The famous Overwintering on Nova Zembla’ by Willem Barentsz in its rare Italian translation

By VEER, Gerrit de, 1599 

Tre navigationi fatte dagli Olandesi e Zelandesi al settentrione nella Norvegia, Moscovia, e Tartaria verso il Catai, e regno de’ Sini, doue scopersero il Mare di Veygatz, la Nuova Zembla, et un paese nell’ ottantesimo grado creduto la Groenlandia. Con vna descrittione di tvtti gli accidenti occorsi di giorno in giorno à’ nauiganti, et in particolare di alcuni combattimenti con orsi marini, e dell’ eccesivo freddo di quei paesi; essendo nell’ ultima nauigatione restata la nave nel ghiaccio, onde li marinari passorono infinite difficoltà, per lo spatio di diece mesi, e furono forzati alla fine di passare con li batelli trecento miglia di mare pericolosissimo. Descritte in latino da Gerardo di Vera, e nuovamente da Giovan Giunio Parisio tradotte nella lingua italiana.

Travel & Voyages
  • Author: VEER, Gerrit de
  • Publication place: Venice
  • Publisher: Gio. Battista Ciotti
  • Publication date: 1599.
  • Physical description: 4to. Engraved plate on the title, full-page engraving of a compass and 31 half-page engraved maps and plates (ca. 100 x 130 mm.) in the text; many beautiful woodcut head- and tail-pieces. (4) 79, contemporary vellum.
  • Inventory reference: 1309

Notes

Rare first edition of the Italian translation by Giovanni Giunio Parisio of this classic account of the three earliest Dutch exploration voyages (1594, 1595, 1596) in search of a northeast passage to China, by Willem Barentsz. Two of the voyages were in company with Jan Huygen van Linschoten. Gerrit de Veer, the author of this book and close friend of Willem Baretsz., had taken part in the second and third voyage. The third voyage is by far the most famous and ranks as one of the greatest in the annals of Polar exploration. This story of the well-known overwintering on Nova Zembla’ is a truly irreplaceable part of the Dutch national history and a classic for every Dutchman. Bear Island and Spitsbergen were sighted on the voyage out, and the northern tip of Nova Zembla was reached and rounded before Barents and his crew members were iced in and forced to spend the winter in Nova Zembla in a wooden cabin. Barentsz and his crew were trapped from August 26, 1596, to June 14, 1597, before they were finally able to sail home in open boats. During this journey of some 1600 miles they often had to battle against attacking polar bears and thick pack ice. Barents had fallen ill and died five days after their escape from the arctic horrors. Though a northeast passage was not found, the expeditions were successful for the discovery of Spitsbergen in 1596 and for their reports of the abundance of whales in the arctic waters near Spitsbergen, encouraging the start of Dutch arctic whaling.

The work was immensely popular, also because the account was so lavishly illustrated with maps of the islands in the arctic regions and very interesting plates of the ships and difficulties the crew encountered, such as the shooting of polar bears, building of the famous wooden cabin, making fire on the ice, sleeping in the open air, etc.

The first edition of the original Dutch text with the 31 plates on separate leaves was published in Amsterdam by Cornelis Claesz. in 1598 under the title Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien … (Tiele 1129). A second and third edition followed in 1599 and 1605. In 1619 the story was included in the Oost-Indische ende West-Indische voyagien by Michiel Colijn. Translations were made in Latin (Diarium nauticum seu vera descriptio trium navigationum … (Amsterdam, 1598; Tiele 1130)), French (Amsterdam 1598; Tiele 1131) and English (London 1609). This Italian translation, made by Giovanni Parisio after the Latin translation, was published in Venice in 1599 by Gio. Battista Ciotti, who also signed the dedication to Gaspar Catanei, a judge in Padua. In the same year this edition was also published with another title-page by Jeronymo Porri & comp., also in Venice. 

Bibliography

  1. Tiele, Mémoires, p. 109 

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