Eighteenth century Dutch depictions of Amsterdam Island (in the Indian Ocean), St Paul Island (near Amsterdam Island) and Rottnest Island (off the coast of Western Australia, near Fremantle). Each was visited by Dutch sea captain William De Vlamingh between 1696 and 1697, whose voyage was then documented by Dutch writer/vicar Francois Valentijn in his famous work Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën (Old and New East India) in 1726. These prints are from that text, although the artist is unknown.
SignificanceThis engraving comes from Dutch writer/vicar Francois Valentijn's celebrated text Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (Old and New East India), published in several volumes between 1724 and 1726. The work is important to historians as it gives a detailed account of the activities of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during this period. This particular print forms a valuable record of Dutch sea captain Willem de Vlamingh's exploratory voyages in the late 17th century.
HistoryThe print most likely depicts de Vlamingh's voyage in which he commanded the frigate DE GEELVINK, and was accompanied by the hooker DE NIJPTANG and the galiot WESELTJE.
Amsterdam Island (or New Amsterdam) is a French owned island in the Indian Ocean. It was originally charted by the Spanish explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano on 18 March 1522, although it went unnamed until Dutch captain Anthonio van Diemen named it Nieuw Amsterdam, after his ship in 1633.
St Paul Island is also French owned and lies 85 km southwest of the larger Amsterdam Island. It was first discovered in 1559 by Portuguese sailors and there were recorded sightings of the island throughout the 17th century. The first detailed description of it (and possibly the first landing) was by William de Vlamingh in 1696. It was claimed by France in 1893.
The islands Amsterdam and St Paul were politically attached to Madagascar in 1924 and, hence, became a French colony.
Rottnest Island is located 18 km off the coast of Western Australia, near Fremantle. The island was observed by various Dutch sailors from 1610 and first charted by the English captain John Daniel in 1681. The island was named Rattenest by William de Vlamingh who landed there on 29 December 1696. Observing quokkas (a native marsupial), de Vlamingh mistook them for giant rats (hence calling the island Rats Nest in Dutch). The name has since morphed into Rottnest.
These prints were published in Francois Valentijn's Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën. Born in Dordrecht, The Netherlands on 17 April, 1666, Valentijn studied theology and philosophy at the Universities of Leiden and Utrecht before leaving for the Dutch East Indies in 1685 to become a preacher.
Valentijn spent 16 years in the Indies (1685-1694 and 1706-1714), mostly on the island of Ambon, in the Moluccas. He wrote his famous multi-volume work Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën (Old and New East India) in The Netherlands between 1714 and 1724. This text gives a detailed account of VOC (Dutch East India Company) activities during this period as well as providing a unique insight into how the Dutch regarded and treated other cultures. It also contains interesting geographical, biological and botanic data.
The entire book was published by 1726, and became a bestseller, attracting 650 subscribers before it appeared. For centuries it was highly regarded as a historical source on the Indies, but in current times it is valued more for its evocative anecdotes and attractive prose. One critic noted that 'some of his pieces are true oases in the desert of eighteenth-century historical writing'.
These three prints help document Valentijn's description of an exploratory voyage made by Dutch sea captain William de Vlamingh between 1696 and 1697. Born on 28 November 1640, de Vlamingh joined the VOC in 1688, making his first voyage to Batavia in the same year.
In 1696, he commanded an expedition to search for the RIDDERSCHAP VAN HOLLAND, a VOC capital ship that was lost with 325 passengers and crew on its way to Batavia in 1694. VOC officials believed it might have run aground on the west coast of New Holland (Australia) - a relatively common occurance since the Brouwer Route had been made compulsory for all VOC ships in 1617. Although there was no sign of the vessel, de Vlamingh took the opportunity to chart parts of Australia's west coast; an undertaking which helped improve navigation for Dutch ships travelling from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia.
In was during this voyage that de Vlamingh encountered these three islands, becoming one of the first Europeans to set foot on St Paul Island and Rottnest Island, and giving the latter its name.
On 10 January 1697 his expedition became the first to venture up the Swan River which was named in honour of a number of black swans which were observed along the way, and on 4 February they landed at Dirk Hartog Island where they replaced the pewter plate left by Hartog with a new one which recorded both the Dutchmen's visits. The original plate is preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.