click to supersize
(courtesy of Library of Congress)
Part of the title page of Levinus Hulsius' collection of voyages, in German, 1626.
The medallion portraits of circumnavigators in the engraving show Magellan, Drake,
Olivier Noort, the first Dutch circumnavigator, and Magellan's subordinate, Sebastiano del Cano
A Dutch account of the Pepper Coast
in the Seventeenth Century:
Levinus Hulsius

The first definite account of the Grain Coast derived through the Dutch was compiled by a great German geographerfvdk, Levinus Hulsius, who published from the beginning to the middle of the seventeenth century all the records of navigation to Africa, the East Indies, and America which he could collect chiefly from the captains of Dutch vessels. In the map of Africa which Hulsius printed in 1606 the following place or tribal names occur: Cabo do Monte, “Nesurada”(Mesurado), Rio de S. Biante (Vicente), Cabo de S. Clemente (near Garawé), C. das Palmas, and Ponta de Cavallas (at the mouth of the Cavalla). “Crou” is written along the Kru Coast. Cestos is misspelt Chostes. Sino appears as “Synno,” a spelling very like its present pronunciation. Wappo (at present spelt on the maps Wapi) was a frequent place of call on fvdk Apparently, this information was not correct. Levinus Hulsius, was born in Gent, Flanders (nowadays Belgium) in 1550. He was a historian and geographer.  He settled in Germany where he started a printing office in Frankfurt am Main. His heirs continued publishing his works (reprints and new books) after his death in 1606.



the Kru Coast. The far interior of the Grain Coast was described as being the “Bitornin province of the Kingdom of Melli1 .” Hulsius, in gathering up the early Dutch impressions in 1606, writes that “the natives of the Grain Coat interlarded their conversation with French words, just as the Gold Coast people did with Portuguese.”

In 1626 Hulsius published at Frankfurt-am Main an account of the voyages of Samuel Braun to the Guinea Coast (among other parts of West Africa), which were undertaken in 1611 and 1614. Samuel Braun was a Swiss (though in those days he reckoned himself as a German generically), a citizen and dentist (“Burger and Mund Artzt”) of Basel.
1 i.e. Mandingo.
He first navigated vessels on the Rhine, and thus came into contact with Dutch merchants and seamen. He was offered the command (apparently) of two Dutch ships for an adventure in the Guinea trade.
In 1611 he proceeded almost direct to the Cameroons, the Congo, and Angola, touching at the Grain Coast only on his return; but in 1614 he visited the “Qua Qua” (Ivory) Coast,

and before or afterwards made a somewhat lengthy stay in Liberian waters. He called at Cape Mount, the River Cestos and the Kru Coast. He calls the people near Cape Palmes “Gruvo.2” Of the (Liberian) people generally he records:  “The natives are cruel and bad people, though in some places better than others, according to the way in which foreign nations coming there to trade have treated them.”



2 Grebo. This corruption “Grubo” of a tribal name may be the origin of “Kruboy.”
(fvdkVery unlikely though.)

Original German text:
“Die Eynwohner sind grawsame und böse leute doch an einem Ort besser als am andern gedrucken stetigs wie sie die fremde Nationen so dahin kommen zu handthieren,”etc.

“Yet one nation is agreeable to them and beloved more than others – the French – who for such a long time have frequented and travelled in this district. The Portuguese in these present times come here but seldom. Our German nation is at one place more agreeable than another; but from time to time we have made ourselves disliked by our rough ways, so that the Moors often try to take their revenge on us.”

In 1611 Braun called at the Grain Coast chiefly to buy rice. In 1614 he traded for pepper with iron bars and for rice with coral beads (German: ‘gläserne corallen”); from his first Guinea voyage he brought back to Holland about to two tons of ivory and a thousand pounds of gold.

All these journeys bristled with perils from Spanish pirates, with whom sea-fights were of constant occurrence, so that one is quite relieved at the end to know that this honest mariner landed his cargoes safely in Holland and lived to make interesting voyages to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, then a Turkish Lake.

Olfert Dapper

A Dutch account of Liberia in the seventeenth century


“Doch is ihnen ein Nation angenemmer und lieber als die ander nemblich die Französen, so dess Orts lang gereiset und gefahren haben, aber die Portugaleser kommen jetziger Zeit gar selten dahin. Unser Teutsche Nation is an einem Ort angenemmer als an andern und dasselbe daher dass sie es biszweilen da selbst gar grob gemacht un sehr verderbet haben derhalben dan die Mohren offt versuchs ob sie sich an ihnen rechen möchten.”


© fpm van der kraaij