Diarium vel Descriptio laboriosissimi, & molestissimi Itineris, factia Guilielmo Cornelli Schoutenio, Hornano. Annis 1615, 1616 & 1617.
Willem Schouten’s journal of the famous 1615-7 Le Maire-Schouten expedition, one of history’s greatest voyages of discovery.
This is Vlasbloem’s 1662 publication of Willem Corneliszoon Schouten’s account of his consequential 1615-7 voyage of discovery. The expedition sought to find a new route to the Pacific and the Spice Islands, in order to avoid the trading monopoly of the Dutch East India Company and find the Southern Continent (Terra Australis). Schouten led the expedition with Jacques Le Maire. It was chartered by Jacques’ father, Issac Le Maire, a founder of the Australian Company.
The expedition remains one of history’s most important voyages of exploration, rounding (and naming) Cape Horn for the first time, and discovering the Strait of Le Maire, Staten Island, some of the Friendly Islands (Tonga Islands). Both Schouten and Le Maire wrote journals during the voyage, but the two navigators were imprisoned by regional Dutch East India Company governor Jan Pieterszoon Coen when when they reached Batavia. Le Maire died shortly after being released, and thus Schouten was the first to publish his version of the circumnavigation, in 1618.
The example offered here is complete: 71 pages of text, two fold-out maps, one fold-out plan, and four fold-out views. It constitutes Vlasbloem’s 3rd edition from 1662; both the first and second editions were published in 1648, and all three are extremely rare. It contains two maps:
1. The South Sea map showing Schouten and Le Maire’s route across the Pacific Ocean from Cape Horn on the ship Eendracht. This important map is often missing; Sabin states that: “The map of the South Sea is evidently not included in the plate numbers on page 71 and is probably lacking in some copies. There is no doubt however of its belonging to the book.”
2. A simple double hemisphere world map notable for its portraits of famous navigators, including of course Schouten himself, along with Magellan, Drake, Von Noort, Cavendish, and Speilbergen. Schouten’s ship is depicted opposite Magellan’s Victoria, drawing a clear parallel between the two voyages of discovery.
Another engraving depicts Port Desire (today’s Puerto Deseado in Patagonia), where the expedition stopped for repairs in December 1615, and where it lost one of its two ships to fire. The remaining views depict scenes from the expedition.
Context is everything
Chartered in 1602 and granted a monopoly over trade with the East Indies by the Dutch government, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) maintained its stranglehold by controlling the two known sailing routes from Europe to the East. Without its permission, no Dutch ship could pass through the Strait of Magellan nor around the Cape of Good Hope. Isaac Le Maire (1558–1624), a wealthy merchant and one of the largest stockholders of the VOC, became disenchanted with the company’s power, for he wanted the opportunity to explore and discover new countries himself and to reap the profits from any resulting commerce. In 1610, he formed a new firm, the Australian Company, which was chartered by the government to engage in trade with China, Japan, northeastern Asia, New Holland (Australia), and South Pacific islands.
Le Maire’s son Jacques was put in charge; Schouten was given the role of expedition navigator. The two-ship venture (Eendracht and Hoorn) departed from Texel, North Holland, on June 14, 1615. They stopped on the west coast of Africa to pick up a load of lemons to help prevent scurvy, then sailed across the Atlantic and spent a month of rest and repair in Port Desire, on the Patagonian coast of South America. While there, the Hoorn was lost in a fire (December 19), and its crew and everything worth salvaging were transferred to the Eendracht.
They proceeded southward, past the Strait of Magellan, catching sight, on January 24, of a passage about eight miles wide between two landmasses: the land on the west they called Mauriceland (today, part of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego), that on the east Statesland (Argentina’s Isla de los Estados or Staten Island). In cold weather, variable winds, and great billowing waves, they tacked back and forth, finally rounding Cape Hoorn (today’s Horn), in hail and rain, on January 31, 1616, for the first time in history.
The ship then headed west out into the vast Pacific. In their ocean crossing, Le Maire and Schouten found and named four islands (now part of the Tuamotu Archipelago). They discovered some of today’s Tonga and Futuna Islands—and were impressed by the idyllic life lived by the natives on one of the latter that they called Hoorn Island, where the earth and sea provided everything one needed. At this time (the middle of May), knowing there was no longer any chance of finding Terra Australis in that latitude, Schouten advocated sailing north of New Guinea and proceeding to the Moluccas, a safer, known route, to which all agreed.
Eventually the Eendracht arrived in Jakarta, future headquarters of the East India Company (which would rename it Batavia). Regional governor of the VOC, Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587–1629), ordered the vessel and its cargo seized, claiming Le Maire and Schouten and their ship had violated the rights of the VOC; their objections, he argued, would have to be settled back in Holland. The men were put on VOC ships and sent homeward bound on December 14. Le Maire got sick and died en route; Schouten arrived in Zeeland on July 1, 1617.
With the help of Le Maire’s father, Isaac, Schouten pleaded their case before the Dutch legislature, ultimately succeeding (1622) and receiving compensation for the ship and its cargo. Isaac was able to retrieve his son’s diaries, which he immediately published in 1622. Thus ended, without fanfare or much honor, the saga of the greatest Dutch expedition into the Pacific Ocean.
Excellent. Minor staining. Maps clean and intact. In small quarto, 19th century binding. 4 nn leaves. 71 pages, collation complete.
Book: 13 x 18 cm (5.1 x 7 in)
South Sea map: 39 x 18 (15.4 x 7 in)
World map: 22 x 18 cm (8.7 x 7 in)