Etat présent des Indes Hollandaises, contenant une Peintre vraie et Fidelle du Gouvernement, de l'Administration, et la Conduite des Hollandais dans les Indes-Orientales…. VOC, ANONYMOUS.
Etat présent des Indes Hollandaises, contenant une Peintre vraie et Fidelle du Gouvernement, de l'Administration, et la Conduite des Hollandais dans les Indes-Orientales…

Etat présent des Indes Hollandaises…
Etat présent des Indes Hollandaises, contenant une Peintre vraie et Fidelle du Gouvernement, de l'Administration, et la Conduite des Hollandais dans les Indes-Orientales…

Batavia (but Amsterdam?): n.p., circa 1780.

Octavo, 96pp., booksellers label to inner front cover, engraved vignette on the title; uncut in contemporary patterned wrappers fashioned from a booksellers catalogue, handwritten title-label to upper cover.

A remarkable eighteenth century pamphlet detailing the political, economic and military conditions in the Dutch East Indies. Although anonymous, the work was written by an evidently well-informed author who provides sensitive strategic insights into the weakness of Dutch interests in the region, stressing their vulnerability to British and French aggression.

A remarkable eighteenth century pamphlet detailing the political, economic and military conditions in the Dutch East Indies. Although anonymous, the work was written by an evidently well-informed author who provides sensitive strategic insights into the weakness of Dutch interests in the region, stressing their vulnerability to British and French aggression.
Translated from a simultaneously issued Dutch edition (Nederlandisch India), the report was written either shortly before or at the beginning of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784). The unknown author's frank and candid discussion of the weaknesses of the VOC generally and Batavia particularly, has led to much speculation about the intentions of the work. 'The economy was precarious, persons in both Europe and Southeast Asia were Jekyll and Hyde. There were those who tried to warn of VOC troubles but, when corruption reaches the highest places and when statistical cooperation can be secured between production and sales, what to do! The Heeren XVII knew less than they should have known about affairs abroad. They "regulated" to a degree only, whereas the truth of minimal salaried men bringing fabulous fortunes home… was easily and constantly very visible in Asia to anybody who looked. This author was writing from a position of prominence; he too had money; he was equally fluent in Dutch and French: he tried to warn. Where did he print? And - what was his name?' (Smith Diehl, Printers and Printing in the East Indies to 1850: Batavia, 1990, p.151-152).
The susceptibility of Batavia to a British or French attack is a central concern and in compelling detail the author outlines the weakness of the various garrisons defending the VOC administrative capital. '[Batavia] un château qui tombe entièrement en ruine… J'oserais assurer que trois ou quatre vaisseaux Anglais, Français ou de route autre nation, emporteraient Batavia dans deux ou trois jours.' It is unclear then why the report was immediately rendered into French (as well as English), but these translations did raise the hackles of contemporary commentators in London particularly: was the work in fact some sort of ruse de guerre?
The volume is bound in a bookseller's catalogue (from which we can suppose a publishing date sometime around 1780) which has been overprinted in red ink in a striking diamond pattern. The catalogue likely belonged to Geneva bookseller Jean François Bassompierre, whose ticket is pasted down on the inside cover. The title page notes printing in Batavia, although Landwehr suggests very plausibly that it may in fact be Amsterdam.

Landwehr, 1597.

Price (AUD): $2,250.00  other currencies     Ref: #4302373

Condition Report