A mid-eighteenth century engraving of the Dutch colonial port-city of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia). It originally appeared in a text by English clergyman, mathematician and topographer John Harris entitled: 'Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca or Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels' around the beginning of the eighteenth century in London, England, although this particular engraving is from the 1744 edition. The engraver is unknown.
SignificanceThis engraving can be regarded as a useful source in providing two relatively detailed views of Batavia as this port-city is likely to have appeared during the first half of the eighteenth century. It is important as a document in the history of the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company.
HistoryThese two views of the Dutch colonial port-city of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) were engraved for use in a text by English clergyman, mathematician and topographer John Harris (1667? - 1719) entitled: 'Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca or Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels.' This text was first published in two volumes sometime around the beginning of the eighteenth century in London, England.
Given that this particular engraving has been dated '1744' it is likely that it appeared in one of the many subsequent revised editions which are known to have been published throughout the eighteenth century. It is not known whether this particular illustration appeared in the original text, although it contains a hand-written inscription which places it on page 280, Volume 1. The artist/engraver also remains a mystery given that these type of publications often included contributions from more than one artist.
Harris' text claims to detail geographical and historical information relating to "any part of Asia, Africa, America, Europe or the islands thereof to the present time." Such claims were not uncommon among English geographical works of this period. The text also contains a number of maps detailing "all parts of the world", an appendix of "remarkable accidents at sea" and 'original documents' concerning the "East-India trade" and the "Union of the Two Companies."
This engraving is very useful in providing a relatively detailed view of Batavia as it is likely to have appeared at beginning of the eighteenth century. At this point in its history the Dutch East India Company (VOC) would have passed its commercial peak although, as the engraving shows, it was still very much alive and well.
Dutch trade in the Far East was largely a one-way enterprise. The demand for Eastern goods in Europe far outweighed the practically non-existent demand for Western goods in Asia. Local and regional trade was an important part of the enterprise. VOC ships carrying silver from the Netherlands could acquire silk in China, which could then be traded for copper and gold in Japan, which, in turn, could be traded for textiles in India and so on. A well-situated headquarters was clearly needed in the region to manage the Eastern end of the VOC's affairs.
On 1 September, 1602, the Lords XVII appointed a resident Governor General in the East Indies. His task was to look after all major questions of a political nature as well as, when deemed necessary, to administer military matters. The first three Governors General found it very difficult to promote the imperialistic aims of the Company, given the extensive amount of travel that was required of them. It was only when longtime VOC employee Jan Pieterszoon Coen was appointed to the post in 1618, that the city of Batavia (now Jakarta) was established on the island of Java and designated as the Dutch administrative centre in the Far East.
Under the direction of the Council of Batavia local indigenous rulers were subdued, while the British and the Portuguese were gradually driven out of Indonesia, Malaya and Ceylon. The city grew considerably, with each Governor General leaving his own mark on it and would eventually take on the form in which it appears in this engraving.