Manilla – François Valentijn, 1724-1726

RARE 18th CENTURY VIEW OF MANILA Copper engraving of Manila “De Stad Manilha”, from François Valentijn’s “Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien”,…

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Copper engraving of Manila “De Stad Manilha”, from François Valentijn’s “Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien”, made by Jan van Braam and published in Dordrecht by Gerard onder de Linden in 1724-1726. Coloured by a later hand. Size: 27,5 x 36,3 cm.

Manila was one of the most important ports in all of the Pacific. It enjoyed this status for centuries before Europeans came to Southeast and Maritime Asia. The Spanish arrived in the islands, first in 1521 and more permanently in 1565. They took over Manila in 1571, naming it the capital city of their colony, which technically fell under the jurisdiction of the territory of New Spain.

It was associated with New Spain and Spanish America because it was the western terminus of the circular Manila-Acapulco trading route. From 1565 to 1815, galleons would leave Acapulco filled with silver. In Manila, this silver would be piped into Asian, particularly Chinese, markets. The galleons were then filled with Asian trade goods and returned to Acapulco. These galleons were the largest wooden ships ever built, and many were made in Cavite, shown on the foreground of the view.

The propagation of Roman Catholicism began with the Augustinian friar Andrés de Urdaneta, who accompanied the expedition of 1571. He was followed by Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit, and other Augustinian priests, who founded churches, convents, and schools. In 1574 Manila was baptized under the authorization of Spain and the Vatican as the “Distinguished and Ever Loyal City” and became the centre of Catholicism as well as of the Philippines.

In 1646 a series of battles took place where the Dutch made attempts to invade Manila. The Spanish forces, which included many native Kapampángan volunteers, consisted of two, and later, three Manila galleons, a galley and four brigantines. The Dutch came with a fleet of nineteen warships, divided into three separate squadrons. Heavy damage was inflicted upon the Dutch squadrons by the Spanish-Kapampángan forces, forcing the Dutch to abandon their invasion of the Philippines.

François Valentijn was a prominent historian of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) who is best known for “Oud en Nieuw Oost Indiën”, his vast illustrated account of the Dutch trading empire in Asia. He travelled to the East Indies twice and served as Calvinist minister to Ambon between 1686 and 1694. In preparing this monumental work, he was given privileged access to the previously secret archives of the VOC, containing transcripts and copies of important earlier Dutch voyages.

While Valentijn’s maps and diagrams were prized possessions, his scholarship, judging by 21st century standards was unscrupulous. Valentijn’s use of the products of other scientists’ and writers’ intellectual labour and his passing it off as his own, reveals a penchant for self-aggrandisement.

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