First Latin Edition of the First Dutch Voyage to the East Indies. The Famed Lodewijcksz Journal of the Houtman Voyage.
This journal, written by Willem Lodewijcksz, who sailed with Cornelis de Houtman and Pieter Dirckz Keyser, was the definitive contemporary account of one of the most important voyages in the history of global commerce.
The Houtman Voyage of 1595-97 was the first successful Dutch attempt to circumvent the Iberian monopoly on trade with the Spice Islands of the East Indies. Prior to the completion of the voyage, the merchants of Amsterdam were desperate to enter the global trade in spices and related goods, but because of the ongoing Dutch War of Independence against Spain (also referred to as the Eighty Years' War), they were largely locked out of the primary market with the East Indies. The leading minds of the Netherlands (such as Petrus Plancius, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, and Cornelis Claesz), had gathered secret proprietary Portuguese information (including many maps) about the route to the East Indies and made it available to Dutch merchants through a series of works published earlier in the 1590s. During this time the Dutch also sponsored explorations of the potential for a Northeast or Northwest Passage to the Orient, which they felt would have avoided direct conflict with the Iberian powers of the more straightforward "southeastern" route.
On April 2, 1595, four vessels (the Mauritius, Amsterdam, Hollandia, and Duifje) left Amsterdam headed for the East, having been funded by nine Amsterdam merchants operating as the newly-founded Compagnie van Verre. Though experienced seafarers, the voyage proved that the Dutch had much to learn about transoceanic blue water sailing, as early in the voyage many of those aboard began to suffer from scurvy. Upon reaching Madagascar, the fleet buried 70 of its members. Following Linschoten's instructions, the fleet avoided the Malacca Strait, which was thought to be too heavily patrolled by Portuguese vessels, and instead opted for the more southern Sunda Strait. Having passed through the Strait, the boats stopped at Banten, the westernmost portion of Java. Apparently, Cornelis De Houtman was unpolitic in his conduct with the Sultan of Banten, which resulted in the Dutch failing to procure any spices there. The fleet moved on, sailing east to Madura. On the way there, they were attacked by pirates, and upon reaching Madura, Houtman ordered his men to attack the civilian population as retribution for the attempted piracy. From there the vessels sailed to Bali, where they secured an audience with the local king. They were able to buy pepper at Bali, though not much, and continued to Bawean, where the Amsterdam, was purposely burned so that its crew could be consolidated into the remaining three vessels. At that point the decision was made to not press further to the Moluccas, and the three remaining vessels began the return trip. At Saint Helena, they were denied water by the Portuguese. When they finally reached the Netherlands, only 87 or the original 249 crewmembers were still alive, and they were too weak to even more their own ships.
Despite the extreme hardships and relative unprofitability of the voyage, it was an extremely significant victory for the Dutch, who had proved that they could access the goods of the East Indies with relatively little concern for the claims of the Iberian powers. Within five years of the return of the Houtman voyage, 65 Dutch ships had sailed to the East Indies. Shortly thereafter the VOC (Dutch East India Company) was formed and the spice trade was firmly under the control of the Netherlands.
The first account of the voyage published in Europe was that of an anonymous crewmember of the Hollandia, published in Middelburg by Barent Langenes as early as November 1597. Though the text was incomplete, there as enormous curiosity about the account and it was quickly republished in English.
Cornelis Claesz was not to be surpassed by Langenes, and he secured the more comprehensive journal of Willem Lodewijcksz, one of the most experienced members of the voyage.
Schilder (MCN VII, page 258) writes:
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, Cornelis Claesz had not lost any time either. He had obtained Willem Lodewijcksz's journal, the most complete report of De Houtman's voyage. It far outshone the editions published by Langenes with respect to its composition, size, and number of illustrations. The publication of D'Eerste Boeck. Histoire van Indien, waerinne verhaelt is de avontueren die de Hollandtsche Schepen bejeghent zijn (Amsterdam, 1598) attracted a great deal of attention within the country itself. And the Latin and French translations, which were published in the same year, were highly sought after elsewhere.
The work sometimes appears with De Veer's account of the Barentsz Voyages to the arctic, which was also published by Claesz.
Augustus Keppel, 1st Viscount Keppel (or a member of his family), with the engraved bookplate of Eden Hall and the Keppel arms ("NE CEDE MALIS"), per University of Toronto British Armorial Bindings database.
Antiquariat A.L. Van Gendt & Co., N.V., Amsterdam, 1972.
Private collection, USA.