2 WIC/ Sailing instructions Spiritu Sancto to Rio de Janeiro 106

Description: Dutch instructions for sailing along the enemy coast (Portuguese Brazil) to Rio de Janeiro ca. 1638, describing and naming Sugarloaf Mountain

Cours van Spritu Sancto tot Rio de Genairo.

[Amsterdam or Middelburg?, ca. 1638]. Folio (32 x 20.5 cm). A loose bifolium, formerly sewn through 3 holes in the fold. Manuscript sailing instructions in Dutch for a route along the Brazilian coast from Vila do Espírito Santo (now Vila Velha) to Rio de Janeiro, a region the Dutch never took from their enemy Portugal, written in brown ink on paper, in a Dutch gothic hand. [3], [1 blank] pp.

Sailing instructions written in Dutch, for a route along the coast of the enemy-controlled (Portuguese) territories from "Spiritu Sancto" (Vila do Espírito Santo, now Vila Velha just south of Vitória) to Rio de Janeiro, about 400 kilometres, and part of the return trip. It gives a detailed description of the coast, ports, islands, distinctive shapes of promontories, etc., twice giving latitudes (22 degrees 30 minutes and 23 degrees 20 minutes), as well as information about sand bars, depths, the safest places to put ashore at night, etc. It describes and refers by name to Sugarloaf Mountain: "een seer hoge steenrots van geleyckenis al seen suyckerbroot" (a very high rock with the appearance of a sugarloaf). The Dutch West India Company (WIC) fought to capture Portugal's lucrative colonies in Brazil, briefly holding Bahia de Todos os Santos from 1624 to 1625. They first established a lasting settlement at Recife and Olinda in 1630 gradually expanding their territories to the north and south until 1641. They briefly recaptured Bahia de Todos os Santos in 1638, but the coast described here, beginning about 800 kilometres further south, always remained in Portuguese hands. It was therefore enemy territory when the present sailing instructions were written. The document mentions several settlements and islands along the coast by name, including Ilha de Sant' Anna, Cabo Frio and "Bara Garniosa" (Barra de São João?). One would think the "Baya de Salvador" mentioned must be Bahia in Pernambuco, but it seems to be just north of Cabo Frio: perhaps some other inlet was intended. On the return trip the document mentions some of these places again, as well as Cabo de São Tomé and other sites.
The title can be translated as "Route from [Vila do] Espírito Santo to Rio de Janeiro". The document also has a subheading for the second part of that route, "Cours van Cabo Frio naer Rio de Genero" (Route from Cabo Frio to Rio de Janeiro"), and a heading for the return route from Rio de Janeiro to Cabo de São Tomé, "Roteiro van Rio de Jenero uyt Louis d'Oreguo" (Route from Rio de Janeiro taken from Louis d'Oreguo), which ends "Dus verd L[ouis] d'Oreguo" (in the heading "Oreguo" looks more like "Oregno", but there is a mark above the u/n, though small and rather far to the left: in the note at the end it is clearly written as "Oreguo"). This reference remains mysterious, but perhaps Louis d'Oreguo was a Portuguese mariner whose sailing instructions somehow came into the hands of the WIC and were used for the return route from Rio de Janeiro. That might also explain the use of the Portuguese word "Roteiro" in the heading of that part rather than "Cours" as in the first two headings.
The document is carefully and neatly written and seems to be a formal report, probably written up by the WIC, based on information provided by mariners, most likely at Amsterdam or Middelburg, the seats of the two dominant chambers, where the board of directors also met (there were also chambers in Rotterdam, Hoorn and Groningen). It must have been made with the idea that the Dutch might attack these southern Brazilian strongholds of the Portuguese, which seems unlikely while the Dutch were still establishing their hold further north in the years 1630-1634. Dutch power began to wane in 1641 and the Portuguese began retaking territory inn 1645, so it is probably earlier than 1641, most likely after the Dutch expanded their southern reach in 1637 and perhaps around 1638, when they briefly took Bahia. The Dutch did consider an assault on Rio de Janeiro as late as 1648 (Boxer, p. 195), but the watermark in the present document suggests a date in the 1630s and makes a date as late as 1648 very unlikely.
The paper is watermarked (reading from the felt side): -- = Basilisk with Basel coat-of-arms above cross, D and 3 rings, in the general style and with the same merchant's mark as Laurentius 28-36 (made by Düring in Basel and used in the Dutch Republic in the years 1613-1640), and some marks in the NIKI database (used in Amsterdam and Leiden 1631-1632). The closest match in these sources is Laurentius 33 (1633). In the present example, the basilisk has both wings back (away from the coat of arms), has no loop in his tail (which exits from behind his leg on the left higher than it enters on the right), and the rings are larger (about 12 mm diameter, so that they span the space between 2 chainlines). With the arms centred between chainlines.
In very good condition, with faint traces of old folds and a small tear at the head and foot of the centre fold, and only slightly trimmed, preserving tranchefiles along both fore-edges. Dutch sailing instructions for a route along the enemy coast of Portuguese southern Brazil.
For background information: C.R. Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil 1624-1654 (1973).

Related Subjects: Americas Autographs, Documents & Manuscripts Brazil Manuscripts & Documents Maritime History Navigation South America VOC & WIC
  • Number: 1060094
  • Dealer: Robert Putman