De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 41, Actual Description of the Wild So-called Inuit. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 41,  Actual Description of the Wild So-called Inuit. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLI, Engentliche Contrafantung derivil den Samutten genannt
From Part III of Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) and Johann Isreal de Bry's (1565-1609) Orientalische Indien (“Little Voyages”), Dritter Theil indiae orientalis...Frankfurt: 1599 (first edition)
Engraving with original, early 17th century hand color heightened with gold on laid paper; paper dimensions: approximately: 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Printed by Matthias Becker
van Groesen 52


On August 31, 1595, during his second voyage in search of Asia, Barents called at the southern coast of Vaygach, Samoyed land. There they encountered "savages". We see two of them, called Samoyeds or Samoyedes, depicted here fully decked out in their weaponry.

According to the account of Gerrit de Veer, who documented the journey, the  Dutch  approached the savages, prompting one of the latter to pick up a bow and arrow. Just in time the Dutch interpreter cried out in Russian "Don't shoot! We're friends." The man who heard this threw his bow and arrow on the ground and called out "You are welcome."

Gerrit de Veer describes the Samoyeds as short in stature, with broad, flat faces, small eyes and short legs pointing outwards. According to De Veer the "savages" were extremely agile at running and jumping, and did not trust foreign peoples. They dressed in elk hides from head to toe, except for the most prominent men, who bedecked their heads with colored textile and fur. They wore their hair in a braid down their backs. This can be seen on the man on the left, where we see a braid emerging from below the head covering.

De Veer also said that they caught whales, boiled the whale oil, caught and flayed seals and sacrificed reindeer to their idols. He reported that their sleds were always at the ready, with one or two deer hitched, which could hastily drive off with one or two men aboard the sled. We see this tableau in the background as well. In the midst of the crowd we see a Dutchman who is demonstrating his musket as he aims at a piece of rock that he has placed on a little hill. The people were so frightened that they ran away in panic.*

Text: Actual description of the wild so-called Inuit.

Text: Those people named Inuit, we found on solid ground territory in the so-called place Waygat looking like savages when we began talking to them they presented themselves as proper and awe-inspiring people their stature is small with a wide and flat face small eyes their knees point outwards of the legs they wear long hair in braids bound together in the back. Their clothing is raw pelt which they wear from head to toe they had their sleds with them and two reindeer harnessed on each one that were so fast with one or two passengers in them that no horse could keep up.**


Documenting Gerrit de Veer's Journal of Three Dutch voyages to reach the East Indies by the North (1594- 1597).


In 1596 helmsman Willem Barents undertook a third attempt to reach Asia from the Netherlands by sailing via the North Pole. There was reportedly a large open sea beyond the island of Novaya Zemlya. Once you passed this, and headed back to the south, you would presumably emerge near Japan and China.

Barents' first attempt involved navigating along the northern side of Novaya Zemlya, the second along the southern side of that island, via Vaygach. Both attempts had to be abandoned because of the advancing ice.

While seven ships full of merchandise had sailed during the second journey, now for the third attempt, the expedition was more prudent: the main concern was exploring the sea route, trade was  secondary. Only two  ships, both from Amsterdam, sailed on May 18, 1596, this time once again via the northern side of Novaya Zemlya.

Willem Barents was helmsman on the ship captained by 29-year-old Jacob  van  Heemskerck. Captain of the second ship was merchant Jan Cornelisz Rijp. Barents and Rijp soon clashed over the route to follow. The northern route championed by Rijp, which had also been indicated by cartographer Plancius, won out. Although they discovered two islands, Bear Island and Spitsbergen, the first leg was a failure. They came up against an impenetrable layer of ice. Barents wanted to fol- low the northeasterly route. Rijp wasn't interested and went his own way. When he once again hit pack ice, he turned homeward. Barents and Heemskerck headed towards the northern point of Novaya Zemlya. The expedition was to be a disaster, but thanks to the spectacular overwintering of Willem Barents and his crew, under abominable conditions, this journey took on epic proportions in the illustrious history of exploration.

Not long after the return of the survivors in 1598, the story of the adventure was published, penned by Gerrit de Veer, who had been on both the second and third journey with Barents.*

*Research provided by Martine Gosselink, head of the History department at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands.

**Translated from original German by Karl Nesseler.

Description compiled by Erik Brockett who is pleased to provide additional information relating to this or other examples of the work of Johann Theodor de Bry available at Arader Galleries. He can be contacted at