Jan Huyghen van Linschoten

Jan Huyghen van Linschoten

::"For the Dutch city, see Linschoten." Jan Huyghen van Linschoten (1563, Haarlem- Feb 8 1611, Enkhuizen) was a Dutch Protestant merchant, traveller and historian. An alternate spelling of second name is "Huijgen".

He is credited with copying top-secret Portuguese nautical maps thus enabling the passage to the elusive "East Indies" to be opened to the English and the Dutch. This enabled the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company to break the 16th century monopoly enjoyed by the Portuguese on trade with the "East Indies".


Jan Huyghen was the son of a public notary from the town of Haarlem in the Netherlands, but the family moved to the village of Enkhuizen when he was young. The addition of "van Linschoten" could indicate that his family came from the Utrecht village of the same name [http://vitrine.library.uu.nl/wwwroot/en/texts/Tfol133rar.htm] .

Early life

He left for Spain during December 1576 to be with his brother in Seville, staying in Spain until 1580 when he got a job working with another merchant in Lisbon. A downturn in trade led him to seek alternatives. With the help of his brother, Willem, who was acquainted with the newly appointed Archbishop of the Portuguese colony of Goa, Dominican Vicente da Fonseca, he was appointed Secretary to the Archbishop. So Jan Huyghens sailed for Goa on April 8, 1583, arriving five months later via Madeira, Guinea, the Cape, Madagascar and Mozambique.


While in Goa, as a result of his position, Jan Huyghens had access to secret information, including the nautical maps that were well guarded for over a century. Misusing the trust in him, for reasons unknown, Jan Huyghens began meticulously copying these maps.

The 1587 death of his sponsor, the Archbishop of Goa, while on a trip to Lisbon to report to the King of Portugal meant the end of the subcontinent adventure for Jan Huyghens. He set sail for Lisbon in January, 1589, passing by the Portuguese supply depot at St. Helena island in May 1589.

Back in Holland

The voyage was interrupted by English piracy which forced a shipwreck, and as a result Jan Huyghen spent two years in the Azores. He landed in Lisbon only in 1592 and thereafter returned to his home at Enkhuizen.

With assistance from Amsterdam publisher Cornelis Claesz, who specialised in shipping, geography and travels, Jan Huyghens wrote, "Reys-gheschrift vande navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten" (Travel Accounts of Portuguese Navigation in the Orient) in 1595. This work contains a large number of sailing directions, not only for shipping between Portugal and the East Indies colonies, but also between India, China and Japan.

Jan Huyghen also wrote two other books, "Beschryvinghe van de gantsche custe van Guinea, Manicongo, Angola ende tegen over de Cabo de S. Augustijn in Brasilien, de eyghenschappen des gheheelen Oceanische Zees" (Description of the Entire Coast of Guinea, Manicongo, Angola and across to the Cabo de St. Augustus in Brazil, the Characteristics of the Entire Atlantic Ocean) in 1597, and "Itinerario: Voyage ofte schipvaert van Jan Huyghen van Linschoten naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien, 1579-1592" [http://fondosdigitales.us.es/books/digitalbook_view?oid_page=291800] (Travel account of the voyage of the sailor Jan Huyghen van Linschoten to the Portuguese East India) in 1596.

An English text edition of the Itinerario was published in London in 1598, entitled "Iohn Huighen van Linschoten his Discours of Voyages into ye Easte & West Indies". A German edition was also printed the same year.

In addition to detailed maps of these places, Linschoten also provided the geographic ‘key’ to unlocking the Portuguese grip on passage through the Malacca Strait; he suggested approaching the East Indies from the south of Sumatra through the Sunda Strait, thereby minimizing the danger of Portuguese attention.

Linschoten Society

A Linschoten Society was founded in 1908 to publish rare or unpublished Dutch travel accounts of voyages, journeys by land, and descriptions of countries and survives today at the Amsterdam Ship Museum.

Linschoten Award

Business excellence award granted by ABN-AMRO bank of The Netherlands. The 2007 Jan Huygen van Linschoten award was won by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) for its successful entrance and maintenance in emerging markets such as China, Kazakhstan and amongst others the United Arab Emirates. The award honors innovative international practice, the ability to compete with the best in their particular field and excellent financial management. OMA is active in more than 30 countries and has achieved enormous international growth over the last two years.

Additional reading

* Van Linschoten, Jan Huyghen. "The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies", Elibron Classics, 2001, 368 pages, ISBN 1-4021-9507-9, Replica of 1885 edition by the Hakluyt Society, London
* Van Linschoten, Jan Huyghen. "Voyage to Goa and Back, 1583-1592, with His Account of the East Indies" : From Linschoten's Discourse of Voyages, in 1598/Jan Huyghen Van Linschoten. Reprint. New Delhi, AES, 2004, xxiv, 126 p., $11. ISBN 81-206-1928-5.

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