Amsterdam: Cornelius Claesz (Cornille Nicolas), 1609. Third French folio edition. Unbound. 44 leaves, 30 engravings in text including 6 maps, one of which is full page ("Caerte van Nova Zembla"). Facsimile title page with vignettes. Stamp on last leaf reads: Bibliothecae Jacob Carol.
This chronicle describes the Arctic explorations of Willem Barentzs (c. 1550--1597), a Dutch navigator and cartographer. Conducted between 1594 and 1596, Barentzs' three voyages into the seas north of Siberia are widely considered the most notable of many European efforts in this period to find a northern sea passage to China and India.
This journal, kept by second mate Gerrit de Veer (c. 1570--1598), describes the journeys in meticulous detail, including the discoveries of Spitzbergen, Bear Island, and Novaya Zemlya during the successful third voyage, which Barentzs piloted under the command of Jacob van Heemskerk. Moreover, it includes what is perhaps the third voyage's most famous incident: after the ship became entrapped in ice, de Veer, who was also the ship's carpenter, directed the dismantling of the ship and the subsequent construction of a cabin from its lumber in which the crew spent the winter.
Although Barentzs did not survive the trip back, de Veer and some of the other crew members journeyed home on open boats and were eventually rescued by Dutch ships. De Veer's journal was originally published in 1598 in Latin by Cornelius Claesz, one of the most significant Amsterdam publishers of the end of the sixteenth century.
A prominent publisher of early Dutch travel accounts, Claesz adopted de Veer's heroic tale and commissioned Baptista van Doetichum to produce engravings to accompany the text. Many of these incredible images depict walruses--referred to as "big cows"--sea monsters, and polar bears for the first time, as well as beautiful scenes of icebergs and crew activity.
The highlight of these engravings is a full-page map of the ship's route around Nova Zembla ("Caerte van Nova Zembla"), showing the hazardous Arctic landscape, the location of the "Safe House" which the crew built, and a number of polar bears and other sea creatures. The volume is an extremely rare account that lives up to the legendary voyage it chronicles.