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A pirate moves from boats to books

Speculum orientalis occidentalisque Indiae navigationum, quorum una Georgii à Spilbergen, altera Jacobi le Maire auspiciis imperioque directa, Annis 1614, 15, 16, 17, 18.
SPILBERGEN, George de and LE MAIRE, Jacob
apud Nicolaum à Geelkercken,
Publication place
Lugduni Batauorum,
Publication date


Long octavo, (177 by 240 mm), manuscript ink text and old label to front pastedown, red wax seal to front and back endpapers, blank leaf, title, introductory matter, 25 engraved maps and plates, five of which are folding, contemporary stiff vellum, remnants of ties.

Collation: A-Y4.


The travel accounts of two Dutch mariners, Joris van Spilbergen and Jacob le Maire, and an illustration of the struggles for power played out by privateers for the trading companies springing up in countries with colonial aspirations.

Spilbergen was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to sail to the Moluccas in 1614. Although officially a trading mission, Spilbergen was authorised by the VOC to use force to disrupt the Spanish Pacific trade (Allen). After the Seventeen Provinces had freed themselves from Spanish rule in 1581, they no longer had access to the Habsburg trading exmpire and needed to establish their own presence in the Pacific. Spilbergen himself believed that "the best and only means of reestablishing our affairs in the Indies and of making ourselves entirely masters of the Moluccas is, in my opinion, to dispatch a fleet and armada direct to the Philippines, in order to attack the Spaniards there, and to overpower all the places and strongholds it may be possible to conquer" (Zaide). Spilbergen's fleet captured and occupied Acapulco for a week, and spent a month in the Philippines raiding Manila-bound shipping.

Jacob le Maire was the son of Isaac le Maire, one of the original founders of the VOC. Isaac left and established his own trading organisation, the Australian Company, and sent his son to try and find a new route to the Moluccas, which would avoid the area monopolised by the VOC. Le Maire's voyage was much quieter than Spilbergen's, and he arrived in Batavia (now Jakarta) in October 1616 after successfully finding a new route, having lost only three crew members.

Unfortunately, a local officer of the VOC claimed that le Maire had infringed the VOC's trade monopoly, despite having taken a new and different route. Le Maire was arrested and his ship, the Eendracht, was confiscated. He was released and escorted back to the Netherlands by Spilbergen, who had arrived shortly afterwards. Sadly, le Maire died on the voyage. Spilbergen took le Maire's account of the circumnavigation, and included it with his own travel account, the present book. Isaac le Maire was not able to gain compensation for the ship or permission to trade using his son's route until 1622, by which time the Dutch West Indies Company had claimed the route.

Spilbergen and le Maire's work was published in both Dutch and Latin in 1619, with both editions published by Nicolaus van Geelkercken. The plates in the book include an important map of Le Maire and Schouten's route across the Pacific, as well as maps of the Strait of Magellan and Manila, the Moluccas, and various ports on the Pacific coast of America.


1. Ownership inscription dated 9 May 1622 to front pastedown.

2. Wax seals with heraldic crest to front and back endpapers.


John Logan Allen, North American Exploration: A New World Disclosed, (University of Nebraska Press, 1997); Borba de Moraes II, 276; Sabin 89450; Gregorio Zaide, Philippine Political and Cultural History: The Philippines since pre-Spanish Times, (Philippines, 1957).