The Dutch East Indies and Beyond from Bestebreurtje Rare Books


The Dutch East Indies and Beyond from Bestebreurtje Rare Books

By Michael Stillman

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued A Fine Selection of Books and Prints on the Dutch East Indies and Beyond. This, naturally, includes many works related to the land today known as Indonesia, the major Dutch colony for several centuries, but it also covers many other locations. Several of the books include long journeys, even around the world, so many lands find their way into this collection. Here are a few of these items.

Item 17 is an early account of what is today the Republic of Palau. Two centuries ago, these Micronesian islands in the Pacific were called the Pelew Islands, as noted in this book title: An account of the Pelew Islands...composed from the journals of Captain Henry Wilson, and some of his officers, who, in August 1783, were there shipwrecked, in the 'Antelope'... The Spanish had earlier discovered the islands, but no one paid them much mind until Wilson and his men were forced into their extended stay. While such meetings between islanders and Europeans were not always congenial (witness the death of Captain Cook), Wilson and the Palau island natives struck up a great friendship. The British sailors were able to build a new ship, and when they departed, Wilson took the King's second son, Lee Boo, back to England with him. Tragically, and despite Wilson's efforts to protect him, the Prince came down with smallpox and died. This book (a third edition from 1789) by George Keate was quite popular among British readers, hungry for information about strange and faraway places, at the time. It tells all about the shipwreck, Lee Boo, and, of course, the islands. Priced at €1,450 (euros, or approximately $2,029 in U.S. dollars).

Item 35 is Krakatau, two volumes in one published 1884-85 by Rogier Verbeek. This is a description of the volcanic island located between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia (frequently called "Krakatoa" in English) that is noted for its volcanic eruptions. In 1883, the mountain exploded in one of the greatest seismic events in recorded history. Officially, over 36,000 were killed, primarily from the ensuing tsunamis, though it may have been several times that number. All 3,000 residents of a nearby island perished. Ash and sulphur spewed up to 50 miles in the air, and led to several years of global cooling as a result of filtering the sunlight. Verbeek was a Dutch geologist living on Java at the time, and his book is a thorough investigation of the eruption. It includes numerous colored views of the island in the weeks after the event. €1,650 (US $2,308).

Here is the account of the voyage that made it all the way around the world: Voyage autour du monde... by George Anson. This is the first French edition (1749) of the Englishman Anson's voyage in the early 1740s. Anson set out to harass (and steal from) Spanish shipping. His mission was for the most part a disaster, all but one of his half dozen ships being wrecked or forced to abandon the journey, and most of his men perished. Anson did attack a Spanish ship late in the voyage that was loaded with treasure with the result that he returned a wealthy man. Item 2. €1,850 (US $2,614).

Item 15 has been described as possessing "undoubtedly the finest 17th century plates of Indonesia." This is a Dutch work, Gedenkwaerdige zee en lantreize door de voornaemste landschappen van West en Oostindien, by Joan Nieuhof. This was the period of rule by the Dutch East India Company. Nieuhof was a Dutch adventurer who spent most of his life abroad, including a stint with the Dutch East India Company in the colonial capital of Batavia. This is a first and only edition of his book. €9,500 (US $13,419).

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books may be reached at +31 (0)347 322 548 or Their website is