The Roots of Progress

The patent of Sir John Christopher Van Berg

The following is my transcription of a letter patent from the year 1636, which can be seen published in a 19th-century collection. I have modernized the spelling and added paragraph breaks and bullet points for readability, since the original is mostly one long continuous paragraph. Where I was not sure of the meaning of a term, I’ve added a (?)

CHARLES, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith.


WHEREAS Sir John Christopher Van Berg, Moravian Knight, heretofore Lord of Wahanezee and Verantiez, and Deputy General over the heritable lordships belonging to the Palatine house within the Marquisite of Moravia, having been heretofore possessed of large demesnes, and command in the said marquiste, is now dispossessed of all by the devouring wars in Germany, and having been compelled for safety during the hazard of these wars yet continuing to fly from thence, and to endure banishment from his own native country, and being come into our Kingdom of England, not having means of support, he hath prostrated himself, his wife, and four children under our Royal protection, humbly imploring our grace and commiseration:

And whereas the said Sir John Christopher hath by his industry and observation in other countries found out and observed many Inventions, as well mathematical and mechanical engines and instruments not hitherto known or used in any of our Dominions, that is to say,

All which inventions, engines, or instruments he hath presented unto us as things by the use whereof much good and benefit may accrue unto our people, and being desirous, if possibly he can, to support himself, his wife, and family, by his own endeavor, without being burdensome to others, he hath by his petition to us exhibited most humbly besought us to grant unto them the sole making and use of the said inventions, engines, and instruments within our dominions according to the limitation of the Statutes in that case provided: And because he is not fully capable of the benefit of our grant and gracious favor for that he is an alien born, he hath further besought us that we would be pleased to make him our denizen.

The rest of the letter is a statement in the legal language of the time making Sir John Christopher “denizen and liege subject” of the King and granting him exclusive right, for fourteen years, to “make and use within our kingdom of England and dominion of Wales, all and every the said engines and instruments, as also exercise, practice, and put in use within our said kingdom and dominion, all and every the said aforementioned inventions.”

Signed, “our self at Westminster, the seven and twentieth day of April.”

I have not been able to find any information on Van Berg other than this patent, nor any evidence that any of these claimed inventions were ever manufactured or put into use, nor indeed that any of them even worked, or even that any of these claims represented actual designs.