De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 45, How We Constructed a House in Which we Were Planning on Spending the Winter. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 45, How We Constructed a House in Which we Were Planning on Spending the Winter. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLV, Wie wir ein Hauz zimerten darin nen wir uns den Binter uber mochten
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


In this illustration we see the Dutch in mid September 1596 as they start to build their Norse-style house in preparation for a long, cold winter. Their ship, seen behind on the left, had become icebound at the end of August. The first con- tours of the house are depicted in the background on the right. It soon emerged that finding wood would not be a problem in this bare, unforgiving landscape, because it is washed ashore by the tides.

The strategy was first to build sleds, which could be used to drag the wood. As soon as they were well on their way, a new problem arose: on September 23 the carpenter died. Not only this, but the cold became so severe that the nails they held in their mouths while building would freeze to their lips, causing the skin to tear off when removed.

Gerrit de Veer wrote that the work was extremely strenuous, but that necessity forced them to keep at it.*

Title: How we constructed a house in which we were planning on spending the winter.

Text: When we saw that there was no hope to get out of the ice before the summer we decided to find a good place to build a hut to live in during the winter and the Generous Protector provided us with good fortune. Because although there was no wood on the island straw foliage or grass we found a place with a little stream of fresh water and at the same riverside plenty of whole trees with roots and branches were lying there probably driftwood that washed up there so not only were we able to build our house out of those but also we would have enough firewood for the winter without which we definitely would have died shortly after because of the cold because the cold was so horrible that we almost had to stop working. When one puts an iron nail in his mouth it would stick to it when one pulls it out it started bleeding.


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