A Brill Calendar: December 11
Hendrick Hamel's Tall Tale
Few Gouverners -General of the Dutch United East-India Company, the ‘Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie’ (or VOC for short), were ever presented with so fantastic a story as Johan Maetsuycker.
On on December 11, 1667 he was offered a thick manuscript written by a VOC employee, Hendrick Hamel.
As the administrator on board of the yacht ‘Sperwer’ (Sparrow-hawk), Hamel was one of the survivors when this ship was wrecked some fourteen years earlier. In Batavia, the Asian Head-Quarters of his organization, nothing had previously been heard of Sperwer’s fate & her crew.
The autograph, Hamel’s ‘Journael’, is a vivid and sometimes hair-raising story of what happened to Hendrick and his 35 companions. His account is also the first fully-fledged description of Korea as seen by the eyes of a Western outsider; a land, people and civilization prevailing in a mysterious and exotic domain.In both North and South Korea, Hendrick Hamel’s name has a celebrity status undiminished by time. In Holland, Hamel’s tall story was relatively popular only for a few years: there are three printed editions known; two in 1668, one more in 1669. A little later translated versions appeared in French, 1670, German, 1672, and finally in English, 1704.
It is seldom that the discovery of a unique civilization was so quickly forgotten together with its discoverer; Hendrick Hamel proved not to be on a par with Marco Polo in the celebrity stakes.
The definite scholarly edition of the source document was produced only in 1920; and published by Martinus Nijhoff; presently a Brill imprint. The first trustworthy and dependable translation into Korean – using Hoetink’s indispensable 1920 edition dates from the 1960s.