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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 49, How We Prepare to go Back to Holland. From the "Little Voyages"

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 49, How We Prepare to go Back to Holland. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 49, How We Prepare to go Back to Holland. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLIX, Wie wir zurichten widerumb nach hollandt zu fahren
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, the worst was behind them. It was May 1597. After careful consideration, Van Heemskerck and Barents decided not to wait much longer - the expedition would return home. The decision took so long because primarily Van Heemskerck - besides waiting for better weather conditions - fostered the vain hope that the ship would become dislodged from the ice.

Since that did not happen, a new boat had to be built. Van Heemskerck decided that this could be started in June. That is the moment we see depicted here. By day, seven men went to the ship to dismantle the parts that could be reused. In particular the old foresail to make sails and a few walls emerged to be usable.

De Veer wrote that the work was extremely strenuous. The men were too weak to work because of exhaustion. They almost didn't manageit. But they also knew that if they failed, they would remain behind as "citizens of Novaya Zemlya" and meet their ends there.*

Title: XLIX, How we prepare to go back to Holland. 

Text: So we spent the entire winter in great cold fear and distress at this place in this primitive island oftentimes looking to the sea to see if the ice was melted which at first didn't but then in May did. As we found no use for our great ship anymore we decided to modify our boat and small ship and to build it up a bit higher so that we could proceed on our far journey in it because we had 300 Teutsche miles (German miles, which equals about 1400 miles) until we would reach our destination and end of our journey where people live while we were working hard/ day after day the bears ran toward us but they were stabbed and killed by us so that we could continue working more or less.


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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