13. Ledger of the chief bookkeeper

In this General Ledger the Chief Bookkeeper entered data on all kinds of financial transactions by the company. This information was ordered according to name, product or the goal on which the money was spent. The VOC Archive contains a large amount of this kind of ledgers, but also journals, cash registers and balance books; together they form a treasure trove of

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A FLOURISHING TRADE EMPIRE

A monopoly on trade with the East Indies On 20 March 1602, the States-General granted the monopoly for trade with the East Indies to the (United) Dutch East India Company. From that date onwards, it was only the VOC that was permitted to trade on behalf of the Dutch Republic east of Africa and west of South America. The purpose

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12. VOC charter

An impressive seal and precious parchment; the VOC charter is a significant document and a prominent document in the Nationaal Archief collections. It granted the VOC the monopoly of trading with Asia. The Early Companies – Dutch companies which were already trading with the East Indies before 1602 – are amalgamated in the VOC from 20 March 1602. The creation

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14. VOC governance

The so-called Heren Zeventien (the Gentlemen Seventeen), were central in the VOC. They were in fact the centralised VOC board in the Republic itself. Two or three times a year, a board meeting was held alternating between Amsterdam (for a period of six years) and Middelburg (for two years). The representatives of all six branches – called chambers – meet

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15. Big and small investors

Cornelis, the son of Frans Wittens, invested 53,000 guilders on the Zeeland Chamber of the VOC. That was the highest participation. Small investments were also welcome. The servant Betken Bake asked her employer Thobias Roelsius, the City of Middelburg’s physician, to invest 72 guilders on her behalf. The Zeeland capital for the VOC August 1602 Archief VOC, inv. no. 13794

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16. Criticism of the VOC (in the drawer beneath the showcase)

“How damaging this is, doing a disservice to these countries.” Isaac le Maire was very critical of the VOC. He was vociferously against the plans to further expand the monopoly territories. In his opinion the States General should have prohibited this. He also wants the VOC to be limited to trading in spices only. Moreover, he believed that the governors

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17. Investing in the VOC

This register lists the names of all the individuals who invested in the Amsterdam Chamber in 1602. With an investment of 85,000 guilders, Isaac le Maire was the biggest investor. But Dignum Jans participated too; she was the maidservant of Barent Lampe, the chief accounting clerk of the Amsterdam VOC. She invested a sum of 50 guilders. The Amsterdam capital

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18. Resignation of Le Maire

The VOC accused Le Maire, one of the governors, of fraud. He was alleged to be involved in a commercial voyage to the East Indies that the VOC had no knowledge of. He was forced to resign on 22 February 1605 and signed an agreement undertaking not to compete with the VOC. Resignation of Isaac le Maire as governor of

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19. New route (in the drawer beneath the showcase)

Isaac le Maire wanted to discover a new route to the monopolised territories of the VOC that ran south of the Americas. To achieve this he founded the Austraalsche Compagnie (‘Australian Company’) in 1614. In order to obtain permission from the States-General, he kept his intentions in the dark. All he said was that he only wanted to explore a

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20. Unwanted success (in the drawer beneath the showcase)

In 1616, Jacob le Maire, the son of Isaac, succeeded in rounding the southernmost tip of South America under the flag of the Austral Company. A superb achievement: this unlocked a new passage to the charter territories of the VOC. Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen took this as a threat to the monopoly of the VOC. He seized all Le

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21. Le Maire Strait

The passage between Tierra del Fuego and the Islas de los Estados was given the name Le Maire Strait. Thus Isaac and Jacob le Maire were honoured for their discovery of a new route to the VOC trading area. Le Maire Strait Willlem Jansz Blaeu, approximately 1635 Verzameling Atlassen, kaartenboeken en facsimile-uitgaven, inv. no. 2.11

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22. VOC shares

This is the second-oldest VOC share. In reality this is a proof of payment of an investment in the VOC. But soon enough, these documents were traded as if they were shares. The oldest share dates from 9 September 1606 and is kept in the West-Frisian Archives in Hoorn. Share in the Delft Chamber of the VOC in the name of

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23. Rules regarding shares in the VOC

Isaac le Maire wanted to thwart the VOC because he was forced to resign from the company. He came up with a clever plan using his ‘Great Company’. He was going to deal in VOC shares he did not yet own. The trick was that Le Maire agreed to a high price with buyers of stocks and shares he would

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24. The resolutions of the Heren Zeventien

God’s blessings for the work of the VOC. This is what the Heren Zeventien ask for in this prayer. Reynier Pauw, one of the VOC governors from Amsterdam wrote this text in the record of resolutions. All the meetings and resolutions made by the Heren Zeventien are written down in this logbook. The right hand page lists the names of

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25. Meeting chamber

Maps of Asia, paintings of trading offices in India and Batavia Castle decorated the main hall of the East India House. A fitting environment for the meetings of the governors of the Amsterdam VOC Chamber. The meetings of the Heren Zeventien also took place here in Amsterdam. The meeting of the Heren Zeventien Simon Fokke, 1771 On loan from the

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26. Letter of application

Carpenter Dirck van Haarst offers himself in this letter to the Amsterdam VOC Chamber as a shipwright. In addition to a summary of the types of ship he has built and for whom, he provides a list with references. The VOC requires much personnel, not only on the ships and in Asia but also in the Republic itself. An open

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27. Launch

Dirck van Haarst’s application was successful! He was the naval architect when the ships the Meermin, Batavier and Doggersbank (the Mermaid, the Batavian and Dogger Bank) were launched with much celebration at the Amsterdam VOC shipyard. The launching of three VOC ships in Amsterdam Cornelis Brouwer (after an original by Jurriaen Andriesse), 1783 On loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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28. Departure logs

All the ships that sailed to the East Indies for the VOC in the 18th century were listed in this departure log. Comments on the return voyage to the Republic were sometimes added: the size of the crew, names of the captains and the year of construction of the ships, their length and tonnage (volume). The personnel of the VOC consisted for

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29. Shipwrights in a festive mood

Here we see shipwrights from the Amsterdam shipyard parading through the city in celebration. They are celebrating the restoration of Stadtholder William V with help from the Prussian army. In the cities with a VOC Chamber, the economy prospered. An army of shipwrights was already needed for just for the large number of ships that had to be built. A

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30. VOC ship D’Batavier

This is the model of the VOC ship D’Batavier from the 18th century. The ship carried 42 guns. Each of the six chambers of the VOC is responsible for building its own ships. In the period between 1602 and 1795 a total of 1465 new ships were launched. The majority of these were provided by the Amsterdam Chamber – 728

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31. East India House

At the bottom left there is a drawing of East India House. The VOC directors met in this house, located on the Oude Hoogstraat in Amsterdam. The other cities with a VOC Chamber also acquired such offices. This plan is very special; only two copies have been preserved and this is the only one that has been coloured. The East

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32. Territory covered by the charter

This chart shows the territory where only the VOC was permitted to trade on behalf of the States-General: east of Africa and west of South America. It paints an impressive picture of the incredible size of the area where the company was active; from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan. The territory covered by the VOC charter Anonymous, approximately

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400 Years of tricks in share trading

Isaac le Maire was far in advance of his time selling shares he didn’t yet own; manipulation of the market by spreading false rumours and thus make the exchange value drop. This strongly resembles the tricks of share dealers nowadays to earn a quick buck. Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk immersed himself in the financial world of the City of London and investigated

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33. Willem van Loon

A fur coat, draped loosely over his black velvet clothing makes it quite clear that we are dealing with a rich man. From the founding of the VOC in 1602 until his death in 1618, Willem Jansz van Loon (1537-1618) was one of the governors in the Rotterdam Chamber. You can watch a short interview with Philippa van Loon –

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34. Glorified and vilified

Ruthless and commercially successful: that was Jan Pieterszoon Coen in a nutshell. He was only thirty years old when the Heren Zeventien appointed him to the highest office in the Dutch East Indies. Following the excessive violence on the Banda Islands, the Heren Zeventien recalled him to the Netherlands and requested him to temper the violence. They nevertheless rewarded him

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35. From orphan to Director of the VOC

The 74-year-old Wollebrand Geleynssen reflects confidently on an impressive career with the VOC. As a 16-year-old runaway from an orphanage, he became a merchant in India and ultimately a director in Persia. When his post as governor in Persia ended, Wollebrand Geleynssen was given the command over the returning fleet of 1647-48 back to the Netherlands. This was a particular

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36. Seascape

Hendrick Vroom paints the bustling activity at sea and aboard the ship with a lot of attention to detail. It is this type of ship that sails to the East Indies in large numbers from the end of the 16th century onwards. It is difficult to decide whether Vroom is showing us a picture of war or of trade. That’s

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37. VOC symbolism

This painting is full of symbolism and resembles a propaganda picture for the VOC and Amsterdam. The woman in the centre represents the VOC Chamber of Amsterdam. Mercury, the god of commerce, stands beside her and Neptune, the god of the sea, can be seen to the right. A VOC ship is sailing in the background bearing the arms of the

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CHARTS AND MAPS FOR THE COMPANY

Cartographers Without good charts, the VOC fleet would not have arrived safely at its destinations. But charts and maps are also indispensable for governing an enterprise spread out and active over half the globe. The company therefore employed its own cartographers, who were based in Amsterdam and, after 1630, in Batavia. For the long voyages across the oceans the ships

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38. The Atlas Maior

This is an early chart of the important trading areas of the VOC. Willem Jansz Blaeu includes this chart already in his Novus Atlas in 1635. That is just two years after his appointment as cartographer for the company. Thirty years later this chart also appears in the Atlas Maior of his son Joan Blaeu. At the bottom on the

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39. Hand-drawn charts

Charts are particularly valuable.  They ensured that ships arrived safely at their destinations. That is why the VOC did not want to have this information fall into the wrong hands. Only ships were allowed to use these charts. That is why they were not printed. Until 1753, VOC ships sailing out were issued hand-drawn charts only. Every ship had at

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40. The atlas as a status symbol (behind the curtain)

The Atlas Maior by Blaeu is the supreme atlas of the 17th century. It was the most complete atlas in existence with approximately six hundred maps distributed over 9 to 12 volumes. Such a splendid book was also a status symbol. The States-General frequently presented a copy of the atlas as a gift to foreign rulers. This Atlas is displayed

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45. New cartographical knowledge

This chart from 1760 is much more detailed than the charts in the Blaeu atlas of a century before. It was the result of a lot of newly acquired knowledge in the field of cartography. This chart is part of an extensive hand-drawn atlas drawn by Gerrit de Haan. He was the principal of the VOC cartographers in Batavia. Chart

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41. Responsibility

Charts and navigation instruments are important tools on board a ship. But not all captains took their responsibility seriously: equipment and provisions disappeared frequently. So the VOC imposed some measures. Each one of the ship’s officers (the skipper, the master, and the first and second mate) was given the responsibility for a given number of charts and instruments. They had

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42. Basculant Compass

A compass helps one find which direction is north and subsequently helps to determine what course the ship should take. This basculant compass is of a special type, which is as it were independently suspended in a box. So the compass rose always remained horizontal, even in unsteady conditions. It was easy to hold for the helmsman and for the

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43. Position at sea

It is quite difficult to establish where one is at sea. This instrument helps the navigator in determining how far north or south the ship is, the degree of latitude. He did this by measuring the angle of the sun or a star relative to the horizon. It was not quite possible yet in the 17th century to precisely calculate

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44. Sounding lead

This was used for sounding the depth of water, it is a lead cylinder on a long line, also called a plummet. If the lead was plunged into the sea, the depth to the bottom could be measured by the length of the line in the water. The lead could also dredge up a sample of the seabed. The sediment

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46. Their own printing shop

Map maker Willem Jansz. Blaeu liked to keep the printing of his maps in his own hands. He even made improvements in the printing process. The manual press was modified for instance so that the copper plate was pressed more evenly across the paper. From that time on this type of press was called the Blaeu printing press. Willem’s printing

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47. The world in Amsterdam

This is one of the images made by Johannes Vingboons for Joan Blaeu. Blaeu planned to expand his Atlas Maior with charts and views of world-wide locations. Vingboons did not have to travel around the globe and was able to draw the whole world from Amsterdam. He could look at every map and chart of the world he wanted to

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East India Houses

A traveler who visited on of the six VOC cities in the 17thand 18th centuries wil have had a hard time escaping from the company. The presence of the VOC not only lead to much economic activity, it also influenced the townscape. Each VOC chamber was responsible for building and equipping its own ships to the east. This meant that

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