Maps and Drawings

2. Management of the Archives of Maps and Drawings

Management by the VOC (1602-1795)

entral archives for the maps and drawings of the VOC in the Dutch Republic were never established. Each chamber possessed its own collection. Seeing that the Amsterdam Chamber had the greatest share in the Company's operations, and that it for the greater part of the time was the administrative seat of the Heren XVII, the most important collections of maps and drawings were formed in Amsterdam.

In order to facilitate decision-making and for the convenience of the administration, the maps and drawings of the Amsterdam Chamber were on hand either actually in or in the immediate vicinity of the boardroom. Framed maps hung on the walls of the boardroom of the Oostindisch Huis in the Hoogstraat(30). Besides these wall-maps, after 1622 the mapbook of Hessel Gerritsz. also became available. After ca. 1695, the mapbook of the clerk and mapmaker Isaac de Graaff was also on hand, as were several atlases and other printed geographical works.

From an extract of the Company advocate, E. Scott, it appears that the directors had several specific finding aids to maps and drawings. The first finding aid provided directions to the maps and drawings which had been bound in with the series Overgekomen brieven en papieren (letters and papers received from Asia). A second finding aid describes the kaarten die niet ingebonden sijn (maps that are not bound)(31). Both series of maps and drawings were probably kept in the charterkamer (records room) of the Oostindisch Huis, in the care of the librarian.

In the seventeenth century the ships' logs were also stored in the Oostindisch Huis(32). The leggerkaarten were kept at the mapmaker's; he, of course, worked at home. It is likely that at least one copy of every type of chart was kept in the stuurmanskamer (navigation room) in the Oostindisch Huis as a model(33). It was here that all the logs and corrected charts handed in by the return ships were kept until the end of the eighteenth century. The stuurmanskamer was placed under the supervision of a book-keeper, who in turn was responsible to the examinator van de stuurlieden. The mapmaker had access to the stuurmanskamer where he could borrow maps and logs which, after signing a receipt, he could take home for a while so that he could make corrections to the leggerkaarten and to the seaman's guides.

Therefore, there were two places where charts were to be found as archivalia: firstly at the home of the mapmaker, consisting mainly of the leggerkaarten and cartographic material supplied by captains and stuurlieden; and secondly in the stuurmanskamer in the Oostindisch Huis, consisting of logs and cartographic material from ships which had returned, and prototypes of the various charts.

All sorts of equipment needed for the outfitting of outward-bound ships was stored in the Oostindisch Huis, in the warehouses and at the shipyard. This included maps and navigational instruments. The outfitting of the ships was carried out on the basis of checklists which were regularly updated. They record the numbers and types of charts to be supplied per ship, with a note of their book value(34). These charts cannot be considered as cartographic archivalia of the Company. They are only mentioned here because in part their administration ran parallel to the holdings mentioned above and because remnants from these supplies have probably been preserved in the present collections (the so-called duplicates).

The supply of charts was produced by the mapmaker. In the seventeenth century it is not clear whether he delivered his charts directly to the ships or to the equipagemeester, or whether the maps were always taken first to the Oostindisch Huis. From the instructions of Joan Blaeu in 1638 it is clear that there was space in the Oostindisch Huis for the storage of charts(35). It was one of the duties of the mapmaker to provide a regular inventory/stocklist of them(36).

In the eighteenth century at least part of the stock was housed in the stuurmanskamer and also perhaps in a warehouse, and probably another part was to be found in the workplace or the shop of the mapmaker(37). It is likely that the used charts, which had been handed in by captains and stuurlieden on their return, were kept in stock by the Company to be used for the next equipage. Presumably, the newly produced charts were kept at home by the mapmaker; then they were then delivered to the Company for each equipage on more or less fixed dates(38).

In general terms the procedure in the Amsterdam Chamber was the same in the other chambers. Boardrooms were furnished with framed maps and prints for the use of the directors and representation. The directors also had geographical works and atlases at their disposal(39). At the end of the eighteenth century the Zeeland Chamber kept a separate register of the maps and drawings which had been received from establishments in Asia(40). The chambers formed their own collections of charts, which were provided by their own suppliers and mapmakers, or which had been handed in by captains and stuurlieden upon their return home. These charts from the stocks were used again for the outfitting of ships due to sail.

During the French Period (1796-1813)

n 1796 the stuurmanskamer in Amsterdam contained a supply of charts which were still in use and an archives of both hand-drawn and printed maps and seaman's guides. At this time it was still under the supervision of the examinator van de stuurlieden. When he resigned in 1796, because 'the books, charts and instruments pertaining to the navigation office are so voluminous', his successor was authorized by the Oostindisch Comité (East India Committee) to take over only the most valuable. The remainder were handed over to the second examinator, Engelberts(41). By valuable charts the Committee probably meant the charts that could still be used as part of the equipage: recent charts.

A second holding - of maps and charts, plans and mapbooks - made up part of the collection in the charterkamer in the Oostindisch Huis. In 1800 the archivist there was given instructions to keep the '... atlases, loose maps and drawings now available or those that the council might acquire from time to a separate cupboard ...', with the exception of the charts, which were in fact 'stored in what is known as the stuurmanskamer'(42). In the period 1800-1806 this separate collection was indeed assembled in the charterkamer and described(43).

The national administrative changes that came into force after 1806 had repercussions for the internal structure of the holdings of maps and drawings of the VOC. In all the inventorizations which have taken place since then, it has always been the exception rather than the rule that the maps and drawings have been directly associated with the written archive material. Even though in most instances the maps and drawings were either put in order or handed over at the same time as the written material(44).

In 1806 the administration of the colonies was centralized. By Royal Decree of the 18th July, 1806, a Depot-Generaal van Oorlog (General Depot for War), on the French model, was set up by King Louis Napoleon. The task of this depot was to take charge of the maps and drawings pertaining to the realm, the making of maps, and the compilation of reports relevant to policy and historiography. A great deal of attention was to be paid both to war history and statistics. Attached to the Depot-Generaal were a naval depot and a colonial depot, 'where all the maps, plans and memoranda relating to the colonies are to be stored. This Bureau shall be a part of the Ministry of Commerce and Colonies, nonetheless it shall be under the command of the Director of the Depot-Generaal van Oorlog.'(45) The job of the naval and colonial depots, like that of the General Depot for War, was to consist of (statistical) descriptions and historiography(46). The director of the depot was C.R.Th. Kraijenhoff; his cousin, M.J. de Man, was the deputy-director in charge of the daily running of the depot(47).

In August 1806, this depot assumed control of the VOC charts and plans kept in the charterkamer in Amsterdam from the Aziatische Raad (Asiatic Council). A list of the holdings of the charterkamer in June 1806 has survived(48). Hundreds of items are described in it. A table of contents from the mapbook of Isaac de Graaff has been added. The list is not exhaustive. It does not include the holdings in the stuurmanskamer . We may assume that the attention being paid to actual problems meant that a portion of the older maps and drawings were not described.

The foundation for a central collection of maps and drawings relating to the colonies was laid in 1806. Between 1806 and 1810 the maps and drawings were administered and listed by A. Ampt Cz., and after him by the director of colonial maps, Brunsveld van Hulten(49). The inventory from this period has not been preserved in its entirety, but excerpts from it give an impression: archive maps and map collections, largely printed, were mixed up together in a system based on geographical classification(50).

In 1808 Ampt proposed that the colonial section in the Depot-Generaal be expanded by the addition of the Romswinckel Collection (bought by Louis Napoleon) and with what was available for the Depot-Generaal van Oorlog.'(51) In 1809 he sketched the history of the collection 'of the geographical, topographical and hydrographical section of the colonies' as follows: 'The original stock in this assemblage consisted of a considerable collection which were entrusted to the undersigned the erstwhile Americaanschen Raad (American Council); other documents bought as supplementary material, as well as those from the Asiatic Council ... were added by me'. Ampt thought that 'the memoranda and other papers concerning the defence of the colonies and the expansion of cultivation, serving as an explanation of the plans and drawings' were complementary to the collection(52). The emphasis on defence and cultivation reflects the policy preoccupations of the period.

This plan of the collection of maps and memoranda is preserved in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands. It is a French inspired classification, expounded upon in publications like the Instruction pour le Directeur du Dépôt des Colonies(53). The starting point of this instruction is to form series according to the type of document: charts; building plans of ships; plans of establishments; topographical maps; and so forth. Each of these series has an individual index in which maps can be traced chronologically with the aid of the geographically classified sections which are arranged alphabetically(54).

Traces of Ampt's work remain on some of the maps and drawings preserved in The Hague. Usually they have a blue label pasted on the back. On this label is a note of in which index, in which section, and under which folio number the map in question is described. Ampt, who was himself a mapmaker, described the maps and drawings of the whole ministry, thereby also including the West India region and waters. It is evident from the stamps and other classificatory marks, to say nothing of the blue paper which has been pasted on, that after 1806 Ampt included the current charts which were available in the stuurmanskamer in Amsterdam in his inventory.

In the autumn of 1808 the Depot-Generaal was moved from The Hague to Amsterdam. The various collections could be housed there in the newly appointed premises in the Oude Turfmarkt. This meant that the goal of centralization had been accomplished in a material sense. When the map collections of the ministries of the navy and the colonies were combined in 1806, part of the chart holdings of the former VOC, in particular the eighteenth century charts which were considered to be important for the production of new maps, went to the naval depot(55).

In 1810 the colonial map holdings were described in twenty-seven registers: twelve of these contain descriptions of maps which either wholly or in part could have originated from the VOC. The mapbook of Isaac de Graaff is not described in the registers, but is mentioned separately in a packing list(56).

Unfortunately these registers have not been preserved in their entirety; this makes it difficult to make an estimate of the number of sheets which had come from the VOC collections. The total, excluding the 188 pages in De Graaff's mapbook, will not have been less than 400(57).

In the summer of 1810 the plans to annex the kingdom of Holland to the French Empire prompted the French to take measures to transfer a selection of the maps and drawings from the collections of the navy and colonies to the French Dépôt de la Marine as quickly as possible. Napoleon sent his chamberlain, Auguste-Dieudonné-Emmanuel Comte de Las Cases, to Amsterdam in July 1810 to make preparations for the transfer(58). Although considerations of strategic importance were undoubtedly uppermost in Napoleon's mind, which meant that recent material relating to the colonies and the navy will have been given priority, historical interest also played a role. There is absolutely no doubt about how liberally the Emperor interpreted the selection. 'L'Empereur veut que le Dépôt Impérial de la Marine Paris recueille de cette mission tous les avantages qu'elle pourra lui procurer', reported the Minister for the Navy, Decrès in a letter to the director of the French Dépôt(59).

In a report of the 13th July 1810, the director of the French Dépôt, De Rosily-Mesros, gave abundant information about how important the maps in The Netherlands were: '...non seulement des cartes et plans hydrographiques mais encore des cartes géographiques et topographiques de toutes les côtes et les o les Hollandais ont eu des établissements. Outre les cartes des colonies Hollandaises qui sont en général les meilleurs qu'il y a ainsi faites, il doit y avoir dans les Dépôts de Hollande des plans des ports et rades des différentes parties du monde qui étaient fréquentées par les vaisseux Hollandais et la collection de ces plans serait une acquisition très importante pour le Dépôt Général [...] Monsieur le Baron [De las Cases] jugera sans doute qu'il vaut mieux conserver plus que moins: c'est le moyen le plus sr de ne pas perdre des connaissances précieuses.'(60)

Decrès introduced De Las Cases' mission to the prince-governor, Lebrun, who had been appointed shortly before in these words: 'L'object de sa mission est de s'occuper autant qu'il aura bien, du recueillement des cartes et plans du possessions d'outre mer de la Hollande, et de l'état des objets de cette nature dont doit s'enrichir le Dépôt Impérial'(61). In Amsterdam the inventories of the depots of the navy and the colonies were made available(62). De las Cases sent the catalogues to Paris for advice. On the basis of the catalogues only a very small number of maps and drawings were exempted from requisition: only duplicates of those maps that were already in the possession of the French Dépôt(63). Of the maps and drawings in the so-called 'VOC registers', only a paltry eight sheets were not to be sent to Paris(64). Meanwhile the experts in the French Dépôt had also set their sights on as yet uncatalogued cartographic material in other locations: "Les deux inventaires qui ont été envoyés Son Excellence [Decrès] indiquent qu'une petite partie des cartes que la Hollande devait posséder. On ne trouve aucune des reconnaissances que les Hollandais ont faites des Mers de l'Archipel Indien, de la Nouvelle Guinée et de la Nouvelle Hollande, on ne trouve rien sur les Molucques, sur Bornéo et sur Malaca et Sumatra. Il n'y a que très peu de chose sur la géographie de la colonie du Cap de Bonne Espérance et celle de la Côte de Guinée. Il est probable qu'il y a encore d'autres Dépôts en Hollande dont on recevra sans doute les inventaires. La Compagnie des Indes doit en avoir un qui peut-tre fort précieux.'(65) It is clear what the French experts were looking for: the former, extensive collection of the stuurmanskamer which had been handed over to the second examinator, Engelberts, in 1796.

The order for the formal transference of the Dutch Depot-Generaal was issued in a decree of Napoleon dated 18th August 1810. On the same day the Royal House of Louis Napoleon and the kingdom of Holland were abrogated. In a letter dated the 21st August Minister Decrès once again delicately reminded Lebrun that only that which was explicitly mentioned in the Imperial Decree was to remain behind in Holland 'et l'apport Paris de tout ce qui n'est pas designé l'état précité'(66).

On the 27th August 1810 the Dutch Minister for the Navy, Paulus van der Heim, gave orders to the Dutch escort officers to take everything to Paris. The transportation of the five chests and one package took place first by ship from Rotterdam to Antwerp. From Antwerp they were carried by road. In Paris on the 13th September charge of the documents were taken over from Brunsveld van Hulten by Jean-Nicolas Buache de Neuville and Charles-Franois Beautemps Beaupré. Everything was deposited in the Dépôt de la Marine, situated in Maison d'Egmont-Pignatelli in the Rue Louis-le-Grand 11, not far from the Place Vendôme(67).

In contrast to the written archives of the VOC therefore, the maps and drawings archives were transferred to Paris almost entirely intact - at least, the holdings of the charterkamer and a major part of the holdings of the stuurmanskamer in Amsterdam -, including maps and drawings of which, as yet, no inventory had been made by the Depot-Generaal. The Dutch Depot of the Navy and the Colonies was abolished by decree of the 28th December 1810(68). At the same time it was decided to transfer the maps which had been left in Amsterdam to Paris. In May 1811 the maritime prefect of Antwerp forwarded a further thirteen chests and one iron box containing archives and maps to Paris(69). It is not clear whether this consignment actually reached Paris. A receipt dated November 1815 states in so many words that the maps that were exempted from transfer by Napoleon's decree of the 18th August 1810, were never deposited in Paris(70). As far as the VOC maps are concerned, this was only a matter of eight sheets.

With the exception of a stamp, the maps in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands which were returned from the Dépôt de la Marine bear no other French classificatory marks. In Paris between 1810 and 1814 there had not been enough time to integrate them into French collections. This is perhaps understandable: the youngest of the three archivists was 72 and the oldest was 80(71).

Management by the Ministry of Colonies (1814-1856)

irectly after the regaining of independence in 1813, efforts were begun to retrieve the archives, paintings and other objects which had been taken away to Paris. The return of archives was stipulated in the peace treaty which was concluded in Paris on the 30th May 1814 (Article 31). The responsibility for the maps and drawings claimed by the Netherlands was entrusted to the former deputy-director of the Depot-Generaal van Oorlog, M.J. de Man, in July 1815(72).

At the end of November 1815, De Man reported that he had been 'exceptionally successful notwithstanding all opposition' in his tracking down of the colonial maps(73). Besides the resistance he had encountered in Paris, he had been faced with practical problems. De Man had had to feel his way in an occupied city. A lot of his time was spent in visiting allied commanders and French authorities. The French delayed his work, possibly because they wanted to quickly make copies of the maps to be returned. The plan of Batavia by Tency, the original of which is now in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands, remained behind in the collection of the Dépôt de la Marine as a tracing. Even printed maps were traced, for example the map of the Malabar coast by Van Keulen. This same map of Malabar is proof that this was a rush job on the part of the French. The printed map itself turned up in a corner of the Dépôt de la Marine(74).

On the 26th October 1815 De Man got the French minister for the navy to issue a restitution order to De Rosily-Mesros at the Dépôt de la Marine. De Rosily-Mesros had to hand over the maps on the basis of the catalogues which had been made by the Dutch Depot at the time of transfer, 'qui pourra servir leur vérification'(75). This is an interesting phrase. In 1810 eight sheets from the VOC holdings, which had been explicitly exempted in the Imperial Decree on the basis of the transport inventories, could be kept in Amsterdam. All the rest, thus including those which were not described in the inventory, had to be taken to Paris. In 1815 the maps were returned on the basis of the inventory. This meant that the former collection from the stuurmanskamer and other maps which had not been catalogued were lost to De Man's sight. A few of the maps which had indeed been inventorized could not be found in 1815. There were not many according to a catalogue of them compiled by De Man(76).

Due to De Man's efforts during the winter of 1815/1816 two chests with maps and drawings relating to the colonies were brought back to the Netherlands and deposited in the charterkamer of the ministry of colonies in The Hague(77). When he sent the maps and drawings, De Man reported on the 15th November 1815, that: 'herewith I enclose, as far as the Department of the Colonies is concerned, the original catalogue of maps and plans which were transported hither from Holland and in which all those documents I have retrieved have been indicated with red stripes, those marked with an o (according to a Royal Decree of Napoleon 18th August 1810) remained behind in Holland and are to be found in the Department of Colonies.'(78) There is no known copy of this annotated catalogue of Ampt and Brunsveld van Hulten. The holdings are described in the packing list as follows: 26 packets, each of which contains the maps of one register (Asia etc.); the mapbook of De Graaff in two volumes; 7 packages of memoranda and letters; 13 maps on linen or rolled up, described in register 27; 8 rolled maps not described in the catalogue (separately specified: maps of the West); and 14 cartons (papers of H.W. Daendels). The chests arrived in the Netherlands on the 8th December 1815. The reclaimed paintings of the House of Orange had been returned not long before. De Man had also played a role in this: helped by Prussian soldiers, he himself had taken the Bull by Potter from the wall of the Louvre and borne this and others paintings to a place of safety under escort which he led with drawn sword(79).

In the Netherlands the collection of the VOC maps and drawings which had been brought back from Paris in 1815 were housed in the charterkamer of the ministry in the Binnenhof in The Hague. Other parts were still stored in warehouses with the written archives: one section was in Amsterdam and the rest in Middelburg and other cities where the VOC had had chambers. After 1815 the various archives dating from the VOC period were collected together in Amsterdam in the Westindisch Slachthuis by the Ministry of Colonies.

The administration of archives under the Ministry of Colonies was not particularly conducive to the preservation of documents. Quite a lot was destroyed in the Westindisch Slachthuis. In 1821 the minister gave permission for all the duplicates in archives in Amsterdam as well as those documents which, for instance, had been irretrievably damaged by water to be sold as waste paper. Included in this clean up was a 'chest of old, useless charts'(80). In their springclean the administrators adopted the principle: what is no longer of use for the present administration, will be the first to go. In a number of cases this led to the destruction of historically important documents. One of the people whose indignation was roused by this was the government archivist, R.C. Bakhuizen van den Brink. In 1856 this prompted him to comment on the custom of using parchment maps to bind papers(81). This was a time-honoured custom: outdated parchment maps retained their material value and in the seventeenth century they had already been used to bind letters and papers. Victor de Stuers, well known advocate for the preservation of the Dutch heritage, was indignant about the abuses in the management of archives. Referring to the views of the East Indies from the boardroom of the Heren XVII (now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) he wrote: 'These works, partially reduced to shreds, have recently been found in a peat store.'(82)

During the first half of the 19th century, the collection of maps and drawings in Amsterdam was added to with items which came to light in other places. About 1850 the archives of the former VOC in Amsterdam were inspected. The report only makes a general mention of the existence of 'maps, plans, illustrations of forts'(83).

top Continue

Search in VOC archives:

Site by Hic et Nunc