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Early Dutch work [1865] on the sea and its richness

posted 21 Feb 2019, 05:35 by Historie van de Oceanografie Club

Anon., [1865]. De zee en haar rijkdom. De uitvinding van het kompas en het tegenwoordige standpunt der zeevaarteundige instrumenten , vuur- en licht-torens , de duikerklok en duikerboot , de weten-schap in dienst van den mensch bij zijnen strijd met de elementen, vischvangst, jagten op zee, visscherij, zeewezen, scheepvaart en wereldhandel. Leiden, A.W. Sijthoff, pp. 296.

Who wrote this curious book, written in Dutch, dealing with many different aspects of the sea? It provides a truly wide spectrum of sea related issues, clearly written by a person (or persons) who had detailed knowledge. The book is highlighted with many woodcuts. Although issued anonymous and with no date, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek dates it at 1865. With this date it is one of the earliest works originally written in Dutch on the topic of oceanography. Of course, Marsilli’s Natuurkundige beschrijving der zeen (1786) was the first (a translation of the 1725 original in French). The two volumes of Zimmermann’s De zee, hare bewoners en wonderen (1838-1839) were translated from German and Maury’s Natuurkundige beschrijving der zeeën (1855) was translated (and partly edited) by Marin Henri Jansen (1817-1893) from the English original. As the sub-title suggests, there are many chapters, e.g. on maritime instruments (compass, steering wheel, log, octant, barometer, even the thermometer to detect different water masses or nearby icebergs), and lighthouses.

The ‘bateau poisson’ of Brutus (de) Villeroi (1794–1874), the fish-shaped vessel, built in 1832, and in 1837 demonstrated in Paris to Netherlands’ representatives (including Antoine Lipkens (1782-1847) and Ltz. Olke Arnoldus Uhlenbeck (1810-1888), receives much attention with a folding plate.

‘Bateau poisson’ of Brutus (de) Villeroi (1794–1874), interior.
‘Bateau poisson’, exterior.

Also fisheries are rather detailed with information on history, methods and catches for herring, cod (stock fish), salmon, tuna, and sturgeon. Culturing of oysters and mussels, the latter on artificial substrates like branches and poles, is presented in the book, as is fishing for pearls, coral, sponges and amber. Hunting for sharks, seals, walrus and whales, but also for seabirds (edible bird’s nests) was a common practice. Already in the 1860s there was an interest in fish culture (according to the text ‘invented’ by the German Graf von Holstein in 1763). Induced spawning of e.g. trout or salmon is practiced, and provides amusing reading; dedicated installations were erected to facilitate this culture (see more pictures in 'ad HOC #15'.

The second half of the book relates to shipping (history, shipbuilding, sailing ships and (paddle) steamers, the use of ships screws, crews), harbours and world trade by sea.
The chapter on ‘Science in support of mankind and his combat against the elements’ discusses (trade) winds, storms, and currents. A link is made with the KNMI: “De Nederlander mag er trotsch op zijn, bij deze waarnemingen eene eerste plaats in te nemen. Het Koninklijk Nederlandsch meteorologisch Instituut te Utrecht, onder hoofddirectie van professor BUYS BALLOT, bevat eene afdeeling, welke zich uitsluitend met de zeevaart bezig houdt en die onder de directie van eenen zeeofficier staat, terwijl er nog een zeeman bij gedetacheerd is als onderofficier.” After a section related to M.F. Maury’s work on wind and current charts there is a reference to “ons instituut” (our institute), the only indication about a possible author. Who was the author? ‘Ons instituut’ points to someone from KNMI, at least for the section on oceanography. A first though is Marin Henri Jansen (1817-1893), good friend of Maury, but he was only for a short period director of the Afdeling Zeevaart at KNMI (February - December 1854), which does not appear to match with the presumed publication date of 1865. A better option seems Karel Frederik Robbert Andrau (1824 - 1914), KNMI director January 1859 – December 1863, considered competent for at least the chapter on oceanography. But, considering the high level of detail of the information on various rather different subjects (oceanography, fisheries, shipping, trade), one may argue that it was not just one author but a collective of authors. Was this the reason why they are not identified by the publisher? Any suggestion by our readers would be welcomed.

For those interested to learn more about this work: You can view this book via Delpher of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands).






5)     Anon., 1954. 1854 Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut 1954, Staatdrukkerij, den Haag, pp. 470

Kees Kramer