BEHR, Johann von der.

Diarium, oder Tage-Buch über dasjenige,

so sich Zeit einer neun-järigen Reise zu Wasser und Lande, meistentheils in Dienst der Vereinigten Geoctroyrten Niederländischen Ost-Indianischen Compagnie, besonders in denselbigen Ländern täglich begeben und zugetragern.

Jena: Urban Spaltholtz, 1668 Stock Code: 141776
£6,750.00
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The East Indies and Persia, with exotic flora and fauna encountered on the journey

First and only edition of this fascinating account of the East Indies and Persia by a German soldier in the service of the VOC. "Behr enlisted in 1641 and sailed to Batavia about two years later he went on to serve in Java, as well as with the fleet of Johann Maetsuycker on the Malabar Coast. Apart from a voyage to Persia, Behr spent four of his six years with the VOC in Ceylon" (Howgego).

The originality of parts of Behr's account have been questioned, with comparisons being drawn with the published journals of Johann Jacob Merklein and with Johann Jacob Saar's record of his service in Ceylon. Behr had returned to Europe in 1650, but his narrative was not published for another 18 years; the most likely explanation for any plagiarism is editorial light fingers rather any lack of authenticity in Behr's own account. He certainly provides an entirely authentic account of the VOC's attack in 1645 on the strategically important island of Kischmisch (Qeshm), which dominated the Strait of Hormuz and had been contested between the Persians, Portuguese, and English for some time. The Dutch were struggling to improve the terms of their silk trading agreement with the Safavids and attacked the island in the hope of forcing the Shah's hand in negotiations but were unable to take the fort. The show of force did however achieve some amelioration of their situation, and the incident is illuminating of power relationships in the Gulf in the early modern period, challenging "conventional wisdom that the Safavid economy was subservient to the exploitative practices of European Companies" (Faghfoory & Floor).

A view of the attack on Qeshm is included in the somewhat naïve but nonetheless splendid plates, which also show Batavia, Goa, St Helena, and Kamron in Persia, and images of some of the unusual flora and fauna encountered by Behr - coconut trees, the cinnamon tree, an elephant hunt, and flying fish.

Highly attractive, the book is well-represented institutionally, but extremely uncommon in commerce with just one copy at auction in the last 50 years.

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Description

Quarto (183 x 140 mm). Eighteenth-century calf, skilfully rebacked to style, boards attractively bordered in blind with gilt flower-head tools at corners, gilt edges.

Illustrations

Engraved portrait frontispiece and elaborate emblematic additional title page, 15 engraved plates, the view of Batavia folding.

Condition

Some early underlining in preface. Generally browned as usual due to the paper stock used, small paper repair not affecting text to title fore edge, two small holes in lower blank margin of folding view of Batavia, overall a very good copy.

Bibliography

Landwehr, VOC, 309. Mohammad H. Faghfoory & Willem Floor, The First Dutch-Persian Commercial Conflict: The Attack on Qeshm Island, 1645, Costa Mesa, Mazda Publishers, 2004.

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