Focusing on the unsuccessful attempt of Franchyna Woedwaerdt, a widow living in the Dutch port of Rotterdam ca. 1650, to retain control of a printing business she and her husband had run, this article reconstructs how fairly ordinary people employed Holland’s notariate to present stories about themselves and others. It argues that people like Woedwaerdt and those in her network often chose to make information about themselves and others public in a social space that lay between the self on the one hand and the larger world of social norms on the other, a middle ground. They did this to mobilize support and shape people’s views for their own ends. They also participated, consciously or not, in the construction of new social realities. Despite Woedwaerdt’s own failure, the article concludes that further examination of the middle ground and those who created it will lead to a fuller understanding of the self in early modern Europe.
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