Dutch Sources on South Asia, c. 1600-1825 is a series dedicated to the sources that have been produced by people connected to the Dutch East India Company or VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) and its successors. The main objective of this series is to make these often extremely rich and rare sources accessible to a wider, English-reading public. The first three volumes offer detailed research guides to archival collections as well as other published and unpublished materials in the Netherlands, Europe, South Asia, Indonesia and elsewhere. In subsequent volumes, scholars transcribe and translate selected unpublished texts with relevance to particular South Asian region or theme. In these cases, each volume provides a critical edition of the original Dutch texts that is accompanied by an introduction, a full English translation, a bibliography, an index and other research aids.
In 1658, a Dutch India Company merchant by the name of Philip Angel presented a manuscript to Company Director Carel Hartsinck. It was intended to get into Hartsinck’s good books: Angel had beenrecalled to the VOC-headquarters at Batavia in disgrace for engaging in private trade and was to account for his actions a hearing.
Back home in Holland, Philip Angel had been a painter and a published author. The manuscript recounts the well-known Puranic myths of the avataras of Vishnu. It conformed to all the contemporary conventions of an ‘exotic’ gift manuscript and reflects his artistic skills. But Angel offered no details of how he acquired the manuscript, in what language, or who assisted him. This requires an investigation into the practices of information-gathering on Indian religious texts by important players of the time, ranging from Portuguese Jesuits to literati at the Mughal court. Finally, without acknowledgement of its author, angel’s manuscript ended upon the commercial European book market where it gained a conspicuous place within the corpus of seventeenth-century Dutch literature on the East.
Angel’s almost forgotten manuscript is not only a superb example of Early Dutch Orientalism, it also stands in a long tradition of collecting, writing, borrowing and buying information on Indian religions. This volume of Dutch Sources on South Asia consists of two parts. Part one traces the history of the manuscript and its maker, as well as the larger historical context in which in was assembled. The second part provides the reader with a transcription of the original manuscript and an annotated translation.
Carolien Stolte is a PhD Candidate at the University of Leiden, Department of History, She is also an editor of ltinerario, International Journal on the History of European and Global Interaction. She is currently working on a history of Pan-Asian thought in Indian in the interwar period.
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