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Manuscript letter by the director of the VOC fort at Jaffanapatnam (Ceylon, now Jaffna, Sri Lanka) to his uncle, a VOC and city official in Rotterdam, asking for support

[Contemporary copy of a letter dated 3 January 1699 from Mattheus Schenkenberg to his uncle Harmen van Soelen].
[Jaffanapatnam, Ceylon, 3 January 1699]. Folio (33 x 21 cm). The Dutch letter is written in a neat late 17th-century cursive hand in brown ink. Folded and kept together by an orange, white and blue piece of string in the left margin (1.5 cm from the edge of the leaves, in the middle). [5], [3 blank] pp.
€ 1,950
Contemporary copy (Copia), perhaps by Schenkenberg himself, or by his secretary, including the address on the first leaf: Rotterdam./ Aenden Edelen Heer./ Harmen van Zoelen/ oud burgermeester der stadt,/ en Bewinthebber vande Oostindische/ Comp. ter Camer Aldaar.
Very interesting letter by the Director (commandeur) of the fort and Dutch East India Company (VOC) station Jaffanapatnam on the northern-most coast of Ceylon (now: Sri Lanka) facing the Coromandel coast of India. The fort was captured from the Portuguese by Rycklof van Goens in the 1630s and was an important stronghold for the VOC presence on Ceylon during the late 17th and 18th centuries.
The letter offers clear insight in the VOC policy regarding appointments, nominations and commissions, as well as for the required qualifications and salaries for the various functions. The letter also shows how important family ties, recommendations and even favouritism and nepotism were in these matters.
Matthaeus Schenkenberg was born in Batavia in 1667 as son of Hendrik Schenkenberg and Henrietta Chasteleyn. He writes that after having been chief-merchant (opperkoopman) for eight years, he had been appointed (by the high command at Batavia (the hooge regeering)) director (commandeur) of the fort Jaffanapatnam (Jaffna) in June 1698 as the successor of Hendrik Swaardecroon, with a monthly salary of 120 guilders for five years. Hardly a year after this appointment he is already dissatisfied - one of his predecessors, Floris Blom who was director from 1669-1693 earned 150 guilders - and he is seeking for a following step in his career. Thats why he is writing this letter to his uncle Harmen van Zoelen (or Soelen; ca. 1635-1702) hoping to be helped into a better job: a good move because Van Zoelen was one of the directors of the VOC chamber in Rotterdam and burgomaster of that city.
Which is why he asks his uncle to put in a good word for him in order to obtain an appointment as, for instance, Governor of places like Macassar (Celebes), Ambon or Banda (island between Sumatra and Malacca). Indeed, Mattheus Schenkenberg was appointed Governor of Banda where he ultimately died on 14 June 1709 (his tomb is still in existence).
With faint folding lines and some pencil annotations on the first and last pages, small wormholes in the left (inner) margins of the leaves, very slightly affecting the text (but not its legibility), the edges are very slightly frayed and the last page is slightly browned. Overall in very good condition. Bons, Kinderen van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie ... (Master scriptie Univ. Leiden 2015), esp. pp. 82-83; Van den Belt, Het VOC bedrijf op Ceylon ... in de 18e eeuw (Zutphen, 2008); Valentijn, V (1726), p. 564.
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Related Subjects:

Asia  >  India & Sri Lanka | Indonesia | VOC - Dutch East India Company
Autographs, documents & manuscripts  >  Autographs & Letters
History, law & philosophy  >  VOC & WIC