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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Names in a 17th Century Atlas of the Dutch East India Company

F Ormeling
Utrecht University, Netherlands

In 1690, the board of the Dutch East India Company (VOC "Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie") in Amsterdam commissioned the cartographer Isaak de Graaf to produce an atlas of the company’s trading area, which stretched from Capetown to Japan. The atlas, produced to support the strategical decisions of the VOC board, contains about 10 000, mostly coastal names. These have been identified and analysed.
First, the object categories discerned were noted, and subsequently the names imposed by the European nations identified; these were compared with the object categories, in order to find out the kind of objects named preferentially by the Europeans. Some national characteristics in the naming behaviour of the various European nations were tentatively marked.
This paper then zooms in on the names imposed by the VOC mariners; a distinction was made between descriptive names, conceptual names, religious and commemorative names. This last category is subdivided into objects named for the home country, the explorer’s ship, its officers, its patrons or its home town. The Dutch explorers seem to stand out by their custom to name groups of small islands for the towns in their home country or province. This phenomenon is christened nostalgia archipelagos.

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