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The Earliest Obtainable Large-Format Chart of Manila Bay

Fine dark impression of Francois Valentijn's chart of Manila Bay, from his important Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien. The striking chart is the earliest obtainable chart to show Manila Bay in such detail.

The chart is oriented northeast, so as to give the bay a vertical orientation. It shows Manila, Cabitta (Cavite), the Cloister of St. Lucas, the Cloister of St. Domingo, and an unnamed Cloister around the edges of the circular bay. Manila and Cavite are shown with many buildings in relief.

Stippling reveals the droogtes, or dry areas that hug the shore. A compass rose sits dramatically in the middle of the bay. Numerous ships are sailing or idling on the water, underlining the importance of Manila as a port.

Indeed, Manila was one of the most important ports in all of the Pacific. It enjoyed this status for centuries before Europeans came to Southeast and Maritime Asia. The Spanish arrived in the islands, first in 1521 and more permanently in 1565. They took over Manila in 1571, naming it the capital city of their colony, which technically fell under the jurisdiction of the territory of New Spain.

It was associated with New Spain and Spanish America because it was the western terminus of the circular Manila-Acapulco trading route. From 1565 to 1815, galleons would leave Acapulco filled with silver. In Manila, this silver would be piped into Asian, particularly Chinese, markets. The galleons were then filled with Asian trade goods and returned to Acapulco. These galleons were the largest wooden ships ever built, and many were made in Cavite, shown on this chart.

Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien

After spending sixteen years in the East Indies over the course of several voyages, Valentijn returned to his native Dordrecht. There, he finished his history of the East Indies, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien. The book was divided in five parts spread over eight volumes. It had over a thousand illustrations, including some of the most accurate maps of the region published to that date.

For the text, Valentijn borrowed heavily from contemporary works. To create such detailed maps and descriptions, Valentijn most likely also had access to the VOC’s archives. These archives were closely watched and very few scholars or officials gained entry, particularly if they were likely to publish the contents of the repository. Indeed, Valentijn was lucky to see his work published at all.

Today, Valentijn’s work is regarded as a veritable encyclopedia on maritime Asia. It is considered a useful collection of sources, from the eighteenth century and earlier, drawn from the VOC and personal papers. Some of his maps, particularly those of Australia, are drawn from manuscript sources now lost, making his history the lone surviving record of endangered knowledge.

This is a distinct chart showing one of the most important ports in the world. It would make a solid addition to any collection of Philippines maps.

S. Arasaratnam, Francois Valentijn’s Description of Ceylon: (Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien, 1726) (London: Hakluyt Society, 1977); Tooley, R.V. (Australia) 1268; Insulae Indiae Orientalis, publication of the 36th IMCoS Symposium (Ayala Museum, 2018).