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Extensive description of the Dutch colony of Curacao, by the first writer to permanently settle on the island

[PADDENBURGH, Gerrit Gijsbert].
Beschrijving van het eiland Curaçao en onderhoorige eilanden. Uit onderscheidene stukken, bijdragen en opmerkingen opgemaakt, door een bewoner van dat eiland.
Haarlem, heirs François Bohn, 1819. 8vo. With folding letterpress table. Contemporary half calf.
€ 1,250
First and only edition of a description of the Dutch colony of Curaçao, by the first Dutch writer who permanently settled on the island. Although the book was written for an audience in The Netherlands, much of the information is of practical use and seems to aim at new visitors or settlers. After a description of the geography and climate of the island, the author describes the various settlements forming Willemstad. The houses of Willemstad are described as being in Dutch style and plastered white, although the government has started painting the houses yellow and dark grey. The author particularly laments the absence of outhouses (due to the rocky ground absence of running water). The book also describes the land and marine animals paying particular attention to iguanas, cockroaches and hermit crabs. The botanical descriptions contain mostly food crops and pay particular attention to the success of more local foodstuffs (corn and peanuts) and abysmal quality of European crops (cabbage and salad) but numerous types of trees are described. The common language of Papiamentu, spoken by most of the inhabitants of the island, is described as the "sound of a turkey". The women, both of European as well as of mixed descent, are described as very beautiful although the author laments their habit of wearing coloured headdresses. Unfortunately they lack the spirited education of the Dutch and French women, leading to somewhat boring conversations. Especially since they have acquired the English habit of separating themselves from the men after a meal. The teeth of all inhabitants are particularly bad due to the absence of sugar on the island. An interesting observation is the good physique of all inhabitants and the almost total absence of hunchbacks and cripples which the author attributes to the lack of constricting garments on small children, who mostly run around naked.
Slavery, the backbone of the island's economy, is only briefly mentioned. The tables of inhabitants record about one slave for every free inhabitant and one slave-child for every free child with an extra group of elderly slaves (above the age of 60) forming about one-fifth of the total population of adult slaves. For the rest of the island, slaves form 85% of the total population. The author adresses the subject only when he states that his European reader, "agitated by the growing number of writings by so-called philanthropic authors", should not think that the slaves lead a hard life, especially compared with the common people in Europe. What follows is a description of the so-called easy life of the slaves who, the author believes, have far less needs than a person of European descent. He finds his proof in the increasing number of slaves on the island which, after the slave trade had been abolished in 1814, is entirely due to the high birth rate among slaves, which he considers equal to a good life.
With a shelfmark of the "Bibliotheek van Doctrina & Amicitia" on the paste-down. Binding worn at the sides with light restoration at the edges and a few wormfoles at the bottom of the front. One leaf has a tear in the foot margin (not reaching the text), otherwise a very good copy.
Cundall, Bibliography of the West Indies 1481; Kuijk, "Uitgespuugd maar toch gebleven", in Leijnse & Van Kempen (eds.), Tussenfiguren, pp. 95-108; Sabin 58127.
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