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Enter the Dutch
The dreams and labours of Petrus Plancius and Jan Huyghen van Linschoten culminated in the Dutch First Fleet to the Indies taking place from 1595 to 1597. It was instrumental in the opening up of the Indonesian spice trade to the merchants that would soon form the United Dutch East India Company (VOC). This famous pioneering voyage, commanded by Cornelis de Houtman, would abruptly end the Portuguese Empire ́s trade monopoly for the East and it would dramatically change the Indian Ocean theatre, notably the balance of power and the rules of trade. Right from this first voyage onward, the Dutch were going to dominate the East Indies and its trade for more than 350 years.
Already in 1598, shortly after the return of the first fleet, the Amsterdam publisher Cornelis Claesz published an acclaimed account of the first voyage, written by Willem Lodewijcksz, an officer on the fleet. The journal was an instant success that sold in many editions and was translated in several languages. The journal’s title page has a small overview map of the route
Prima Pars Descriptionis Itineris Navalis in Indiam Orientalem.
Amsterdam: Cornelis Claesz, 1598.
Folio (31.5 x 24 cms approx.), 51ff., including engraved title, 48 ½- or ¾-page engraved plates (of which 7 are maps), many woodcuts of coastal profiles (some full-page), one engraving of coins printed on a leaf at the end not integral to a signature.
Lacking the double-page plate of the Bantam Market as usual. Tiele (1867), pp. 127, no. 112, "Cette planche manque dans beaucoup d'exemplaires." [This plate is not present in many copies, the book was usually issued without it].
Contemporary vellum. An excellent, well-margined copy.
First Latin edition of this important journal of Cornelis de Houtman's voyage, the first Dutch fleet to the East Indies of 1595-97, extensively illustrated with more than 48 engraved illustrations of the geography, people and natural history of primarily Java and Bali.
According to Lach, this travel journal ‘provided European readers with the most detailed descriptions of Java to date and with the first continuous description of Bali in any language’. In 1598, the year after the return, Lodewyckszoon's account of the voyage instigated 'a flurry of activity among Dutch entrepreneurs' and no fewer than 25 ships set out from two provinces of Holland to the East Indies. Within a period of 18 months, the Dutch had established three trading posts in the Indies which became the foundation of their future control of the Moluccan spice trade and provided a foothold from which to launch further voyages eastward.
This first Dutch venture to the East Indies was instigated by Plancius and by Linschoten's Itinerario. Following their advice, the route took them across the Indian Ocean to the Sunda Straits. He stopped at Sumatra, engaged in trading in Bantam, and made further stops on the northern coast of Java. Lach emphasizes the importance of Lodewijcksz as the 'first eyewitness account of growing pepper and of coconut palms, along with descriptions of the people and other sights on the west coast of Sumatra'. The material on Java is very important, with elaborate ethnographical descriptions: there is an account of the institution of polygamy, a detailed description of a Javan wedding, music, dance, the writing system, language etc. The chapters on Bali present the first account and the first images and the first map of the island.
Lodewyckszoon's accurate coastline profiles were employed by later Dutch fleets, and the plates are among the earliest visual impressions formed by Europeans of this part of the world (Lach reproduces no less than a dozen). Some of the more interesting depict the merchants in Bantam (Peguan, Persian, Arab and Chinese), a Chinese temple (actually Hindu, the original religion which then still had presence on Java), the King of Bali in his ox-drawn chariot, a Javanese gamelan orchestra and a depiction of Javanese court dances (probably Gambang or Bedhaya).
The work appeared the same year in Dutch and French from the same publisher and went through a number of later editions, but the universality of this first Latin edition gave Lodewyckszoon's account its widest possible readership and makes it the best of the 1598 first editions and the best edition overall.
Tiele, Memoire Bibliographique sur les Journaux des Navigateurs Neerlandais, p127.
Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, III, 1.438-9 & III, 3. 1222-34.
Lodewijcksz journal as a first
The Lodewijcksz journal is a first in many ways.
- first Dutch fleet to the Indies
- first printed ship's journal/log of a voyage of discovery
- first images of the Duyfken
- first ethnographic images of daily life in the Indian Ocean, Java, Sumatra, Bali
- first nautical profiles of the coasts of these areas
- first maps and views of Bantam
- first maps and views of Bali
- first printed images of the coins used in the area for trade
The voyage is of seminal importance to the exploration and the cartography of the region.
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