De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part V, Plate 02, Presentation of the Things that the Dutch Saw on the island Mauritius and Their Usage

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part V, Plate 02, Presentation of the Things that the Dutch Saw on the island Mauritius and Their Usage. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate II, Anzeigung desz jenigen sc die Holander in der
Insel Mauritius gesehen vnd was sie daselbst auszgerichtet haben.
From Part V of Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) and Johann Isreal de Bry's (1565-1609) Orientalische Indien (“Little Voyages”), Funffter Theil der Orientalischen Indien...Frankfurt: 1601
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 63


When the Dutch arrived on the island of Mauritius, the island was still known by its Portuguese name Ilha do Cerne, which means Swan Island. It was soon clear why. On 18 September 1598 the first Dutchmen went ashore. Before dusk they returned on board with nine specimens of some sort of large bird, the dodo bird, which they called in Dutch the walgvogel, larger than turkeys but with wings too small for them to fly. Their meat was tough, but their hunger kept them from being fussy. We see the dodo depicted at number 2 in the illustration.

The next day the men once again caught many birds, including dodos. The day after that, 20 September, a service of thanksgiving was held on shore (see no. 11). It was the day on which carnival was celebrated in Amsterdam and that is way the dodo was also first called the 'carnival goose'. The birds on the islands had never had any enemies and dozens of them were easily caught, killed and salted for the remaining sea journey. Just over fifty years later the dodo would become extinct, one of the first victims of the Dutch appetite for commerce. The tree just left of the center shows a sign with the coats of arms of Holland, Zeeland and Amsterdam. At the back on the left is a blacksmith at work, in the bay men are using nets to fish, and others are roasting meat or hammering and sawing wood. The expedition left Mauritius and continued on to Bantam, the trading center on the north- west point of Java.

Title: Presentation of the things that the Dutch saw on the island Mauritius and their usage.

Text: 1. Those are great tortoises which just stay on land because they can't swim they eat insects which they know how to catch and which are almost the size of a shoe. 2. This is a bird called Walg bird (translation: abomination bird, or Dodo) is the size of a swan with a big head instead of wings he just has three or four feathers his body is rotund instead of a tail there are just three or four feathers. The Dutch plucked them but they were inedible. 3. Is a palm tree with great leaves that a man could cover himself with one and it would protect him from the rain if you drill a hole in this tree and put a spigot in it wine comes out almost the same taste as Spanish wine but goes bad after two days named palm wine by the Dutch. 4. This is a black- breasted bird called 'Rabos Forcados' [Frigate-bird] with a scissor- like tail. They catch flying-fish but, when they drop one, the others snatch it out of the air. 5.An Indian crow, twice the size of a par- rot and of two or three colours. 6.This is a tree which has patterns resembling the shields of Amsterdam and Zeeland. 7.This is a palm-tree of which certain parts are used against scurvy. 8. This is a bat with a head like a small monkey. While resting, it hangs on trees in great numbers. 9.A workman or forger. 10. Huts built of leaves and branches where the people spend the night. 11. Here the preacher gives his morning and afternoon sermons. 12. A large catch of fish - half-a-ton in one haul.**


Documenting the East Indian Journey led by Admiral Jacob Cornelius van Neck (1598), featuring Depictions of: Mauritius, Tuban, Banda, Ternate, Molluccas, Banda, and Gammalamme

The very first Dutch voyage to the East Indies took place in 1595 and was led by the brothers Frederik and Cornelis de Houtman. The second expedition followed in 1598, led by Admiral Jacob Cornelius van Neck. Eight ships left Amsterdam on this journey.

One of these ships was captained by Jacob van Heemskerck, who earlier had participated in the arctic expedition led by Willem Barents in 1595- 1597, an ill-fated journey that ended with the famous overwintering in Novaya Zemlya. In addition to Heemskerck there was a third lead- ing figure on this trip, Vice Admiral Wijbrand van Warwijck.

The eight ships departed in the direction of southern Africa. After the Cape of Good Hope, half the fleet put in at Madagascar, the other half went to Mauritius. The admiral met up with the other captains in Bantam (on the northern point of Java).

After loading the ships with a great quantity of spices there, Van Neck sent vice admirals Van Heemskerck and Van Warwijck on to the Maluku Islands (formerly known as the Moluccas, or Spice Islands). He himself started the return journey. After 14 months, on 19 July 1599, Van Neck returned to the  Netherlands with a rich cargo: 600,000 pounds of pepper, 250,000 pounds of cloves, 20,000 pounds of nutmeg and 200 pounds of mace.

When Van Neck distributed the profits among the expedition's shareholders, Van Warwijck and Van Heemskerck were already far along in their journey. They first put in at the Javan city of Tuban, where they bought food and visited the palace of the local king. They continued on to Ambon, where they arrived in 1599. A few trading posts were opened on the Maluku island of Ambon for the purchase of cloves. Commerce also took place on Banda, part of the southern Maluku Islands and at the time the only island in the world where nutmeg grew.

De Bry's prints are illustrations to the original travel accounts of Van Neck and Warwijck and were probably drawn in the Netherlands after the expedition's return, on the basis of sketches that made by the crew.*

*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