VOC MAPS AND DRAWINGS
bulk of the maps and drawings of the VOC
which are now in the National Archives of the Netherlands
in the Netherlands originally belonged to the archives of
the Heren XVII
(board of directors) and the Amsterdam Chamber. Smaller but
by no means insignificant sections originally pertained to
the other chambers, especially that of Zeeland. The Amsterdam
Chamber had the lion's share of VOC
operations. The administration of the navigation as well as
the knowledge of overseas topography and property were concentrated
there. The directors received maps and drawings of places
and regions in the octrooigebied
(the area under charter to the Company) either from or via
Batavia, and sometimes directly from the subordinate establishments
themselves. The maps and drawings sent back like this make
up the main component of the maps and drawings archives of
the VOC. Besides these, many
maps were also made in the Dutch Republic itself, especially
the charts which were produced in Amsterdam and elsewhere
for the outward bound ships.
1. The Making of Maps
Suppliers of Charts
cartographic information was needed both for the voyage to
and trade within Asia when the VOC
was established in 1602. By the end of the sixteenth century
the Dutch Republic already had access to navigational information
from Portuguese sources. This had been made public through
the publications of several Dutch travellers and scientists
like Dirck Gerritz. Pomp, alias Dirck China, and Jan Huygen
van Linschoten. The work of Van Linschoten in particular includes
maps and other illustrations, in combination with descriptions
of routes and of landfalls. Besides this, Petrus Plancius
edited the hand-drawn charts of the Portuguese Bartolomeo
de Lasso, wrote several memoranda with navigational directions
and instructed stuurlieden
(navigation officers) for the voyages on the high seas.
When the VOC
ships were fitted out in the Dutch Republic, the stuurlieden
(navigation officers) and the captains were supplied with
instruments), such as compasses, signal flags, quadrants and
charts. Each chamber of the Company had an equipagemeester
(master of the equipage) responsible for the fitting out of
the ships which were to sail to Asia. Charts were drawn or
bought under his direction. As with other equipment pertaining
to the equipage, the charts were obtained from a limited number
of suppliers. In the harbour cities of the Dutch Republic
there were several mapmakers who had specialized in the making
of parchment charts. Private shipowners and captains placed
orders with them, as did the VOC
after 1602. Augustijn Robaert of Amsterdam was a prominent
supplier of hand-drawn charts, who included the VOC
among his clients(1).
Very few of the charts which were used on the VOC
ships in the initial years have survived.
of Japan; 18th century
(click image to
In 1617 there was a change
in the way in which cartographic information was procured,
when the Heren XVII appointed
Hessel Gerritz. as their exclusive mapmaker. It was his task
to provide charts for all ships of the VOC
which sailed from the Dutch Republic, including those from
chambers other than Amsterdam. The appointment of purveyor
of charts to the VOC, commissioned
and furnished with an instruction, continued until 1795. The
mapmakers engaged in this task were respectively:
|1617 - 1632
|1633 - 1705
||The Blaeu Family
(who were also examinators
van de stuurlieden or examiners of the navigating
|1705 - 1743
||Isaac de Graaff
|1743 - 1795
||The Van Keulen Family(3)
Throughout the period 1617-1795
the position of the mapmakers had an ambivalent character.
Their situation was different to that of most of the other
VOC employees. They worked
from home and did not receive a salary but were paid on a
piece-work basis for the charts they supplied(4).
Moreover, the official mapmakers could contract out the drawing
of the charts to other, independently established, draftsmen(5).
Nor was the VOC the mapmakers'
only source of income. With the possible exception of De Graaff,
besides producing hand-drawn charts for the VOC,
they offered engraved and hand-drawn charts on the open market.
This latter factor is the most important difference with the
position of, for instance, the shipbuilder and the examinator
van de stuurlieden, who, during the eighteenth century,
were forbidden to be in receipt of any income other than that
from the VOC(6).
The position of the VOC mapmaker
lay between that of his Spanish and Portuguese colleagues
(salaried mapmakers/government officials) and of his English
colleagues (independent suppliers)(7).
undertook to make use of the services of the official
mapmaker for more of less fixed prices. In the production
and management of the charts the mapmaker was subject to the
supervision of the directors or of their deputies. Furthermore,
just as other Company employees, he was sworn to secrecy.
However, in practice, the mapmaker to the VOC
carried out the production and correction of charts fairly
independently. The obligation to secrecy was at odds with
his production for the free market(8).
In accordance with their conditions
of appointment captains and stuurlieden
were obliged to use Company charts. It was also their professional
duty to make notes and sketches of unknown coasts, reefs and
other relevant features(9).
Returning captains and stuurlieden
handed over the charts they had used and corrected, and the
logs they had kept, to the mapmaker so that he could use these
to correct maps and seaman's guides. The mapmaker in Amsterdam
undertook this work in collaboration with the examinator
van de stuurlieden. During the eighteenth century the
mapmaker's activities increasingly fell under the supervision
of the examinator van de stuurlieden(10).
In order to ensure the durability
the charts, the VOC had
them drawn on parchment. The way in which they were produced
was simple: a model, which was called a legger
(templet), was used repeatedly for the making of new charts(11).
The coastlines were pricked out at regular intervals with
a needle on the model chart. When a new chart was made, the
model map was laid on top of a blank sheet of parchment, and
the coastlines on the model chart were then strewn from a
small bag of soot. The soot which percolated through the holes
in the model then yielded a pattern of dots on the blank sheet.
Once the model map had been carefully removed from the parchment,
the coastlines could be drawn in by joining up the specks
of soot. When this had been done, the new map was ready in
Although there had been talk
of the printing of a seaman's guide about 1665 and of the
printing of loose charts in 1684, it was 1753 and about 1775
respectively before this was achieved. At this point it should
be mentioned that in a certain sense the seaman's guide the
English Pilot Third Book by
John Thornton, printed in 1703, can be considered to be a
VOC seaman's guide avant-la-lettre.
This rutter for the Asian trade, containing thirty-five charts,
was compiled with the help of VOC
The mapmaker was not only
responsible for the production and supervision of charts.
On the basis of his geographical expertise, he was probably
asked for advice during the fitting out of expeditions. In
the course of the eighteenth century, the role of examinator
van de stuurlieden grew steadily in the field of supervision
The Firm of Van Keulen
van Keulen was appointed mapmaker to the VOC
in 1743. The firm was to retain its position as mapmaker until
the liquidation of the Company. Even before 1743, the firm
of Van Keulen had supplied the VOC
with navigational instruments and maps: since 1728 seaman's
guides had been regularly purchased there as part of the equipage(14).
From the beginning of the eighteenth century the firm of Van
Keulen had possessed hand-drawn, large-scale maps of the VOC
area from which hand-drawn copies were supplied(15).
However, there are no indications that copies were ever produced
from these models at the behest of or at the expense of the
VOC. It is possible that
the VOC captains and stuurlieden
undertook this at their own expense.
No business archives of any
of the mapmakers from before the Van Keulen era have survived.
It is possible that some of the archives of its predecessors
were absorbed into Van Keulen archives. When the firm was
liquidated in 1885, the archives of the business was auctioned
off. Parts of them can be traced (See the websitepages
of section 5 about the archives of Hulst van Keulen).
the request of either the Heren XVII
or of the Amsterdam Chamber, and indeed sometimes on their
own initiative, the mapmakers in Amsterdam compiled mapbooks
or series of maps of the octrooigebied
from time to time. These deserve a separate mention because
many maps and drawings are now only found as copies in these
mapbooks or map series. It can be assumed that this copying
was an important factor in the loss of the originals: once
they had been copied the information was readily available
in a manageable and uniform package. The following are only
works which cover the whole of the octrooigebied:
||Mapbook of Hessel
||Atlas of Johan Vingboons
and Joan Blaeu
||Atlas of Laurens
van der Hem(16)
||Mapbook of Isaac
de Graaff, known as 'Atlas Amsterdam'(17)
||English Pilot Third
||Chart Series Gerard
||Seaman's Guide Johannes
van Keulen and Jan de Marre(19)
The status of the publications
mentioned above differs. The works of Gerritsz., De Graaff
and Van Keulen were produced on the orders of the VOC.
The atlases of Vingboons/Blaeu and Van der Hem/Blaeu admittedly
did have some connection with the VOC
- in the 1660s there had been some discussion within the VOC
about the compilation of a printed seaman's guide - but they
stand as it were with one foot in the VOC
camp and the other foot in the free market. The series of
manuscript charts of Gerard van Keulen have even less connection
with the VOC, but probably
a record made by a VOC captain
or stuurman (navigating officer)served
as the model for a number of his maps. Unfortunately the work
of Hessel Gerritsz. has been lost. The publication of Van
Keulen and the examinator
van de stuurlieden, De Marre,
was only intended for use on the Company's ships, and was
therefore more limited in its scope.
The mapbook of Isaac de Graaff,
which was compiled at the end of the seventeenth century,
occupies a special place because it offers a great variety
of cartographic material: both large and small-scale maps
of land areas; charts; and plans and views from throughout
the whole of the octrooigebied.
The duplicate maps in this work date back to 1602. This so
- called Atlas Amsterdam was
taken apart in the nineteenth century and dispersed throughout
the collection of foreign maps (VEL)
in the Netherlands National Archives of the Netherlands. De
Graaff's mapbook can be seen as the companion to Pieter van
Dam's Beschryvinge van de Oostindische
Compagnie (Description of the East India Company).
Throughout the whole of the eighteenth century this mapbook
was the principal source of cartographic information for the
Supervision of Buildings and Premises in
the Dutch Republic
the Dutch Republic the VOC
was the proprietor of premises which included premises such
as warehouses, shipyards, office buildings and ropewalks.
However, the number of drawings of these in the Netherlands
National Archives of the Netherlands is very small. Many drawings
have probably succumbed to wear and tear or were thrown away
after use. Others have been abstracted from the archives and
found their way into private collections. Moreover, the services
of the stadsfabriek (municipal
architect) were often called upon for the production of the
drawings. Therefore the collection policy in the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries is also a reason that what little
that has been preserved of the plans and drawings of property
in the Dutch Republic is now mainly to be found in municipal
archives services or in museums.
After the liquidation of the VOC
its premises and buildings passed into the hands of the state.
This explains why maps and drawings from after 1799 are available
in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands
among the (drawings) archives of various government departments.
Ship Plans and Models
parts of the Company's archives have been almost completely
lost. This is also true of the archives of ship plans and
models from the shipyard. The ship plans were an aid to the
development and building of the VOC
ships. In 1742, for instance, when a new plan was being developed
for a new type of VOC ship,
the final decision was taken on the basis of plans and models(20).
There are only a few surviving
drawings, which have been dispersed throughout various
collections in the Netherlands. The loss and dispersion can
be explained by the changes in types of ship and the shift
to private trade after 1795. These made the plans and models
of VOC ships obsolete: either
they ended up in the rubbish bin or, by happy chance, in a
museum. For research into shipbuilding, apart from material
sources and a few plans, the investigator is mainly dependent
on the written archives.
The Smaller Chambers
the beginning of the seventeenth century, the VOC
chambers, other than Amsterdam, purchased charts from various
Augustijn Robaert, who had established himself in Amsterdam,
succeeded in attracting an important share in the supply of
charts both to the Amsterdam Chamber and to the other chambers
as well(22). The
appointment of Hessel Gerritsz. introduced structural changes.
In principle, all ships were supposed to use only those charts
which had been supplied by the mapmaker to the Amsterdam Chamber.
This stipulation was reiterated in the course of the years(23).
Nonetheless, several chambers
continued to procure charts from local suppliers. In 1669
it was reported in the Haags Besogne
(preparatory committee of the Heren
XVII in August) that the Hoorn Chamber and the Zeeland
Chamber commissioned their charts locally(24).
Although it was pointed out in 1669 that the production of
charts was the prerogative of the mapmaker in Amsterdam, the
Zeeland Chamber continued to take their business to the local
mapmakers Joost van Breen and Arent Roggeveen. Eventually,
people grew resigned to the situation. In 1684 when a discussion
blew up about the quality of the charts, the Zeeland Chamber
were not even reminded that they were expected to make use
of the services of the Amsterdam mapmaker(25).
Even during the eighteenth century it was still their practice
to call upon local mapmakers(26).
Batavia and the Subordinate Establishments
one time or another, many of the maps now in the National
Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands were forwarded
to the Dutch Republic from establishments in Asia. One of
the reasons that the The Hague collection is so important
is that so many of the maps and drawings of the local administrations
in the establishment archives themselves have disappeared.
The mines at Sillida in
the mountains of south west Sumatra;
late17th, early 18th century
(click image to enlarge)
The Governor-General and Council
in Batavia were the information repository for the subordinate
establishments. Part of this information consisted of maps
and drawings. In the subordinate establishments there were
either permanent (for example, the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon)
or temporary military engineers, fabrieken
(architects), surveyors and mapmakers, who were employed in
the administration of land, the building of roads and waterways,
architecture and fortifications.
The following remarks concern
the organization and administration in Batavia. In part, they
are also relevant to the subordinate establishments.
Initially, the territory of
the VOC in Java was extremely
restricted; it was virtually limited to the city of Batavia.
Under such circumstances it was sufficient to employ an engineer
who worked both as surveyor and architect, in the latter function
both on civil works (usually called fabriek)
and on fortifications (usually called ingenieur).
In 1627 a surveyor and a rooimeester
(clerk of works) were appointed under the authority of the
aldermen of Batavia. The clerk of works carried out checks
to see that the building regulations were observed in the
city. One of the consequences of the expansion of the urban
area in 1664 was that a college van heemraden
(drainage board) was appointed (comparable to a polder
board in the Dutch Republic), which was responsible for the
management of land outside the city, including supervision
of boundaries. When this board was reorganized in 1679-1680,
it was decided to make a cadastral map(27).
The board was given permission to appoint surveyors for this
Therefore, in the late seventeenth
and during the eighteenth century, surveyors worked under
the authority of both the aldermen and the college van heemraden.
As far as registration is concerned, the divided administration
of the real estate inside and outside the city was brought
to an end in 1778, the year in which the landmeterscomptoir
(surveyor's office) was made responsible for the supervision
and updating of all maps.
(municipal surveyor), who fell under the jurisdiction of the
aldermen, was under the direct authority of the fabriek.
The fabriek was in charge
of the ambachtquartier (craftsmen's
quarter). He was responsible for the supervision of the Company
buildings and their contents; in principle with the exception
of goods to do with the fleet, which were in the charge of
the equipagemeester. Many
surveyors made their careers by rising to the rank of fabriek.
The fabriek was also involved
in the supervision, design and building of military engineering
From the beginning of the seventeenth
century onwards there are references to military engineers
in the service of the VOC
in the East. They were mainly employed for siegeworks and
the building of new forts. However, in the seventeenth century,
their presence was less permanent than that of the surveyors
and fabrieken . The latter
were then still mainly responsible for the maintenance and
supervision of forts and buildings. As the need arose gunners,
or an engineer who was attached to the artillery, served with
the fabriek as architects
for military engineering works(28).
This situation changed in 1717
when the Heren XVII sent a
director of fortifications and two assistant engineers to
Asia. This was, however, a temporary measure. It was only
in the second half of the eighteenth century that the position
of the fabriek was gradually
undermined. As was also the case in the Dutch Republic, the
architects and surveyors were either partially elbowed out
or replaced entirely by military engineers. In 1793 this trend
was confirmed in Batavia by the appointment of a military
engineer to the post of director of fortifications, buildings
and waterworks. A director of fortifications and artillery
had already been appointed in the Cape of Good Hope in 1778.
The new director in Batavia was put in charge of the management
of the entire archives of maps and drawings. All the engineers
and surveyors employed by the Company in the East were under
Not only maps of land areas
were produced in Batavia but charts as well. Although it was
the task of the mapmaker in Amsterdam to provide all ships
with charts, the necessity for having a mapmaker in Batavia
for the shipping in Asian waters made itself felt. In contrast
to the situation in Amsterdam, right from the outset the mapmaking
in Batavia was completely under the authority of the VOC;
the mapmakers worked exclusively for the Company. There was
a chart office in the shipyard in Batavia. The baaskaartenmaker
(master mapmaker) worked there under the aegis of the equipagemeester.
Besides producing maps, just as his Amsterdam colleague the
mapmaker was involved in the compilation and the keeping up
to date of the seaman's guides, in consultation with the equipagemeester
and his assistants (ex-captains or retired stuurlieden).
Until about half way through the
eighteenth century, an ever-growing number of assistants
worked under the master mapmaker. They copied leggerkaarten
(model maps) which had been improved and corrected on the
basis of information supplied by captains and stuurlieden..
We should not hold too exaggerated an opinion of these cartographers.
The production of a map, at least as far as the assistants
were concerned, demanded nothing more than tracing and copying.
After the practice of the engraving
of charts instead of drawing them by hand increased, the
Hydrografisch Bureau (Office
of Hydrography) in Batavia declined in importance and it was
decided to streamline it. Just as it had once been the fate
of the fabriek, now it was
the turn of the traditional master mapmaker to be displaced,
in his case by a naval officer. The order issued to the examinator
van de stuurlieden and instructor, P.H. Ohdem, in 1753,
to supervise the master mapmaker and the quality of the charts,
is the first sign of a change in attitude to the mapmakers'
importance of the office in Batavia was diminished even more
a few decades later as the result of the hydrographic activities
of the naval school in Semarang (1782-1812). After 1782 all
hydrographic mapping in Asia was carried out by teachers and
pupils of the naval school.