Indonesia and the Dutch East Indies From Gert Jan Bestebreurtje
The Dutch East Indies and Indonesia from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje.
By Michael Stillman
This is our first review of a catalogue from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje, Antiquarian Bookseller. Bestebreurtje is a Dutch bookseller, and they are offering a massive collection in their catalogue 122, entitled The Dutch East Indies, The Republic of Indonesia. A total of 1,373 items are offered for sale.
First, a bit of geography and history for those not particularly familiar with Indonesia and its past. Indonesia is a federation of many islands located between the continents of Asia and Australia, straddling the border between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. While an independent nation for over half a century, there are still rivalries and even occasional violent confrontations between some of the peoples who inhabit these islands. Like many of today's nations, particularly in Africa, it was created not so much from natural borders as from its colonial past. For several centuries, these islands were colonies ruled by the Netherlands. This is why so much material about their history can be found thousands of miles away in the possession of a Dutch bookseller.
Portugal had been the first nation to gain influence in the area, but by the 17th century, the Dutch had made major inroads. Early in that century, the Dutch East India Company was formed, and this quasi-governmental corporation one by one came to control the various islands through the course of the 1600s. In effect, it became their government, though the Company was more interested in trade than rule.
The Dutch East India Company ruled the islands with an iron hand, not unwilling to use violence to enforce its will. However, by the end of the 18th century, the company was bankrupt, and the Dutch lost control to the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Once that period ended, the Dutch regained control, and ruled the area until their nation fell to Germany during the Second World War. The islands were briefly controlled by the Japanese during the war, but once Japan fell, the Dutch attempted to regain control. It was not to be. Independence movements were sweeping the old colonial empires. The Dutch were able to seize the capital at Batavia (now Jakarta) and assert their authority, but the costs were high and long-term prospects dim. In 1949, they ceded control to an indigenous government, and the independent nation of Indonesia was born.
Roughly half the works in this catalogue pertain to what is now Indonesia in general, while the other half pertain to specific islands. Not surprisingly, most of the books offered are in the Dutch language. However, there are many in English and French, and descriptions are provided in English, a great help for those of us who do not read Dutch. Here are a few items that are being offered.
Item 90 is A new and accurate map of the East India Islands. Laid down according to the latest discoveries. Those "latest" discoveries were as of 1752. This London map includes not only the Dutch East Indies, but the Southeast Asian nations of Cambodia, Thailand, parts of China and the Philippines as well. The map has been colored by hand and includes a cartouche of natives holding parasols. Priced at EU675 (Euros, or US dollar equivalent of US $824).
Indonesia and the Dutch East Indies From Gert Jan Bestebreurtje
Francois Valentijn's epic work on the Dutch East Indies.
Item 563, by Francois Valentijn, is Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien... This is a five-volume (in eight folio books) history of the Far East published in Amsterdam from 1724-1726. Valentijn was a Dutch Reformed Church minister who lived for many years on Java, but this history covers many other eastern lands, from Persia to India to China and Japan. It is a notably important resource as many of the documents and manuscripts on which it was based no longer exist. The set is generously illustrated by many of the best artists of the day, possessing 338 engraved maps, portraits, plans and views. 36,000 (US $44,055).
Item 495 is Voiage de Gautier Schouten aux Indies Orientales... Schouten was a Dutch seaman who served in the East Indies on behalf of the Dutch East India Company from 1658-1665. He was present for some of the campaigns whereby the Dutch secured their hold on the territory, and participated in several voyages. Schouten was a careful observer and made a point of traveling inland from the ports he visited to learn more about the areas. His accounts were thorough and quite popular in their day, this work going through at least seven editions. This is a first French edition, published in two volumes in 1707 (it was part of a larger set). 1,450 (US $1,775).
Item 99 is a Narrative of events in Borneo and Celebes, down to the occupation of Labuan: from the Journal of James Brooke. Together with a narrative of the operations of H.M.S. Iris. The writers of this two-volume set were Brooke and Rodney Mundy. Mundy commanded the British ship Iris on routine duties in the East Indies from 1844-1846. In 1846, he was called on to assist James Brooke in his campaign against pirates. They attacked pirates based on Brunei and forced the Sultan thereof into submission. They took possession of the island of Labuan, which was held by the British for many years until more recently ceded to Malaysia. 1,295 (US $1,585).
Item 266 is a series of recent scholarly journals pertaining to Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It is a run of 65 out of 66 issues (number 65 is missing) of the Journal of Cornell University: Southeast Asia Program Publications. The collection runs from 1966 through 1998. 425 (US $520).
Item 534 is a masterpiece of natural history from the area today known as Indonesia. This is three volumes in four imperial folios edited by Coenraad Temminck: Verhandelingen over de natuurlijke geschiedenis der Nederlandsche overzeesche bezittingen... When the Dutch returned to the East Indies after the Napoleonic Wars, the government authorized a series of explorations. Most notable in these volumes are the hand-colored plates, depicting the people, animals, plants and scenery of the islands. There are a total of 259 plates, of which 169 are hand-colored. Only 250 copies of this outstanding work were published. 35,000 (US $42,831).
You may download this and other Gert Jan Bestebreurtje catalogues from their website. Go to www.gertjanbestebreurtje.com and click on "Catalogues" on the toolbar. Their phone number is +31 (0)347 322 548.