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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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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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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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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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 least

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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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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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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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34 | Adored 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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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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81 | Pewter plate

In October 1616, Dirk Hartogh discovered an island off the west coast of Australia. He left a flattened pewter plate behind with an inscription to mark his discovery. The later expedition led by De Vlamingh found this plate in 1697. On the chart made by Victor Victorsz on his exploration of the Southern Lands (Australia’s west coast) one can read

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82 | Swapping plates

In 1697, Willem de Vlamingh took back home the old pewter plate that Dirk Hartogh had left behind on the Australian west coast eighty years earlier. He put his own plate in the same spot, bearing his own inscriptions. This is a replica of this plate. The original is in the Western Australian Museum in Perth. Replica of Willem de

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83 | Muster list

The captain of the ship Geelvink that left for an expedition to the Southland was Willem de Vlamingh from the island of Vlieland. He took Joannes Breuer from Copenhagen on board as his first officer. The lay pastor on the ship was Victor Victorsz from Amsterdam, who was going to make drawings of the coast and the islands en route.

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80 | Victor Victorsz pictured the ‘Southland’

In 1796 Victor Victorsz was on board the last VOC expedition to the ‘Southland’ (the west coast of Australia) under the command of Willem de Vlamingh. Victorsz is both a lay pastor and a painter. He made sketches of unknown coasts and islands. De Vlamingh discovers the ‘Southland’ Victor Victorsz, 1696-1697 Verzameling Buitenlandse Kaarten Leupe, inv. no. 509

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84 | Charting the coast of Australia

Victor Victorsz succeeded in charting a major part of the Australian west coast. En route he also produced drawings of the coast line and islands they came across, such as Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Coastal profile of the island of Tristan da Cunha 1696-1697 Archief VOC, inv. no. 5060

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85 | Looking for a missing ship

The newly launched flagship the Geelvinck was the most important ship in the expedition of Willem de Vlamingh to the Southland. The smaller Nyptangh and the Weseltje escorted the Geelvinck. Apart from being a voyage of reconnaissance by De Vlamingh, the journey was also intended to find the missing ship De Ridderschap van Holland (‘The Knighthood of Holland’). Alas, they

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86 | An island full of rats

‘There are only a few birds and no animals other than a kind of rat, as large as a common cat, whose shit is to be found all over the island’ thus wrote one of the sailors of the Nyptangh in the ship’s log on 31 December 1696. The island where these unknown animals were observed was named Rottenest (modern-day

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116 | Murderer’s Bay

Greetings or declaration of war? When Abel Tasman dropped anchor in a bay in New Zealand on 18 December 1642, he thought he was greeted with a fanfare by the Maoris. He responded to this sign of welcome with his own bugle signals. That was the wrong interpretation, as the next day showed. The Maoris attacked the small boat in

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114 | Tasmania

Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand and Tasmania by accident in 1642. He was actually en route to New Guinea and Australia for the VOC. He named the island Van Diemensland after his principal, governor-general Van Diemen. It is much later that the island was given its present name: Tasmania. Meeting the Maori people of New Zealand made a huge impression

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115 | A stained reputation

His voyage to the Philippines and Thailand were no success. When Abel Tasman returned to Java, he was accused and charged. He was said to have hanged a man without giving him a trial. The Court of Justice found him guilty and sentenced him to a penalty of paying damages. It was quite a stain on the reputation of Tasman.

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113 | Criticism on Abel Tasman

The VOC was not satisfied with the results of Abel Tasman’s expedition to Australia. He did not discover any new trading areas or new routes across the seas. As can be seen on this chart, Tasman almost completely left out the south and the east of Australia, after all the most fertile parts of the continent. These coastlines hardly have

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167 | Korea

VOC accountant-general Hendrik Hamel suffered a double stroke of bad luck. He first suffered a shipwreck in 1653 with the Sperwer off the Korean island of Chejo-do. He was immediately taken prisoner together with seven of his colleagues. After thirteen years he managed to escape to the Dutch settlement Deshima in Japan. The report by Hamel remained the only source

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| In the footsteps of Hendrik Hamel

Fragments from the radio documentary ‘in the footsteps of Hendrick Hamel, explorer against his will’, spoken by Fedja van Huet The Humanist Broadcasting Organisation, 2001 On loan from the Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum

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168 | Stowage list

The precious goods from China had to be laden very carefully in the ship Ouder-Amstel. This detailed drawing, a stowage list, made this overtly clear. Loading a VOC ship was an exacting art. The limited space has to be packed efficiently and it is important that the ship retains its balance. The first mate was responsible for this task. Stowage

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170 | East Indiaman

This type of East Indiaman with a high stern with a poop deck and a flat transom, could hold a huge cargo. It was therefore the favourite type of ship used for the voyage between Amsterdam and Batavia, built and designed specifically for the VOC. It was called spiegelretourschip in Dutch (spiegel is the word for the decorated transom). In

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169 | Vermin

Rats, mice, fleas and lice did not add much to life on board a VOC ship in the way of comfort. Having an itch was an everyday occurrence. Lice combs were therefore part of a seaman’s standard kit. Lice comb from the VOC ship the Vliegent Hart Approximately 1735 On loan from MuZeeum, Flushing

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171 | Dress code on board

English hats, linen smocks, short Frisian skirts – striped or plain – and long shirts; the crew wore predominantly practical clothing on board. That clarifies this list summarising the ship’s clothing and other articles for the crew. Different clothes were needed on the ships that sailed at Easter from the fleet that departed at Christmas. List and rules regarding the

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173 | A fleet of VOC ships sailing in formation (behind the curtain)

When VOC ships leave in a flotilla, they were often ordered to sail in formation. The most important ship sailed in the centre and the faster ones sailed at the head. These ship models are copies of the original types of ship used by the VOC. The names of these models (Morgenster, Flissinghe, Gouden Leeuw, Walcheren) were inspired by historical

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172 | Shipboard rules

Flogging, keelhauling and iron branding were included in the tough punishments for breaking the shipboard regulations. To keep life on board at a decent level, maintaining discipline was sorely needed. After all, the crew lived in each other’s lap on the long voyages. The rules were laid down in an official document, on which the crew swore an oath before

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174 | A collective complaint

Sleeping below the pigs and other inconveniences; the crew of the ship Huis ter Eult had enough. They complained to the captain. They deliberately signed their complaint with their signatures forming a circle. They were united in their purpose and it made it impossible for the captain to single out one of them as the leader of the conspirators. Together

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175 | Before and behind the mast

The ship’s surgeon was one of the most important officers on board. His cabin was nicely decorated with prints on the wall and a coffee service. There was a world of difference in lifestyle between ‘behind the mast’ and ‘before the mast’. Behind the mast there were the officers, merchants and passengers eating at a cloth covered dining table and

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176 | Sea-chest

Every man on board had a sea-chest for his private possessions and for storing clothing, extra food and gin. It happened that these chests were broken into on voyage by another member of the crew. That was a good reason for the VOC governors to set high penalties for theft on board. To warn people, a notice was nailed to

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177 | Mess mates

The crew on a VOC ship is divided into messes, each consisting of seven to ten hands who carry out the same work on board. They would share their food from one bowl, called bak in Dutch and this also became the Dutch word for ‘mess’. The Dutch have an expression meaning that if one missed out, you did not

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178 | Food on board

The average breakfast aboard a VOC ship consisted of groats and prunes, thinned down with ale. For luncheon there were peas, beans and lard. Sometimes salted beef or fish was served and the leftovers were eaten in the evening with bread and ale. This diet in the provisioning book did not contain a sufficient amount of vitamins. As a result,

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180 | Ale

Ale was the alternative to spoilt drinking water. No less than 20,000 litres of ale were taken aboard some of the larger VOC ships, about 150 litres per hand. In addition to a measure of wine or gin, a hand would drink one to three pints a day. The ship’s surgeon might have poured some Spanish wine or brandy in

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179 | Clean drinking water

One had to be very thrifty with drinking water, only a limited amount can be taken on board and it goes off quite quickly in warmer climates. The crew had to drink the water with clenched teeth to stop them from drinking bugs. No wonder that it was an enormous improvement when at the end of the 17th century a

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181 | Provisions

How did they keep food fresh and edible on such long sea voyages? How and where food was stored made a lot of difference. Commander Jan de Boer drew up this plan of the storage distribution of food in the hold. A ventilator in the cook’s galley (above the letter H on the drawing) ensures that it will not become

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182 | Sentence for a murderer

The story of the Batavia is an unimaginable drama. The ship first grounded off the Australian west coast. The crew fortunately managed to get themselves to safety on some islands. Chief merchant François Pelsaert left in an open boat for Batavia to get help. Apothecary and deputy merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz and a few followers saw their chance to seize power.

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183 | Journal

‘Sad journal entry in that we lost our ship Batavia, having struck the Abrolhos or Cliffs of Frederick Houtman’. Chief merchant François Pelsaert had the command over the ship Batavia and kept a journal. In it he accurately described the interrogation of the mutineers on the ship after running aground off Australia. He also recorded a list of the fate

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206 | Bestseller

The horrendous events after the grounding of the ship Batavia are described in the journal of François Pelsaert. It became very popular and was published in 1647. The story is still captivating: the bestseller Batavia’s Graveyard was published by Mike Dash in 2005. Ongeluckige voyagie van ‘t schip Batavia, … François Pelsaert, Amsterdam, 1647 On loan from UvA Erfgoed, Amsterdam

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184 | Praying for a safe passage

Gales, mutiny, lack of food and water and shipwreck; VOC ships had to defy numerous dangers on their voyages. The relief was huge when a large obstacle had been passed safely. To reflect on a safe passage of a perilous part of the route, a prayer was included in the instructions for lay chaplains and ministers. The prayer also begged

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185 | Keep your eyes open

It was already well known in 1619 that the reefs of the coast of Australia were extraordinarily perilous. Frederik Houtman could see them from his ship Dordrecht. The name ‘Houtman Abrolhos’ for this part of the coast speaks volumes. ‘Abrolhos’ is a Portuguese word literally meaning ‘keep your eyes open’. In other words: watch out! However, these were exactly the

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210 | Demise of the VOC

In the course of the 18th century, the VOC suffered increasingly greater losses. The period of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784) really brought the company to its knees, it is no longer possible to trade with the East-Indies. When the French armies expel the Stadtholder from the Dutch Republic in 1795, short of actually dying, the VOC is no more.

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| Research into the Geldermalsen

Interview with Peter Diebels regarding his research into the location and lading bill of the Geldermalsen in the 1980s. Partly based on comprehensive archival research carried out in the Nationaal Archief in 1983/1984 by Peter Diebels and Harry de Bles, students of maritime history, Michael Hatcher discovered the wreck of the Geldermalsen in 1984. In addition to all kinds of

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209 | The cabin boys of Bontekoe

An exciting boy’s book; that is what Johan Fabricius made from the story of the voyage of Bontekoe. His book met with huge success and translations appeared in many European and Asian languages. First edition of De scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (‘The cabin boys of Bontekoe’) Johan Fabricius, The Hague 1924 On loan from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague

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208 | Success

The first edition of Willem Bontekoe’s logbook is an immediate success. After the first edition in 1646, printed by Jan Jansz Deutel, over seventy reprints appeared. Journael ofte Gedenckwaerdige beschrijvinge van de Oost-Indische Reyse van Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe van Hoorn (Journal or memorable descriptions of the East-Indian voyages of Willem Ysbrantsz Bonte-koe of Hoorn) Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe, Utrecht 1649 Library

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| The cabin boys of Bontekoe – fragment (behind the curtain)

Film The story of the ocean voyage of Bontekoe from 1646 was adapted for the big screen in 2007 based on Johan Fabricius’ De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (‘The cabin boys of Bontekoe’). The replica of the VOC ship Batavia – moored in Lelystad – played a prominent part in the movie. Film clip ‘De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe’ 2007 Director Steven

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207 | Ship’s log of Bontekoe

VOC commander Willem IJsbrantsz Bontekoe from Hoorn became famous for his logbook. In the logbook he described his adventurous voyage to the Chinese coast and the return journey from Batavia to the Dutch Republic. The logbook by Bontekoe 1622-1625 Archief VOC, inv. no. 5049

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205 | Small open boat

Jan Styns is one of the sailors whose ship Zeewijk struck the dangerous reefs of the ‘Houtman Abrolhos’. The drowning crew managed to reach an island and kept themselves alive for months. When rescue failed to appear they built an open boat from the timbers of the wreck. 82 of the original 208 men aboard managed to reach Batavia. Styns

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204 | The wreck of the Geldermalsen

After an extensive search in the archives Michael Hatcher discovered the wreck of the Geldermalsen in 1984. This was a huge surprise: in addition to all kinds of utensils, he found 160,000 pieces of china and 125 ingots of pure gold. The cargo was auctioned at Christie’s in Amsterdam in 1986 for more than 37 million guilders. Auction catalogue of

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203 | Porcelain protected by tea

This bone china or porcelain is still in perfect condition, although it has been on the bottom of the sea for over two hundred years. How can it be that this fragile porcelain from the wrecked Geldermalsen was still almost completely intact? This was because of the tea. Over the course of time the tea covered the porcelain with a

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202 | Loss of the Geldermalsen

‘…they saw that the ship had already struck and could not be moved (…) to their utter dejection’. Loaded to the gunwale with Chinese silk, tea, porcelain and gold, the Geldermalsen returns to the Republic in 1752. But the ship ran into the Admiral Stellingwerf reef north of Sumatra. It was a real drama: the ship struck a hole in

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143 | New York (behind the curtain)

Captain of the Halve Maen, Henry Hudson, set foot ashore on Manhattan island in 1609. With this act he founded the basis of the Dutch settlement New Amsterdam, the present-day New York. VOC ship the Halve Maen Anonymous, not dated On loan from the MBSOV, Den Helder

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138 | Wintering on Nova Zembla

The Dutch made several attempts at the end of the 16th century to find a navigable route to Asia via the northern polar areas. If they had such a route, they would be able to leave the Portuguese standing. But their plan was a failure and the expedition led by Willem Barentsz in 1596 ran into a woeful disaster. His

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139 | Leather shoes

‘The leather of our shoes stuck frozen to our feet, it became as hard as horn and formed a white mould on the inside. We were no longer able to wear them and made wide clogs with the uppers made from sheepskin, in which we could wear three or four pairs of socks over each other’. Gerrit de Veer wrote

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137 | Chart atlas of Barentsz

Willem Barentsz was not only an excellent navigator, he was also a talented mapmaker. It is likely that this chart atlas was made by him together with the famous cartographer Petrus Plancius. It is an extremely rare specimen; very few charts and maps by Barentsz have been preserved. Nieuwe beschryvinghe ende Caertboeck Vande Midlantsche Zee (‘New Description and Chart Book

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| Nova Zembla – fragment (behind the curtain)

Fragment from the film ‘Nova Zembla’ Director: Reinout Oerlemans, 2011 The overwintering of Willem Barentsz and his crew in the Saved House on Nova Zembla is one of the most famous narratives in Dutch history. Courtesy of Kaap Holland Film  

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142 | New-Amsterdam

From 1609 onwards, a buoyant trade in fur developed on the newly discovered island of ‘Manahatta’. The Dutch founded their own settlement on the island and called it New Amsterdam. In 1667 the Dutch ceded the colony to the English in exchange for their colony of the Surinam. New Amsterdam was given the name of New York. View of New

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140 | Manhattan

In 1609, the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC commissioned Henry Hudson to find a new route to Asia. He did not succeed, but he did discover the island named ‘Manahatta’, the modern-day Manhattan. He earned 800 guilders with this voyage, roughly ten months’ worth of pay. He received an advance payment of 150 guilders from the Amsterdam VOC Chamber on

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141 | Purchase of Manhattan

‘We have purchased the island Manhattes from the savages for the price of 60 guilders’. Pieter Schagen was deputised by the States-General to the meeting of the board of the West-Indian Company, the Heren Negentien (the Gentlemen Nineteen). He wrote a letter to the States-General to inform them of this remarkable news on 5 November 1626. Schagen also mentioned the

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| The VOC on film (behind the curtain)

Traces of the VOC In the 1960’s and 70’s, Bob Barendsen was the consul-general in Calcutta and the representative for the Calcutta-Batavia line of the Netherlands Shipping Company. He shot film of the old VOC buildings and other brick and stone remnants of the company. Traces of the VOC in India Approximately 1960-1980 Collectie H. Barendsen

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62 | Reconstruction of the dodo

This is a modern reconstruction of the dodo. In contrast with earlier, the bird is depicted here as a slimmer bird. The dodo is the first animal that became extinct because of intervention by man. Perhaps that is why there has always been a lot of interest in the animal: we know its behaviour and the appearance of the dodo

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63 | Dodo

“The size of our swans”, thus Jacob van Heemskerck described the dodo, which he encountered on Mauritius. Outward bound to the Moluccan islands he stopped there to stock up fresh food and water for his fleet of five ships. The drawings of the dodo in the logbook of the Gelderland are unique. These are the only sketches in the world

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64 | Mauritius

Mauritius had an abundance of clean water, fruit, fish and fowl. It was therefore the perfect station for VOC ships on their voyage to Asia. Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck named the island after Stadtholder Prince Maurits. The Dutch founded a small colony here in 1638. Chart of the Island of Mauritius Anonymous, 1700-1750 Verzameling Buitenlandse Kaarten Leupe, inv. no. 333

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211 | European trading posts

When the European merchants were granted permission by China to sail on Canton, the VOC equipped their ships for buying tea, silk and porcelain there in 1728. In exchange the Dutch supplied silver or opium. The flags indicate various European settlements which were located outside the town walls of Canton. View of the European loges in Canton Anonymous, approximately 1840-1845

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212 | A mark of good taste

It was comfortable to wear and quickly became a popular garment worn indoors by European men and women: the Japanese robe. The models made from silk and gold or silver brocade are much loved. Having one’s portrait painted wearing a Japanese robe not only displayed one’s wealth, but also one’s superior taste. Portrait of the Amsterdam merchant Abraham van Bronckhorst

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213 | Clara the rhinoceros

A portrait of Clara the rhinoceros that Jan Albert Sichterman received in 1738 as a present from the ruler of Bengal. Clara became the pet of the Sichterman family. Jean Baptiste Oudry, 1749 Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Germany  

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214 | King of Groningen

A bold leader surrounded by two sons and a loyal dog. That is how Jan Albert Sichterman wanted to be depicted. After 28 years in the East, he returned as an immensely rich man to his place of birth, Groningen. He kept treasures of art in his grand mansion: bone china tea services, paintings, books and curiosities. The story went

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