Plate XIV, Wie das Landvold in der Insel Sumatra beschaffen
From Part III of Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) and Johann Isreal de Bry's (1565-1609) Orientalische Indien (“Little Voyages”), Dritter Theil indiae orientalis...Frankfurt: 1599 (first edition)
Engraving with original, early 17th century hand color heightened with gold on laid paper; paper dimensions: approximately: 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Printed by Matthias Becker
van Groesen 52
THE VILLAGE CHIEF OF DAMPIN ON SOUTHERN SUMATRA
In this illustration, we see the village chief of Dampin on the south coast of Sumatra island. The Dutch had landed here on June 12, 1596. The chief received them and offered them fruits. Pepper was grown, of which the Dutch purchased a few samples. What the woman on the left holds in her hands may be a box of peppers. After some brief negotiations, the Dutch were off again. We also see how an assembly of men and women is holding a pajong (umbrella) over the chief's head.*
Translation of text:
Title: How the countrymen of the island of Sumatra appear.
Text: The island of Sumatra is located right at the entrance of the straits of Sunda: when we came to a village called Dampin we were welcomed by the chief of the village/ he appeared very friendly/ so we came to the conclusion that these people are refined. Their elegant clothing is made out of soft/ sky blue fabric. The chief had a great amount of servants behind him/ ten of which were bodyguards/ also several women/ carrying his box and other things. He was fol- lowed by someone/ that always carried an umbrella over his head against the sun and rain. The women's clothing is a skirt going down from their hips/ on top they wear a tunic/ cover- ing their breast/ they bind their hair together and let it stick out in the back a little bit as you can see in the illustration.*
ENGRAVED PLATES FROM VOLUME III OF DE BRY’S ‘LITTLE VOYAGES’ OF THE EAST INDIES
Featuring Depictions of: The Azores, India, Sumatra, Madagascar, Pugnatan Island, Bantam Island, Sri Lanka, Bali, Nova Zembla and Kola
Documenting Linschoten’s Voyages (Contined from Vol. II), Cornelis de Houtman's Voyage to the East Indies (1595-1597), and Gerrit de Veer's Journal of Three Dutch voyages to reach the East Indies by the North (1594- 1597).
For years, the Dutch had watched Portuguese trade vessels sail to the Far East and return to the ports of Portugal loaded with valuable spices. Now, at the end of the 16th century, sweeping changes were about to happen. The nation was at war with Spain since 1568. It was made difficult for merchants to put in at the ports of Portugal, Spain's neighboring country with which the Dutch Republic had also been drawn into war. All this led a small group of Dutch entrepreneursentrepreneurs use to decide to establish a trade company enabling them to undertake voyages to the East by themselves. This would become the Compagnie van Verre (long-distance company). But how to go about it, without encountering enemy ship of the Portuguese?
On April 2, 1595, Cornelis de Houtman and his brother Frederik de Houtman set sail from Texel to the East with the Amsterdam, the Hollandia, the Mauritius and the pinnace Duyfken. The first voyage ("De eerste schipvaert") was actually not much of a success. On board, the crew was suffering from hunger and diseases like scurvy. The commander had to deal with exhaustion and mutiny among the crew. Only halfway through the journey, near Madagascar, a part of the crew had to be buried. Before long, flaming row developed between the skippers and the merchants, especially since no admiral of the fleet had been appointed.
The ships arrived at the Javanese city of Bantam on June 27, 1596. Here they assumed to be safe from the Portuguese. When a Portuguese ship did arrive, De Houtman let his men attack it. Bantam, too, got involved in the battle, for which the Dutchmen were not appreciated. They hurried out of the place. At a certain point, there were not enough men left to crew all four of the ships. Thus, they decided to set fire to the Amsterdam.
The ships sailed east past Java and arrived at Madura island, where they were received peacefully. Fearing betrayal, De Houtman ordered to attack the locals, which was executed with great cruelty, upon which they fled. Also on the adjacent island of Bali, the Dutch received a warm welcome. Some of the crew even decided to stay there. Since the crew did not want to sail any longer, De Houtman decided not to set course any further to the East, the Moluccas. Instead, he returned home.
The voyage hardly yielded any profit and the company could barely cover its cost with the revenues. Only 89 of a crew of 249 survived. The goal of the voyage however, proving the possibility of reaching Asia past Cape of Good Hope, without being troubled by the Portuguese, was achieved. This expedition was one of the contributing factors to give rise to the establishment of the East India Company (VOC) in 1602.
The journal of this first voyage ("De Eerste Schipvaert") is an outstanding source that still allows us to undergo the very adventures of De Houtman and his men. The story, together with its numerous illustrations, shows the tribes they encountered along the way and how these strangers lived, ate, sang and danced. The Dutchmen wondered about all the new things they encountered, sometimes in fear, sometimes in astonishment.*
*Research provided by Martine Gosselink, head of the History department at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands.
**Translated from original German by Karl Nesseler.
Description compiled by Erik Brockett who is pleased to provide additional information relating to this or other examples of the work of Johann Theodor de Bry available at Arader Galleries. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org