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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Original Manuscript Map on Vellum of the Indian Ocean Showing the Route to and from the Cape of Good Hope to the Sunda Strait

GRAAF, Isaac de (1668-1743).
[Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie - V.O.C,
February 5th 1741 - June 8th 1741].

Single sheet of heavy animal vellum, chalked and limed on recto, plain on verso (ca 36 x 48 inches).


ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT MAP IN RED, GREEN AND BLACK INK showing the Indian Ocean centred on the Isle Saint Brandon with Rodriges Island nearby.

Showing the coastlines in the far west of the Cape of Good Hope (partially obscured) at the southern tip of Africa, the southern tip of Madagascar, and the islands of Mauritius and Reunion Island; in the north-east is the island of Sumatra shown with Java off its southern point; in the south-east is the coast of central and southern Western Australia; decorated with a fine compass rose pointing north, red and green rumb lines, and divided north and south, east and west by lines of latitude and longitude (old vertical and horizontal folds, lower corners singed with loss, thumbed, dust-soiled and stained).

Provenance: Inscribed "1739, / t'Amsterdam / Bij Isaak de Graaf" middle left edge; with the course of an as yet unidentified Dutch East-Indiaman plotted from off the coast west of Batavia on the 5th February 1741 to the Cape of Good Hope in a Dutch hand, and the course back ending a long way west of the same coastline on the 8th of June 1741 in an English hand; inscribed in ink in an early hand on verso:

EXTREMELY SCARCE, showing the closely guarded trade-route of Dutch East-Indiamen from the Spice Islands of the East Indies to the Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost tip of Africa; covering the area delineated by 21 degrees north to 44 degrees south and 38
degrees east to 133 degrees east.

Essentially a secret sea chart intended for the sole use of the V.O.C. [Dutch East India Company] and the pilots of their ships, and so showing only the briefest of geographical information on a 'need to know' basis. The chart would have been issued to the pilot at the beginning of his voyage, signed for by him, with the intention that it be returned to V.O.C. officials on completion of the voyage. In the case of this chart the return voyage seems to have been made under English command, and it is highly likely, given the inscription in English on the verso, that the pilot retained the map, explaining why this map remains outside the extensive archives of the V.O.C.

A close consultation of the V.O.C. archives shows that they do not have a record of a vessel making the voyage that corresponds with the dates plotted on this map. According to Dr. Jeremy Green, Head of Marine Archeology at the Museum of Western Australia this "suggests that this was a very unusual vessel involved in the inter-regional trade, meaning a vessel that operated within the Indies, not what was called a retourschip that sailed between the Netherlands and the Indies and back. These inter-Asian vessels were thought only to travel between the factories in Asia, ranging from Hormuz in the West to Nagasaki in the East. We only recently discovered that there was also a trade between Batavia and the Cape, which carried supplies and often called in at Mauritius ...These voyages have not been recorded in the way the retourschips have"

The coastlines outlined in this map are mainly very scant, in case the map should come accidentally or by design into the hands of commercial rivals, the coastline of Western Australia is depicted in some detail, corresponding with those features first recorded by Hessel Gerritsz on his 1627 Dutch map: "Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht" [Chart of Eendracht Land, i.e. the term the Dutch used for Australia until 1700]. They include: Willems Rivier [speculatively assumed to be the Ashburton River near the north West Cape and discovered by the ship Mauritius in 1618]; Dirk Hartoghs Reede [i.e. Dirk Hartog's anchorage, discovered in 1616]; Houtmans Abrolhos [i.e. the archipelago discovered by Frederick de Houtman in 1619 and now known as the Houtman Abrolhos], Tortelduif [now known as Turtle Dove Shoal, discovered by the ship Tortelduif which later arrived at Batavia on June 21, 1624; I. de Edels Landt [i.e. Jacob de Edels Land, and later anglicised Jacob Dedel, who was supercargo officer aboard the ship Amsterdam captained by Maarten Corneliszoon and led by Frederick de Houtman aboard the lead ship Dordrecht in 1619], and t'Landt van de Leeuwin [i.e. Land made by the ship Leeuwin in March 1622. "This area is thought to represent the coast between present-day Hamelin Bay and Point D'Entrecasteaux, which encompasses Cape Leeuwin]. The small crosses offshore are almost certainly reefs, that were a hazard for the Dutch and other ships that got too close to the Western Australian coast. Note also the Tryal Rocks off the northwest coast of Australia, recognised as a hazard since the Engish ship Trial had shipwrecked there in June 1622" (The National Library of Australia online catalogue MAP RM 4333 LOC PIC Scr  109).

Although the particular Dutch East Indiaman whose course is so carefully plotted on this magnificent sea chart is as yet unknown, all VOC ships voyaging to the Far East were required to follow a prescribed route, sailing south from the Cape of Good Hope until they encountered the strong westerly trade winds between the 35th and 40th southern parallels. "The ships were then to sail due east until they reached the Isle Amsterdam before turning northward. This became known as the Brouwer Route, devised by the Dutch sea explorer Hendrik Brouwer in 1611 and found to halve the duration of the journey from Europe to Java compared to the previous route which had involved following the coast of East Africa northwards through the Mozambique Channel then across the Indian Ocean sometimes via India. By 1616 the Brouwer Route was compulsory for Dutch sailors bound for Java". 

"Famous for his work, Isaak de Graaf, the Dutch cartographer was one of the greatest map makers of his time. Since his father Abraham de Graaf was also a renowned cartographer, Isaak de Graaf had the privilege of learning about maps from an early age. Isaak de Graaf was born to Susanna Pietersz Eppingh and Abraham de Graaf in the year 1668. He started his career as a clerk cum cartographer in the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company. Soon he was appointed the supervisor of the Atlas Amsterdam. As a reward for his excellent work, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) or the East India Company deputed him as the official cartographer in the early 18th century. Isaak de Graaf compiled 187 maps in his two volumes of the manuscript atlas. The maps depicted the territorial possessions and settlements of the East India Company in the continents of Africa and Asia. The maps were designed to be used by the Board of Directors of the company. The maps from this atlas were recompiled in the Atlas Isaak de Graaf/Atlas Amsterdam by Professor Gunter Schilder in the later half of the 20th century. Isaak de Graaf married Saderina de Brauw and served the Dutch East India Company till his death in 1743.  The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch, literally "United East Indian Company") was a chartered company established in 1602 and operated until 1796" (National Library of Australia online catalogue).

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