It was the Portuguese who were the first Europeans to unlock regular firsthand access to the markets of the fabled Spice Islands and India in the early 16th century. Ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg were transported on their ships for sale across Europe and the Mediterranean at huge markups. Such profits encouraged competition, and this map of the Banda Islands is an excellent example of the measures taken to ensure control of the trade.
The small Indian archipelago was one of the few places on the planet where nutmeg was grown, and there are no less than 3 forts (at least 2 were constructed of stone shipped to the island) scattered across the group of islands. The Portuguese, English and Dutch all laid claim on all or a portion at one time or another, but at the time of the map’s publication it was the last who had complete control. In exerting their monopoly, the Dutch East India Company wiped out almost the entire indigenous population, replacing them on the nutmeg plantations with slaves imported from India and elsewhere across Indonesia.
The map was created by Pieter Van der Aa and published in Leiden in 1717 as part of Jean Mandelslo’s “Voyage de Perse aux Indes Orientales.” This epic travelogue details the voyages of Jean-Albert (Johan Albrecht) Mandelslo – a German diplomat who traveled to Russian and Persia in the late 1630’s on a political mission for the Duke of Holstein but was separated from his group.
He would carry on through India, Ceylon, and Madagascar before returning home to write about his travels. Information on the Far East, including the Spice Islands, was included in the publication, but garnered from other sources.
For more information, or to purchase the map, please visit the Curtis Wright Maps store page here.