Archives created in The Netherlands

6. Archives of the Departments

he rather fragmentary archives of the departments contain data about details of the business conducted by the various Chambers. These are the vestiges of the administration of the departement van de equipage (equipage department: outfitting of ships and navigation); of the soldijkantoor (the pay office: personnel administration of VOC employees in the octrooigebied and on board ships); the departement van de commercie (which administered the sale of merchandise and purchase of goods for Asia; in the Zeeland Chamber this is called the department of koopmanschappen); the departement van de ontvang (cashier's office: payments, management of real estate; in Zeeland this was called departement van de thesaurie); and of that of the opperboekhouder (chief accountant: capital stock, loans, payments in the Dutch Republic).

Large fragments of the archives of the chief accountant and of the pay office have been preserved for most of the chambers. Only in the archives of the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland are there any documents from other departments still available, but only in very depleted numbers. Gaps can sometimes be filled in, or at least an impression gained of the composition of the lost archives, from the personal archives and collections of directors and personnel in the Dutch Republic.

A reasonably large amount of material from the equipage departments of the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland is still extant. In this one can find an incomplete collection of regulations and other documents to do with the outfitting, crews and navigation of ships. Also available in the archives of the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland is a very incomplete collection of ship's logs (inv. nos. 5049-5142 and 11417-11439). The so-called uitloopboekjes, registers of ships put to sea (inv. nos. 4932-4943), provide information about the ships leaving port for the various chambers, noting the names of the captains, the number of crew members, the dates of departure and arrival, the tonnage and so forth. The publication of all these data in the two volumes of Dutch-Asiatic Shipping has more or less rendered consulting of these books superfluous(5).

The archives of the departementen van de ontvang/thesaurie and of commercie / koopmanschappen are so incomplete that they afford only very limited use for any research

  Sailor of the VOC
(click image to enlarge)


he pay office was responsible for the administration of the entire personnel in the various establishments and factories of the VOC between the Cape of Good Hope and Nagasaki Bay, as well as those on board the ships of the VOC which plied the intra-Asian trade routes. For the period 1700-1791, this administration has survived pretty well intact. Personnel in the Dutch Republic do not fall within the scope of this survey.

The personnel records from the eighteenth century consist of: 1) generale land-en zeemonsterrollen (general land and sea muster-rolls); 2) scheepssoldijboeken (ship's pay-ledgers); and 3) de rollen van de gekwalificeerde civiele en militaire dienaren (rolls of the qualified civil and military employees)(6). All in all it contains personal data about some 620,000 people and runs to a good 1.2 million pages. The volumes fill a total of about 245 metres and take up one-fifth of the total volume of the VOC archives. The amount of work involved in the administration of personnel and pay can be shown by the following piece of arithmetic. If we work on the assumption of one original volume plus six copies of the general land and sea muster-rolls, two series of the rolls of the qualified civil and military employees and one series of ship's pay-ledgers, this means that a good 2,275,000 pages were written up in the algemeen soldijkantoor (general pay office) in Batavia. From the general land muster-rolls for Batavia between 1700-1791 it appears that an average of 137 people were engaged in the work in the four schrijfafdelingen (clerks' offices) in Batavia: the generale secretarie (central administration), the algemeen soldijkantoor (general pay office), the soldij-visitekantoor (pay auditing office) and the monsterrolschrijvers (clerks of the muster-rolls). During the same period there was an average of six clerks occupied with the generale monsterrol (general muster-roll). On the basis of the known facts, the total production of these people must have been 1,225,000 pages. This works out at ten pages per clerk per day, for what one assumes was the six-day workweek and the seven-hour working day customary at that time.

Besides the muster-rolls and the pay-ledgers, the archives of the pay office contains some other documents referring to the winding up of pay agreements, especially a series of wills made by personnel who had died in Asia (inv. nos. 6847-6927) and other papers relating to legacies. In the disquisition which follows only the personnel administration will be examined.

Despite the fact that they have been entered in the inventory as separate series, the general land and sea muster-rolls, the ship's pay-ledgers and the rolls of qualified civil and military employees form a coherent whole. This is an important source both for research into an individual Company employee or 'employee' as he was known and for a serial investigation (for instance, into mortality among Europeans in the East).

The legibility of the general land and sea muster-rolls and of those of the qualified civil and military employees is good; conversely, the ship's pay-ledgers are at times fairly difficult to decipher.

Machinery of the Personnel Administration

ll six Chambers of the VOC in the Dutch Republic not only had their own ships, but also their own employees and personnel administration. The personnel administration within the Dutch Republic was decentralized. In Asia it was centralized in what was known as the algemeen soldijkantoor (general pay office) in Batavia, which was under the charge of the algemeen soldijboekhouder (paymaster general).

For instance, as soon as a ship from the Amsterdam Chamber sailed for Batavia, all VOC employees on board were registered in two identical ship's pay-ledgers immediately after departure. Upon their arrival in Batavia, the current accounts of these employees were closed in the ship's pay-ledger and the wage owed by the Company for the duration of the voyage was entered under the credit of each individual employee. Each employee was then issued individually with an extract from the ship's pay-ledger bearing a statement of the soldijrekening (balance). One of the copies of the ship's pay-ledgers which arrived in Batavia was sent back to the Amsterdam Chamber. The other remained behind in the algemeen soldijkantoor in Batavia.

We shall now follow in the footsteps of an employee who pursued his Asian career in Batavia and Bengal. If he remained in Batavia for a number of years, then, every year on 31st August, the wage he had earned was registered at the algemeen soldijkantoor on that particular page in the ship's pay-ledger on which the account of this employee was kept. He was obliged to present himself in person at the office every year on 30th June in order to have himself registered on the general muster-roll. Each year he was once again given an extract from the ship's pay-ledger containing the new balance of his account. During his career, the employee was able to garner a whole collection of such extracts, which he had to keep. The moment of his departure to Bengal his current account in Batavia was closed. He was issued with an extract containing the new balance which included the wage owed to him for the current year (up to the date of departure from Batavia). On his arrival in Bengal the employee presented this extract and he was then registered in the personnel administration of the main establishment in Bengal at Chinsura.

During his posting to Bengal, every year the employee presented himself at the annual muster at the pay office at Chinsura on 30th June, or else at one of the subsidiary establishments. In the latter event, this office passed on the information to Chinsura. Also in Bengal the amounts owed to the employee were annually entered into his account on the 31st August and he was issued with an extract. The head office at Chinsura informed the algemeen soldijkantoor in Batavia of these annual registrations or, as the case may have been, of the death or of the departure from Bengal of that employee. By means of what were known as comptoirboeken, which are no longer available, all the factories and establishments of the VOC between the Cape of Good Hope and Japan, kept the algemeen soldijkantoor in Batavia abreast of changes to be entered into the ship's pay-ledgers. Alterations in the current accounts of employees aboard the ships involved in the intra-Asian trade were passed on to the algemeen soldijkantoor by means of the binnenlandsche scheepsboeken, which have also not survived. The pay office in Batavia registered these changes in what were known as slapers: the originele (originals) of the ship's pay-ledgers and of the land and sea muster-rolls.

At least once a year the algemeen soldijkantoor kept the personnel administration of the Amsterdam Chamber informed of the new entries in the slaper of the ship's pay-ledger by means of what was termed the quohier, an extract made from that ship's pay-ledger. This enabled the Amsterdam Chamber to keep the other copy of the ship's pay-ledger up to date. The algemeen soldijkantoor was obliged to provide annual copies of the general land and sea muster-rolls in six fold for forwarding to the six chambers in the Dutch Republic.

If an employee was dismissed by the Governor-General and Council in Batavia, he personally received his last statement of account with his final balance upon handing over at the algemeen soldijkantoor all the pay-slips he had accrued during his career. In return for these, upon his return to the Dutch Republic, he or his proxy was paid the amount stated on the account at the pay office of the chamber which had employed him. In the event of his decease outside the Dutch Republic, the amount was paid to a relative or to a proxy.

Employees who entered Company service in Asia, in contradistinction to the Dutch Republic, were entered in the muster-rolls as in dienst (in service) and fell under the administration of the Amsterdam Chamber. As this category of people had not reached the East by VOC ship, there are no ship's pay-ledgers for them. Nonetheless, their salary administration, both in Batavia and in the Dutch Republic, was carried out in the same fashion as for the other employees.

General Land and Sea Muster-Rolls

he muster-rolls annually furnish a complete specification of all the land and sea personnel in Asia, with 30th June as reference date. In the eighteenth century this involved an average of 18,500 land personnel and 3,200 employed at sea. Therefore, every year there were on an average nearly 22,000 employees operational in the trading area of the VOC.

On 11th October 1686 the Heren XVII decided to introduce the annual registration of the entire personnel on land or at sea throughout the whole of the octrooigebied. Prior to 1686, apparently, there had been no general registration of personnel carried out. With the help of the comptoirboeken and the binnenlandsche scheepsboeken summaries were compiled annually in the algemeen soldijkantoor in Batavia containing the workforce in all establishments and factories of the VOC and on all the ships plying the intra-Asian trade routes. Each year these summaries were put together rewritten as one whole, the general land and sea muster-roll. This copy was kept as slaper in the algemeen soldijkantoor and provided the basis for the six transcripts destined for the six chambers.

Meteorological conditions made it impossible for all the individual rolls to be available in Batavia at the same time. A set routine, dictated by the weather, developed. First of all the returns for Batavia and a fixed number of other establishments which were available on time were completely rewritten into one whole and dated on the 15th January following the 30th June to which the return referred. This was what was known as the first roll, called a-rol in the finding aid on the general land and sea muster-rolls. Returns which arrived later were put together in the first restant-rol (remainder-roll) (b-rol), and, if necessary, in a second restant-rol (c-rol), generally dated at least one year later than the first roll. Occasionally an aparte rol (separate roll) from one of the establishments was sent directly to the Dutch Republic, thus bypassing Batavia, and was then added to the muster-roll to which it pertained in order to complete it.

Two series of the six copies of the general land and sea muster-rolls of the six chambers are still extant. The series of the Zeeland Chamber begins in the year 1691, probably the first year that the general land and sea muster-rolls were compiled, and continues up to and including 1791 (inv. nos. 11534-11820). The land and sea muster-rolls in the archives of the Zeeland Chamber have been split into two groups. The sea muster-roll has only been included in with the land muster-roll after 1780. The series in the Amsterdam Chamber begins in 1720 and continues up to and including 1791 (inv. nos. 5168-5239). The Zeeland series is plagued by more lacunae than that of Amsterdam. In some instances the Zeeland series can stop a gap in the Amsterdam series. When one is considering the period 1691-1791, then, with the exception of one year (1707), one has a continuous series of yearly returns which make up a total of 126 volumes at one's fingertips. The years 1790 and 1791 are very incomplete; there are no general land and sea muster-rolls for the years 1792 up to and including 1795 in the VOC archives.

The method of registration for a land muster-roll ran according to the following procedure. Within one particular establishment the return of the main establishment was treated first, after which, if necessary, those of any subordinate establishments were considered. The registration of the personnel within one establishment was classified according to professional category; within one of the professional categories represented at that establishment, the registration of all members of the personnel followed a strictly hierarchical order. (See the webpage with a model of the layout of the general land and sea muster-rolls.)

At the beginning of the volumes of the general land and sea muster-rolls there are various contemporary surveys which offer some insight into the copious material. In the case of the land muster-rolls these are lists of: 1) the names of the establishments registered in the muster-roll; 2) the total number of employees in each separate establishment; 3) the total number of employees registered in the volume in question. The sea muster-rolls have been supplied with lists of the names of the ships registered in them, with the crew numbers (with indication of the folio) and of the total number of all the crew members of all the ships together.

Generally at the end of a land muster-roll there are what are called a korte sterkte and a korte samentrekking. A korte sterkte provides a recapitulation of the number of staff of each separate establishment included in that muster-roll, classified according to establishment and according to the professional categories represented in that establishment. The korte samentrekking provides a summary of the total strength of each of the seven professional categories, which together comprised the land staff, and which can be found in the muster-roll concerned. In contrast to the korte sterkte, the last mentioned survey contains no specification of the names of the various establishments. The korte samentrekking was not always consistently classified in the course of the eighteenth century. There are separate recapitulations concerning the inlandsche dienaren (native employees), whose names are only incidentally mentioned, for the years 1700-1755 and 1782-1791. These surveys can be found either in a separate roll which follows directly upon the korte sterkte, or at the end of the korte samentrekking itself.

At the end of the sea muster-rolls there is merely a korte samentrekking which offers an idea of the range of the professional categories which were to be found among those on board the registered ships.

A detailed finding aid has been made for the muster-rolls which indicates where the returns from the various establishments and factories with their workforce are to be found, and which also offers an insight into the presence of the various contemporary registers and surveys(7). See the webpage with a schematic outline of which establishments are to be found for which years in the land muster-rolls.

Ship's Pay-ledgers

ata about aboard which ship personnel who had entered the Company's service in the Dutch Republic arrived in Asia can be found in the muster-rolls. This information provides a key to the scheepssoldijboeken (ship's pay-ledgers). One minor complication arises if one is dealing with a employee who broke his journey at the Cape of Good Hope for any length of time, be it short or long. In this case data about his career can be found in the ship's pay-ledgers of the ship on board which he sailed from the Dutch Republic.

In principle each ship which sailed from the Dutch Republic had its own ship's pay-ledger which bore the name of that ship. As well as being called a scheepssoldijboek, a ship's pay-ledger was also known as a principaal grootboek. Until the moment of disembarkation in Batavia the ship's pay-ledger bore the character of a ship's muster-roll, in the sense that it provided a rundown of all those on board. After arrival in Batavia mutations in the career of the employees were kept up to date in the copies of the ship's pay-ledgers in Batavia and in the Dutch Republic. The ship's pay-ledgers of a good ninety per cent of all the ships which sailed from the Dutch Republic to Asia during the eighteenth century have survived. This is not as surprising as it may seem at first sight. Even long after the VOC had been liquidated, the personnel administration had to remain available for the verification of the financial claims of the next-of-kin of former VOC employees(8). Alterations were being entered into the ship's pay-ledgers for a long time after 1795. For instance, in 1813 the Algemeene Commissie tot Liquidatie der Pretentiën (General Committee for the Settlement of Claims) was instigated in The Hague.

The collection of the ship's pay-ledgers for all six chambers amounts to 2,991 volumes. What is known as the nieuwe serie (new series), far and away the largest part, dates from the eighteenth century. The oude serie (old series) contains only 198 volumes: 20 volumes for the period 1633-1670; the remaining 178 volumes covering the years 1672-1699. The nieuwe serie (2,793 volumes) begins in 1699/1700 and continues up to and including 1794/1795. As the Amsterdam Chamber employed the greatest number of personnel, nearly half of this (1,374 volumes, inv. nos. 5269-6842) comes from the archives of this chamber. The number of ship's pay-ledgers preserved in the archives of the other chambers are respectively: 636 (Zeeland, inv. nos. 12672-13307); 205 (Enkhuizen, inv. nos. 14638-14842); 205 (Delft, inv. nrs, 13876-14080); 195 (Rotterdam, inv. nos. 14102-14296); and 181 (Hoorn, inv. nos. 14348-14527 I). The ship's pay-ledgers which are still extant are the copies which were remitted to the Dutch Republic after the arrival of the ships in Batavia.

  Sailor of the VOC
(click image to enlarge)

A ship's pay-ledger consists of a series of rekeningen courant (current accounts). At least two pages have been reserved for each employee. Viewed superficially, the left and right hand pages resemble the debit and credit sides of a somewhat overgrown household account book. Closer inspection reveals that it is more complicated. (See the webpage with a model of the layout of the ship's pay-ledgers.)

The left hand page. The following items are listed from top to bottom: 1) two months' wages in advance to the employee; 2) his outfit, for which the employee was responsible, with, if necessary, money borrowed from the VOC; 3) if required, any other amount owed by the employee (the vaderlandse schuld or home debt); 4) a single or multiple amounts paid by the VOC in the Dutch Republic to family members or proxies of the employee out of his credit accrued during his appointment in Asia; 5) the final payment in the Dutch Republic after the end of his Asian career, either after his death or upon repatriation.

The right hand page. The following items are listed from top to bottom: 1) the payment, either credited partly or fully by the VOC, for salary due during the voyage to Batavia; 2) any eventual debt from the left hand page deducted from this; 3) sums credited to the employee by the VOC, based on either the whole or, as the case may be, part of the wage he had earned during a whole or part of a financial year (1st September up to and including 31st August). The amount of these sums depended on the extent to which the employee used his official wage to cover his living costs and the amount of private income he had at his disposal, for instance from private trade. These entries were always related to activities carried out in the past financial year. Should the employee have been posted to one particular establishment for many years, his wage was entered annually on 31st August. A new entry was also made in the ledgers each time the employee moved to another establishment. Each time a new wage was credited to his account his place of work was mentioned. There is one exception to the rule that the geographical career of an employee can be traced from the mention of his posting: those employees who were posted on the island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay (Japan) were registered as being employed in Batavia.

It should be stressed that the items listed on the right hand side of the ship's pay-ledgers are not payments made to the employee while in Asia. This is obvious from the current accounts of the employees who made no claim on payments in the Dutch Republic during the whole of their working lives in Asia (items on the left hand page). In these accounts, the sum of the amounts credited on the right hand page is the only one mentioned on the left hand page as the only amount paid out (final payment) by the VOC in the Dutch Republic.

The items noted on the right hand side refer only to the official VOC wages and therefore do not take account of any emoluments and legal profit shares. There was one exception to this rule for the employees in Canton. Their legal, sometimes considerable, profit shares are noted in the ship's pay-ledgers.

In by far and away the largest number of cases, the series of items concludes either with the date and place of death, or with the date on which the employee left Batavia or arrived in the Dutch Republic. In some cases the last amount credited on the right hand page is the last information about the career of an employee; there is no mention of his decease or of his departure or of his return to the Dutch Republic. It is only very seldom that both the date of departure from Asia and the date of return to the Dutch Republic are noted on the right hand side of the ship's pay-ledgers. Perhaps it was arranged so that the date of departure from the East was recorded if an employee had no paid function on board during his homeward voyage, and, conversely, that the latter had been the case when his date of arrival in the Dutch Republic is recorded.

At the beginning of a ship's pay-ledger there is what is known as an alphabet or register of first names of the employees registered in it. No alphabetical order has been followed within one particular initial letter. These indexes are not always reliable. Besides this, certain documents relating to an employee have occasionally been bound into a ship's pay-ledger: a will of an employee who died during a voyage or a will and/ or an estate inventory of an employee who died in Asia.

There is a register which gives access to the numbers of the oude serie and the nieuwe serie of ship's pay-ledgers, subdivided under the six different chambers(9).

Rolls of the Qualified Civil and Military Employees

he ship's pay-ledgers provide information about the places to which an employee was posted (place of work). With the help of a register of geographical names this furnishes a key to the rolls of qualified civil and military employees(10). These rolls refer to the higher land personnel (gequalificeerden), in other words all the higher civil ranks commencing with jong assistent (junior clerk), and all the higher military ranks commencing from sergeant.

Amongst other information the rolls of the qualified civil and military personnel provide data which is not to be found for instance in the ship's pay-ledgers on such things as in which rank and function an employee passed his life at the posting concerned. This source also provides an insight into the system of advancement within the VOC.

For each year the rolls contain personal details of all the qualified employees in all the VOC establishments from the year 1701 up to and including the year 1787, including the year 1707 which is missing from the general land and sea muster-rolls. A complete series has been preserved from both the Amsterdam and the Zeeland Chambers respectively (inv. nos. 5240-5261 and 11821-11928). The Amsterdam pay office bound the civil and military rolls together, whereas in Zeeland they were kept separate. A different number of years has been bound in each volume each time.

Every year all the establishments forwarded their returns to Batavia with 30th June as their reference date. The only exception was the Cape of Good Hope, the returns from which were sent directly to the Dutch Republic. These individual returns, with the civil and military personnel together in one survey, were rewritten into two separate returns, dated Batavia the last day of February of the year that followed the date to which the registration referred. Thus there was one roll, divided per establishment, for all the qualified civil employees in all establishments and another separate roll for all the qualified military employees in all establishments. The Cape sent its return in one single document directly to the Amsterdam Chamber, where it was bound together with the other returns. If the arrival in Batavia of a return from a particular establishment was delayed, this roll was then sent (with the civil and military employees in one return) to the Amsterdam Chamber under separate cover.

The rolls are divided up according to establishment and the registration of the individual employees follows a strictly hierarchical sequence from the highest to the lowest. (See the webpage with a model of the layout of the rolls of the qualified employees.)

With the exception of the separate rolls (those sent later), the registers of the qualified employees have been provided with various indexes. Indexes of the names of the VOC establishments which occur in that roll are only to be found at irregular intervals; moreover they are far from complete and contain few details. The key to all the place-names occurring in the rolls of the qualified civil and military employees, mentioned earlier, as well as an index of place-names with all the variations in spelling to be found in the rolls offers a solution to this.

There are regularly recurring indexes of the first names of the employees included, however by the 1780s these are mostly according to surname. In the registers for the civil employees for the years 1737-1787, and the registers for the military employees for the years 1765-1768, 1770, 1772-1775, 1777, 1779-1781, and 1785-1787, only the names of the personnel stationed in Batavia are recorded.

The foregoing survey gives an idea of the way in which the the general land and sea muster-rolls, the ship's pay-ledgers and the rolls of the qualified civil and military employees can be considered as a whole. See the webpage with a comparative survey of the three sources of personnel administration.


he VOC did not have a centralized book-keeping department. To the bitter end, the book-keeping remained cluttered and fragmentary, organized as if it was that of some makeshift companies without any connection with each other, instead of that of one trading corporation. Every year the chambers did make up their balance sheets on the basis of their ledgers and journals. To our eyes the balance sheets seem to be pretty rudimentary, not least because operations in Europe and Asia were kept completely separate. The six balance sheets, which were the fruit of each chamber's endeavours, were then combined into a generale staat by a committee of the Heren XVII.

Each Chamber of the Company had its own opperboekhouder (chief accountant). In the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland he was assisted by several clerks. The accountants kept the journals and the ledgers, as well as the registers of applications for and the transfer of shares up to date. Besides the accountants, each chamber had cashiers, who managed the ready money in the cash-box. All expenditure had to be recorded in a specieboek or cashbook.

Subscription of Capital and Dividends

hen the VOC was incorporated in 1602 it was laid down that every resident of the Dutch Republic could have a financial stake in the business. The amount involved was left open and the subscribers could invest their capital for multiple terms. One could subscribe to the chamber of one's choice. The share, which was called an actie, had no uniform nominal value and was always negotiable: it could be sold, exchanged or used as collateral. Transfer of shares had to take place before the book-keeper in the presence of one or two directors, both of whom also signed the deed of transfer.

Each chamber paid out dividends on the basis of the capital subscribed to that chamber. Dividends were paid out on the basis of the amount of money invested by the shareholders. The percentage was determined by the Heren XVII either every year or every couple of years. Payment occasionally took place in the form of spices. In 1679 for the first time the Company was forced to pay out its dividend in the form of bonds. These bonds had not yet matured and the Company could always redeem them.

The oldest subscription registers of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers have been preserved and have been published (inv. nos. 7064 and 13794)(11). Likewise the ledgers with the capital accounts of the shareholders have also survived (inv. nos. 7067, 13795-13797 and 13799). The ledgers of the Zeeland Chamber run up to 1710. In them each shareholder has a separate current account, with entries of the debts and claims which resulted from changes in a shareholder's share portfolio.

The transfer of the shares, often with appendices, of all the chambers have been preserved (Amsterdam, inv. nos. 7083-7118; Zeeland, inv. nos. 13802-13805 and 13807-13812; Delft, inv. nos. 14089-14092; Rotterdam, inv. nos. 14298-14301; Hoorn, inv. nos. 14549-14551; and Enkhuizen, inv. nos. 14849-14852). The registers begin about 1750 and most of them continue up to the liquidation of the Company. Only the archives of the Hoorn Chamber still contain seventeenth century transfers. The transfers are on preprinted forms. The appendices can contain interesting information, such as the function, profession and place of residence, about both vendor and purchaser. If the transfer was in connection with a legacy, extracts from the will are often also included.

In view of the fact that there are no indications the purchaser received a transcript of the transaction, the possession of shares by a particular person, and the extent of his holdings, can only be demonstrated from the transfer registers and the ledgers with the capital accounts.

The archives of the Amsterdam Chamber contain a series of ledgers of the dividends paid on shares for the period 1628-1796 (inv. nos. 7068-7081). The Zeeland Chamber possesses these ledgers for 1710-1747 and 1760-1800 (inv. nos. 13800 and 13806) and Enkhuizen for the years 1720-1802 (inv. no. 14853). In these ledgers it was also the practice to accord each shareholder a separate entry. On the left page there is a statement of how many shares a person owned, on the right hand side how much was paid out every year, or sometimes every second year. Furthermore, the archives of the chambers of Amsterdam., Zeeland and Hoorn have several loose eighteenth century documents about dividends (inv. nos. 7123-7125,13801,and 14547).

The documents mentioned above concerning subscription of capital, transfers and dividends are not merely useful for research from the point of view of business economy. They can also furnish data about very diverse subjects such as individual people, the distribution of share holdings of the Company in the Dutch Republic, and the capital resources of various sectors of the population. For instance, it is possible to trace the role of immigrants in the financing of East Indian ventures.


second category of documents in the archives of the chief accountants deal with the money borrowed by the Company, obtained by issuing bonds and anticipatiepenningen (see below). The bonds were of a long-term duration. When a loan was floated, shareholders were given priority. Initially the bonds were signed by two directors, but this number was increased to four after 1670.

As well as structural financial shortages, after the arrival of the ships from Asia the VOC often faced problems of liquidity before the auctions had been held. This was when the money owed to repatriated VOC employees and the wissels (bills of exchange) brought by the return ships had to be honoured. Moreover, in the spring, money had to be paid out to the shareholders. The Company was forced to borrow money in order to meet these debts. It did this bij anticipatie, anticipating the profits to be made on the sale of the merchandise. The loan was sometimes just for a matter of weeks and at the very most for six months.

The archives of the Amsterdam Chamber still contain one journal and one ledger of the interest paid on bonds and a memoriaal (daybook) of registered anticipatiepenningen (inv. nos. 7128-7130). In the Zeeland Chamber there is a journal and a ledger of anticipatiepenningen from 1680 (inv. nos. 13832). Furthermore, there are, principally among the documents of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers, still a few loose documents preserved such as lists of bondholders and of holders of anticipatiepenningen (inv. nos. 7131-7133); accounts of the payment of the 100th and 200th penning (taxes) (inv. nos. 7139-7140,13831 and 13835, and 14304) and receipts (inv. no. 14303). These documents date from very divergent years during the entire era that the Company was operational.


he VOC practised its own form of double or Italian book-keeping. Both a journaal (journal) and a grootboek (ledger) were entered up. Daily recurring financial transactions, such as money received, payments, subsidies to or from other chambers, money borrowed bij anticipatie, repayments, income from the sale of the merchandise, dividends to shareholders, and the payment of salaries, were first of all recorded in the memoriaal (daybook). In the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland this daybook was called boek van de ontvangers or boek van de thesauriers. Then the data were entered into the journal and the ledger and calculated. The quantity and price of goods bought and sold was added. The journal was divided up chronologically; in the ledger entries were arranged per business relation, per product or per object of expenditure.

Amounts to do with the building and outfitting of ships, such as wages paid to workmen, for shipbuilding materials, for victualling of the ships for the voyage, and for the provision of ready money, merchandise and various requirements for Asia, were accounted for in the ledger under equipage costs. Each section such as beer, butter, bread, merchandise and requirements for Asia, sailcloth, navigational equipment, and galley provisions, had a separate account. In their turn, some sections were even more closely specified. Besides this all deposits, withdrawals and credits were recorded. No record of the retouren (return goods) was entered in the ledgers. The authorities in Asia stated the purchase price of the retourgoederen; this was noted in the resoluties of the Heren XVII. No profit and loss account was made up. At the end of the financial year the balances of the income and expenditure were transferred to the item retouren generaal (general returns) in the ledger.

In the journal, which is arranged chronologically, each item is headed with the keyword entry that is also used in the ledger. In the margin there are cross-references to the relevant page in the ledger. Also in the ledger each item begins with a cross-reference to the relevant page in the journal. The record in the journal is the most detailed. For instance, next to a payment to a baker for bread delivered, there is also a record of the amount of bread which he provided as well as how much this cost per loaf. The ledger merely records that a certain sum was paid to the baker for bread delivered. The advantage of the ledger for research is that all the expenditure of bread delivered for a certain embarkation is noted together in one place.

A journal begins with a summary of those who had been promoted since the previous amount was closed and in this book are given credit as a consequence. These are followed by those with debts who were now in the red. The journals are divided up per calendar month. First of all, for instance, the total sum of money paid out to third parties during that month is recorded, and the amount is then specified: wages; barber's requisites; supplies for ship's crews; commissions on imported goods which had been sold; house rent and so forth. The records are pretty detailed. One item like wages can be subdivided again into various payments. Each record of payment is accompanied by the name of the recipient.

Each entry begins with a cross-reference to the page in the corresponding ledger. In the ledger under wages there is simply a record of the date, then the fact that the recipients were paid wages for work in the warehouse and so forth, and the total amount paid. Just as in the case of the equipage ledgers, all the amounts paid out as wages during the duration of the ledger are put together. One disadvantage for the researcher is that the entries are noted per equipage and thus not by individual ship.

From the seventeenth century, only the oldest journals and ledgers from the chambers of Amsterdam and Zeeland have survived (inv. nos. 7142, 7169 and 13782-13785), and there is one journal from the Enkhuizen Chamber (inv. no. 14854). The archives of the Zeeland Chamber still contain a few separate journals and ledgers from the equipage department for the years 1614-1628 (inv. nos. 13786-13793). From 1700 onwards, the journals and ledgers of the chambers of Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen (in this last instance incomplete) have been preserved (Amsterdam inv. nos. 7143-7168 and 7170-7194; Hoorn inv. nos. 14554-14623; and Enkhuizen inv. nos. 14855-14909). Most ledgers have either an index bound in or else a separate one. The archives of the Delft Chamber contain a single journal for 1768-1772 (inv. no. 14084) and the Rotterdam Chamber a series of undated indexes (inv. nos. 14305-14315).

The archives of the Zeeland Chamber contain several loose documents concerning accountants and the office of accountant, for the most part correspondence (inv. nos. 13770-13781); the Hoorn Chamber still has a few documents originating from the cashier (inv. nos. 14541-14542). The Amsterdam Chamber still has a series of balance sheets extracted from the eighteenth century ledgers (inv. nos. 7195-7204) and a series of notations of entries in the journals (inv. nos. 7206-7212). Besides these, there are several loose financial documents from the chambers of Amsterdam, Zeeland, Delft and Hoorn preserved (Amsterdam inv. nos. 7214-7226; Zeeland inv. nos. 13758-13769; Delft, inv. nos. 14082-14083 and 14085-14086; and Hoorn inv. nos. 14543-14544).

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