothing was holding them back from enjoying their fortune.

Short pedigree of Tinco Lycklama and Juliana thoe Schwartzenberg


Certainly not Juliana’s family. Rumour has it that Juliana’s family had become an ignored branch of the Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg – and even her claims to the title of Baroness were put into doubt. Research in the civil records actually provides us with some interesting clues – about what seems to be a beautiful love story between Juliana’s parents.

Juliana’s mother, Hendrika de Hoogh (1803-1880) was a ‘commoner’. Her father was a forester. In 1834, when Gemme thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg fathered a first child with Hendrika, she was a 31-year old widow raising a 7-year old son (who died young). Interestingly, Gemme did recognize his fathership on the birth record. He did the same with two more daughters born of Hendrika. They married in 1844. It looks as if Gemme had waited respectfully as long as his mother was alive. She died in 1843 (his father had died long before). Upon marrying, Gemme immediately legalized the status of his two surviving daughters. We need more research into Juliana’s immediate family and their activities and possessions in and around Oosterhout. However, the current record trail gives a good indication of the reasons why Juliana (leave alone, her mother) may not have been well considered in the Schwartzenberg family. She had the money, but she simply was not of true blue blood.

Marriage makes a difference

The prospect of marrying a rich, independent – and catholic – young nobleman like Tinco Lycklama must have been appealing to Juliana. Tinco had lived ‘on the wild side’, wrote books, had his own museum, was well respected in aristocratic Cannes… For Juliana, moving to Cannes must have been an exciting prospect – and there she could finally live up to her noble origins without being frowned upon.

For Tinco, married life brought a lot of change. For one, we find no more reports about extravagant parties. Two years later, in 1877, Tinco donates his museum collection to the city of Cannes, and moves with Juliana to smaller premises. In fact, it is reported that they moved to Italy for a while – perhaps for up to two years (we know that he was received in private audience with Pope Leo XIII in Rome – somewhere between 1879-1883).

Coats of Arms - Lycklama and Schwartzenberg - Floor of St Bonifatius Leeuwarden - Courtesy of Susan Kroese
Coat of arms of the Lycklama à Nijeholt (left) and thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg (right). Tiling at the St Bonfatius Church at Leeuwarden (NL)

Upon his return to his villa in Cannes, Tinco keeps an eye on the development of the municipal museum of Cannes, which carried his name. However, from his correspondence with the museum, we understand that he is no longer actively involved.

On the other hand, we see more evidence of donations to catholic works – both in France and The Netherlands. One major project of Tinco and Juliana is the acquisition of what is known today as the Villa Burmania (and currently the seat of the parish of Cannes). Though the villa and its significant lands were acquired in Juliana’s name, the documents carry Tinco’s signature. They transform the villa, build an additional one, and acquire another one on an adjacent parcel of land. This project must have kept them quite busy throughout the nineties. Shortly after Tinco’s death in 1900, Juliana transfers the whole property to the diocese of Nice for a (very) symbolic amount. It was obviously always intended as a major contribution to the parish of Cannes.


In the Frisian town of Wolvega, his last resting place, Tinco’s presence can still be felt through his significant donations to the local catholic parish. In the Frisian capital Leeuwarden, it is Juliana who is more widely remembered. Both their coats of arms are encapsulated at the St Bonifatius church, in memory of their generosity.

Tinco and Juliana never had children. It looks that they had no particular incentive to save their money for relatives. They ‘simply’ lived and gave away from their own inherited wealth. Their religion was obviously important to them. We will talk more about all these aspects in the near future.


A Dutch traveler’s perception of Persian medecine in 1866-67

The International Qajar Studies Association  (IQSA) is holding its 2016 conference in Vienna, on August 8-9, on the topic of “Doctors and the Medicinal Arts in Qajar Iran”. It’s the occasion for us to talk about Tinco Lycklama’s observations on health during his stays in Persia in 1866 and 1867.

Dr. Johan Schlimmer, Dr. Conrad Fagergrin, Dr. Joseph Dickson, Dr. James Baker, Dr. Heward… Not surprisingly, Tinco Lycklama met many physicians during his stays in Persia in 1866 and 1867 – as he seems to have suffered almost permanently from one or another illness. Wherever he went, he obviously met with foreigners who had settled in Persia. And, foreign physicians were everywhere. Qajar Persia relied on these foreign doctors to modernize the practice of medecine throughout the country.

“In the eyes of the Persians, all Europeans are somehow physicians”

Tinco’s observation comes from an anecdote when visiting the town of Izad Khast (written ‘Yezdegast’ by Tinco) – on the road from Isfahan to Chiraz. A local notable was seriously suffering from what appeared to be a bullet wound. Tinco had no knowledge of surgery and there was nothing he could do. But, he shared some bandages, for which the poor man’s family was already extremely grateful.

In another passage in his books, Tinco also reflects, quite unfavourably, on the state of medecine in Persia: “It is purely empirical, devoid of any notion about the human organism. This total ignorance of the anatomy makes one wonder about the state of surgical practice in Persia which is obviously working according to the most basic principles and interventions.”

Was Tinco biased? He seems to have suffered all his life from weak health. In fact, his health was one of his main motives for moving from his native Beetsterzwaag (NL) to Cannes (F), shortly after spending more than three years in the Orient. When reading his books, one sometimes gets the impression that Tinco may have been a hypocondriac as he always seems to worry about getting sick.

Almost dead in Kirva

In all fairness, let’s keep in mind that Tinco traveled through hostile landscapes and climates. As colonel Andreini noted during an episode in Kirva, Tinco was often suffering from “traveler’s fever”, caused by fatigue and inappropriate food. Nothing that a solid dose of quinine, a diet, and some good rest could not solve.

Colonel Andreini was not a physician but – as an Italian military man (at the service of the Qajar court) – he had traveled a lot and had solid experience with foreign climates. He also liked to refer to the learnings of another Dutchman, the 18th century physician Herman Boerhave, still a reference for European travelers.

At Kirva, the local Persian physicians had concluded that Tinco was probably dying. They suspected cholera, and Tinco almost believed them. He feared that he would succomb to the same fate as the famous French 17th traveler Jean Thévenot, who also died at Kirva in 1667. But, after reaching Qasbin and with the help of colonel Andreini, Tinco survived.

At Qasbin, Tinco was joined by Mirza Cheikh Djellal, a young and trustworthy Persian physician dispatched by the French minister in Tehran Jacques-Adolphe Cousseau, comte de Massignac (1815-1879). The usual French physician at the legation in the capital, Dr. Joseph Tholozan was unavailable, but sending this Persian physician “could do no harm”.

The foreign doctors in Persia

Mirza Cheikh Djellal had had the privilege of studying at the Faculté de médecine in Paris – probably as one of the first students sent by the pioneering polytechnical school in Tehran – the Dar al-Fonun. However, Tinco observes that the young doctor had obviously not understood much of modern science, in which his cult of tradition only saw a series of dangerous innovations.

See original image
Entrance to the Dar al-Fonun polytechnic

Tinco had arrived in Persia in the early days of what the Qajar court of Naser al-Din Shah considered to be the necessary modernization of the country. Medicine was one of the Shah’s priorities and became a major section at the Dar al-Fonun, which started operating in 1851.

But, the foreign legations in Persia still relied heavily on their own physicians to deal with the health problems of foreign personnel. In turn, these foreign doctors were critical in helping Persia with the modernization of medical practices.

At the highest levels of the Qajar court, it was understood that the health of the royals was better served by foreign doctors. Ernest Cloquet (1818-1855) was the doctor of the French legation and became the personal physician to Naser al-Din Shah. Upon his death in 1855, he was replaced by the Bohemian doctor Jakob Eduard Polack, who had previously been the first teacher in medecine at the Dar al-Fonun. The Dutch physician Johann Schlimmer replaced Polack in 1860 at the polytechnic, and in the same year the French doctor Joseph Tholozan (1820-1897) takes Polack’s place as the physician to the Shah.

Dr Joseph Tholozan
Dr. Joseph Désiré Tholozan (1820-1897) – Image courtesy of Amir Ali Sardari Iravani


Tholozan remained in this position until shortly before his death. He accompanied the Shah on each of his three trips to Europe (1873, 1878 and 1889), and may be considered as instrumental in organizing the first efficient medical infrastructure to combat the spread of infectuous diseases in the country.

But, also beyond the royal court and beyond Tehran, Persians seemed to turn to foreigners to provide health care. For instance, in 1867, when Tinco travels through the little town of Sadatabad (named “Seadet Abad” by Tinco) he notices that there were no foreigners amongst the population except for one Armenian and twelve jews. These few foreigners were all pharmacists and physicians (though not of good quality – says Tinco).

Tinco’s encounters

In 1866, when Tinco arrived in Teheran, Dr. Joseph Tholozan was the only French physician in town. Surprisingly, Tinco never mentions Tholozan in his writings, even though we know from the message from French minister de Massignac to Tinco that Tholozan was in the capital. Then again, besides a few noteworthy exceptions, Tinco Lycklama is very sparse with his comments on the people he met at Tehran.

But, Tinco tells us a lot about the other doctors he acquainted. At the British legation, for instance, he met with the English physician Dr. Joseph Dickson, who kept his position for almost 40 years (1848-1887). More than simply being doctors, people like Dickson played an important diplomatic role as they easily gained the confidence of their patients at the Qajar court. Another Englishman whom Tinco acquainted was Dr. James Baker, who later wrote an authoritative report for the House of Commons about the sanitary situation in Persia (“A few remarks on the most prevalent Diseases and the Climate of the North of Persia”, 1886).

Johann Schlimmer - Terminologie medico-pharmaceutique - Cover
Schlimmer’s “Terminologie Médico-Pharmaceutique Française-Persane“, 1872

As we saw earlier, the Dutch Dr. Johann Schlimmer (1819-1881) became the head of medecine at the Dar al-Fonun in 1860. In 1861, he was also responsible for training students at the new state hospital in Tehran, and he was one of the few who actually wrote textbooks for the benefit of medical students. A few years later, the Shah transferred Schlimmer to Fars, where he was appointed as personal physician to the province’s governor, Massoud Mirza Zell-e Soltan (1850-1919), a son of the Shah. During his time at Isfahan, Tinco actually stays at the home of Dr. Schlimmer and his Armenian wife.

In Chiraz, Tinco meets with Dr. Conrad Fagergrin (1818-1879) – a Swede from Stockholm. Again, Tinco suffers from a heavy headache, but it was easily solved after the doctor practiced a bleeding. Dr. Fagergrin had arrived in Persia twenty-five years earlier, and was sent by the Shah to Chiraz to handle a big epidemic in the province. He stayed on to become the chief physician of Chiraz. He and his French wife and family where the only Europeans in town – so they were most happy to welcome Tinco in their home.

Tinco’s travel through Persia in 1867 ended at the harbour city of Bender Bushir, where he embarked on a steamer that would take him over the Persian Gulf to Iraq – an Ottoman territory at that time. But, Bender Bushir might well have become his last resting place – were it not for the good care of Dr. Heward, an Armenian doctor. Indeed, feeling unwell, Tinco was quickly diagnosed with symptoms of typhoid fever, probably caused by drinking from the same water jar as his servant Ali Beg. Dr. Heward prescribed big doses of quinine and some herbal concoctions, and Tinco was fine within a couple of hours. The poor Ali Beg, however, died a few days later.

Quinine, diet, rest, and tea

The quality of the food was never the issue for Tinco’s ills in Persia. In fact, he states that the food served was very wholesome (but perhaps he may have indulged too much, at times). It is more likely that the hot climate was a major factor, especially for someone who grew up in Frisia. If Tinco’s health was not the best, he certainly did not make it any better by traveling cold mountain passes and sweltering deserts on horseback. Also, from several observation in his books, we understand that travelers had to be very careful about the water they were drinking.

What we do learn from Tinco’s writings is that quinine was essential – and he made sure that he always had an ample supply of that. Combined with solid rest and a reasonable diet it usually fixed the problems. And, Tinco tells us also: “I drank a lot of tea which, throughout my travels, has been my universal panacea, excellent in health, and even better so when ill.”


Charles Alison and Tinco Lycklama, brothers-in-beards

Charles Alison - Tinco Lycklama - Composed image

Charles Alison (1810-1872) was Britain’s minister plenipotentiary (the top diplomat) to the Qajar court in Tehran, from 1860 til his death. He was an interesting person, and we’re working on a short biography that will highlight a few interesting aspects of his life, and cover his role in an ambivalent diplomatic relationship between Britain and Persia.

He was also a friend of Tinco Lycklama. They met soon after Tinco’s arrival at Tehran, in May 1865. Shortly before his departure from the capital (to continue his travel through Persia), Tinco sold off a few horses and thanked the servants he had employed at his rejted house in Tajrish. Charles Alison insisted that Tinco would stay another two weeks at the British summer compound in Gulhek. Tinco had at his disposal a separate house opposite the minister’s residence, in the middle of the gardens, and had free use of the horses and servants at the service of the British legation.

Charles Alison (1810-1872)
Charles Alison (1810-1872), by Capt. W.H. Pierson, courtesy of Miss Philippa Bateman-Champain – Printed in “The English Amongst the Persians: Imperial Lives in Nineteenth-Century Iran” by Denis Wright, 2001, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London/New York.

We just discovered a drawing of Charles Alison, made in 1865. When they met in 1866, Tinco wasn’t sporting a beard, but he did so no later than 1883 (as the picture shows). Was Tinco’s beard inspired by Charles Alison?

They became really good friends. Tinco hints at the awkward diplomatic situation of Charles Alison (without going into details). He also expresses his view that the man was underestimated and unjustly neglected by his peers and superiors in London. He describes him as a most interesting and educated person, and an excellent host. The man also carried a personal burden, having been in love with Elizabeth Baltazzi – a married lady in Constantinople; they married in 1863, after the death of Elizabeth’s husband – but she died barely nine months later.

Charles Alison passed away at Tehran in 1872. When Tinco is in the process of writing his travel stories, he learned about Alison’s death and sadfully refers to the loss of a good friend.

We have been able to obtain maps of the British compound at Gulhek and have identified the comfortable house where Tinco stayed for two weeks, in September 1866. We will do more extensive research and cover these topics in future articles.

Readers with access to diplomatic archives in London and Tehran are most welcome to contribute with biographical information about Charles Alison.