Detailed antique city plan of Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam, Thailand. This collectors map is published in Amsterdam in the year 1724 by the famous Francois Valentijn (1666-1727), a minister, naturalist and writer. He is best known for his Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien ("Old and New East-India"), a book about the history of the Dutch East India Company and the countries of the Far East.
Ayutthaya was established by King Ramathibodhi I (r. 1351 - 1369) in 1351 and rose quickly to power in the region around the Chao Phraya basin. The basin formed its own social and political world. The new settlement grew over the centuries to become one of the nicest and prosperous cities in Asia. Foreign merchants, Chinese and Persians, were already doing commercial trade in the region, prior to Ayutthaya’s foundation. These eastern merchants certainly must have made drawings of the newly built city in full expansion, but none are discovered until today. The same goes for the westerners. Between the mid 15th century, when the Venetian cartographer Fra Mauro (d.1460) painted Ayutthaya on the world map, and the 17th century with the arrival of the Dutch in Siam, no drawings of Ayutthaya from that period have been discovered. It is rather strange that no Portuguese drawings or maps turned up, although Portugal was in contact with Siam since Don Alfonso d'Albuquerque, the Viceroy of Portuguese India, conquered Malacca in 1511.
The first Dutch traders arrived in the capital Ayutthaya in 1604 hoping for a passage to China on a Siamese ship. Their mission was apparently delayed and the Dutch saw some trading opportunity in Siam. In 1608 King Ekathotsarot (r. 1605 - 1610/11) allowed the “Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie” or Dutch East India Company (abbreviated VOC) to establish their first trading post. The earliest drawings of the City of Ayutthaya were probably done by the Dutch in the first half of the 17th century, most likely in Jeremias Van Vliet's (c.1602 - 1663) period between 1636 and 1640, when the first full accounts of Ayutthaya and Siam were written. These drawings were done in The Netherlands, with a lot of European influences; based likely on one original and some detailed sketches made in situ.
Francois Valentijn was born in 1666 in Dordrecht, Holland, but spent significant time in the tropics, notably in Ambon, in the Maluku Archipelago. In total, Valentijn lived in the East Indies for 16 years. Valentijn was first employed by the Dutch V.O.C. or East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) at the age of 19, where he served as Minister to the East Indies. He returned to Holland for about ten years, before returning to the Indies in 1705 where he was to serve as Army Chaplain on an expedition in eastern Java. He again returned to Dordrecht where wrote his Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (1724-26) a massive work of five parts published in eight volumes and containing over one thousand illustrations and including some of the most accurate maps of the Indies of the time. He died in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1727.
Valentijn probably had access to the V.O.C.'s archive of maps and geographic secrets which they had always guarded jealously. Johannes Van Keulen II became Hydrographer to the V.O.C. in the same year Valentijn's book was published. It was in Van Keulens time that many of the VOC charts were published, one signal of the decline of Dutch dominance in Spice Trade. Valentijn was fortunate to have seen his work published, as the VOC (Dutch East India Company) strictly enforced a policy prohibiting former employees from publishing anything about the region or their colonial administration. And while, as Suárez notes, by the mid-18th Century the Dutch no longer feared sharing geographic secrets, the execution of this policy was still erratic and based on personal motives.
While Valentijn's maps and diagrams were prized possessions, his scholarship, judging by contemporary standards was not of the highest integrity. While current standards of referencing and plagiarism were not in effect during the 18th Century, Valentijn's borrowed liberally from other scientists' and writers. E.M Beekman referred to Valentijn as an "exasperating Dutch braggart," but nevertheless cites him as an important figure and, given his writing style, diction and penchant for story, one of the greatest Dutch prose writers of the time-going so far as to suggest comparison between one of the various stories in his work and a Chaucerian tale. ( Ref: Tooley, R.V. (Australia) 1268. )
title: Judia, De Hoofd-Stad van Siam
our translation: Judia, The Capital City of Siam