Plate LV, Wie wir endtlich widerumb zu Leuten famen so Keussen waren
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 DUTCH ENCOUNTER THE RUSSIANS
Barentsz died on June 20, 1597 after seven days at sea following the departure from Nova Zembla. It is not known whether he was buried on the northern island of Nova Zembla, or at sea. The remaining crew were rescued by a Russian merchant vessel in Kola after seven more weeks at sea. By that time only 12 crewmen remained.
July 28. Here we see on the left the remaining Dutch welcomed during their return journey by a group of Russians. These were the first people the Dutch had seen in about thirteen months. Some people recognized each other. Two years earlier, when the Dutch sailed through the Vaygach Strait, they had come on board the Dutch ship. The Dutch noticed that the Russians were shocked at the condition of the crew, and that they had lost their big beautiful sailing ship. The Russians poured wine for the men and offered them food.
In the background on the left we see the two Dutch boats and on the right two Russian boats.*
Title: How we finally got back among people who were Russians.
Text: Thus we after a long time sailing aimlessly at sea when we reached the Schatz corner we saw two Russian ships because of that we were overjoyed we wanted to dock and set foot on land: but as we saw that they are almost thirty persons who are Russians standing against us we lost our courage nevertheless when we sailed to land we found them walking towards us in all friendship showing us their goodwill. And when we pointed into our mouths therefore indicating that we were scurvy ridden they thought that we desired something to eat therefore one ran to their ship and brought us a big 8 pound loaf of bread with several dried birds therefore we gave him our gratitude and worshiped them and exchanged several biscuits or soft tack. The following day the Russians dug several barrels which they dug there out bid their farewell to us and sailed away.**
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 entrepreneurs 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 email@example.com