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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 47, Actual Fashion of the House in Which we Spent the Winter. From the "Little Voyages"

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 47, Actual Fashion of the House in Which we Spent 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 47, Actual Fashion of the House in Which we Spent the Winter. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLVII. Engentliche manir defs HausesIchleifften und was damals begegnet
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 interior of the Behouden Huis (The Kept House). In the middle we see a wood fire, with an arctic fox being grilled above it. Fox were caught around the house with traps. Thanks to the vitamin C in the meat of the arctic fox, the men did not suffer from any serious forms of scurvy. There is a chimney in the roof. In order to keep the heat inside, at one point they shut the chimney until the whole crew had almost succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Along the back wall we see a number of box beds, and behind on the right a clock, which has stopped working because of the cold. That is why an hourglass, which has to be turned every twelve hours, sits on a table on the left. Since it is usually dark outside, it is difficult to tell if it is day or night. The sun was last seen at the beginning of November. That is why a close eye must be kept on the hourglass so that it can be turned at the right moment. On the right is an empty wine barrel, in which the men take a hot bath from time to time.The conditions were terrible. Christmas day brought bad weather with a cold northwesterly wind. It became more pleasant inside once the house was snowed in.

Things took a turn for the better on January 5, 1597. Barents and Van Heemskerck gave the crew permission to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. Gerrit de Veer, surgeon and chronicler: 'We all surrendered a part of our wine ration. There were still two pounds of flour, which we used to make pancakes which we fried in oil. We each took a dry white-bread biscuit from our ration and soaked it in wine. We had such a good time that we imagined we were with our friends in the Netherlands; the food tasted as good to us as the most wonderful meal at home. Norwegian seal hunter Elling Carlsen, who discovered the Kept House in 1871, found the house more or less as it is shown on the print. A house of 8 x 5 meters (approx. 26 x 16 feet), where 16 men lodged for many months.*

Title: Actual fashion of the house/ in which we spent the winter.

Text: Our house which we have made and in which we had to get by was now completed. In the middle stood the fire pit above in the roof was a hole built with siding or floor boards like a chimney. On the side were benches which were divided and distinguished so that everybody had their own bed on those. On one side stood a single Stueckfass (barrel that holds up to 1400 liters) in which we made a steam bath and one after the other took a bath which made us content not far from thus hung a chiming clock in a corner which finally because of the horrible cold stopped working. As a result we had to put up an hour glass which ran from 12 to 12 and which we had to keep a good eye on/ because for a long time we had little or no daylight so we didn't know if it was day or night. In the middle of the house we had hanging a day and night burning lamp spent our time with singing reading and otherwise.


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

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