The Oera Linda Book, known in Frisian as Thet Oera Linda Bok, came to light in 1867 when Cornelis Over de Linden (1811-1874) handed the manuscript, claimed to have been kept in the Over de Linden family for generations, over to Eelco Verwijs (1830-1880), the provincial librarian of Friesland, for translation and publication. Verwijs rejected the manuscript, but in 1872 Dr. Jan Gerhardus Ottema (1804-1879), a prominent member of the Frisian Society for History and Culture, published a Dutch translation. The book was subsequently translated into English by William Sandbach (1876).
Over de Linden claimed to have inherited the manuscript from his grandfather, via his aunt. The manuscript was originally thought to have been written in Old Frisian but according to Jensma "the syntax of this artificial language proves to be completely in line with modern, read: nineteenth-century Dutch/Frisian" and included "linguistic delicacies like the hundreds of puns, popular etymologies and funny words that were derived from almost every modern European language. When they were weary, the folksmothers for instance could retire to their ‘BEDRVM’ (bedroom)".
It was translated into German as Die Ura Linda Chronik in 1933 and became popular in German elementary schools and a favorite book of Heinrich Himmler. In the 1970s it experienced a revival of popularity in the English-speaking world.
The current manuscript carries a date of 1256. Internal claims suggest that it is a copy of older manuscripts that, if genuine, would have been written by multiple people between 2194 BC and AD 803.
Themes running through the Oera Linda Book include catastrophism, nationalism, matriarchy, and mythology. The text alleges that Europe and other lands were, for most of their history, ruled by a succession of folk-mothers presiding over a hierarchical order of celibate priestesses dedicated to the goddess Frya, daughter of the supreme god Wr-alda and Irtha, the earth mother. The claim is also made that this Frisian civilization possessed an alphabet which was the ancestor of Greek and Phoenician alphabets. Modern historiography is essentially ignored, particularly in the area of basic chronology of known events in the recent and distant past of Europe. Geological as well as geographical evidence that was readily available even as far back as Over de Linden's time is also mostly absent from the manuscript.
The earliest portion of the Oera Linda Book, namely Frya’s Tex, was supposedly composed in 2194 BC, whereas the most recent part, the letter of Hidde Oera Linda, dates to AD 1256. Almost half of the entire book comprises The Book of Adela’s Followers, the original text around which the rest grew. It is said to have been compiled in the 6th century BC from a mixture of contemporary writings and ancient inscriptions, though none of this alleged source material has survived, nor any reference to it aside from the Oera Linda manuscript. The last two sections of the Oera Linda Book, the writings of Konered and Beden, contain a number of lacunae; indeed, the book itself breaks off in mid-sentence.
The book articulates the first known example of the concept of root races (though it doesn't call them that), and probably influenced H.P. Blavatsky to develop her own, much more elaborate ideas on the subject, as outlined in The Secret Doctrine (1888). It also mentions Atland (the name given to Atlantis by the 17th century scholar Olof Rudbeck), which was supposedly submerged in 2193 BC, the same year as 19th century Dutch and Frisian almanacs, following traditional Biblical chronology, gave for Noah's flood.
Within the first few years after the appearance of the Oera Linda Book, there was great scepticism concerning its authenticity, not only for the exceptional claims being made, but also because of a number of anachronisms it contained. Research was performed on the quality of the paper, and it was claimed to have come from a papermill in Maastricht circa 1850. This skepticism has not prevented the book from being a source of inspiration for a number of occultists, speculative historians, and political parties during the century or more since its emergence.
The authenticity of the book is supported by at least some Neo-Nazi groups, possibly because it indicates a Northern European origin for several Middle Eastern civilisations — this despite the fact that the book itself heavily criticises the ancestors of the Germans as uncouth barbarians. The book has also received interest from feminist and New Age groups and is commonly quoted in books about Atlantis.
Modern research has evidenced a concern with identifying the unknown author of the manuscript, with the most likely candidates being Cornelis Over de Linden or Eelco Verwijs. A popular third choice is the Protestant preacher François Haverschmidt (1835-1894), well known for writing poetry under the pseudonym Piet Paaltjens. Haverschmidt lived in Friesland and was an acquaintance of Verwijs.
In 2004 the historian Goffe Jensma published a book about the case: De gemaskerde god. François Haverschmidt en het Oera Linda-boek. In his book, Jensma argued that Haverschmidt was the main writer of the book, with the help of Over de Linden and Verwijs. According to Jensma, Haverschmidt intended the Oera Linda Book as a parody of the Christian Bible. An article in late 2007 article by Professor Jensma says that the three authors intended it "to be a temporary hoax to fool some nationalist Frisians and orthodox Christians and as an experiential exemplary exercise in reading the Holy Bible in a non-fundamentalist, symbolical way." However, ignoring clues that it was a forgery, it was taken seriously by J.G. Ottema and achieved popularity for the reasons given above. Its creators felt unable to admit that they had written it, and it became the foundation for a new belief. Jensma concludes his article by saying "It is a perfect irony that a book written to unmask the Holy Bible as a book of human making was to become a bible itself."