Philip Angel's Deex-Autaers
Vaisnava Mythology from Manuscript to Book Market in the Context of the Dutch East India Company, c. 1600-1672
In 1658, a Dutch East India Company merchant by the name of Philip Angel presented a gift manuscript to Company Director Carel Hartsinck. It was intended to get into Hartsinck’s good books; Angel had been recalled to the VOC-headquarters at Batavia in disgrace for engaging in private trade and was to account for his actions in a hearing.
Back home in Holland, Philip Angel had been a painter and a published author. The manuscript, convincingly edited by Carolien Stolte as Philip Angel’s Deex-Autaers: Vaisnava Mythology from Manuscript to Book Market in the Context of the Dutch East India Company, c. 1600-1672 (Manohar, 2012) recounts the well-known Puranic myths of the avataras of Vishnu. It conformed to all the contemporary conventions of an ‘exotic’ gift manuscript and reflects his artistic skills. But Angel offered no details of how he acquired the manusc
ript, in what language, or who assisted him. This requires an investigation into the practices of information-gathering on Indian religious texts by important players of the time, ranging from Portuguese Jesuits to the court scriptoria of the Mughals. Finally, without acknowledgment of its author, Angel’s manuscript ended up on the commercial European book market, where it gained a conspicuous place within the corpus of seventeenth century Dutch literature on the East.
Angel’s almost forgotten manuscript is not only a superb example of Dutch Orientalism, it also stands in a long tradition of borrowing and buying information on Indian religions. This fifth volume of Dutch Sources on South Asia consists of two parts. Part one traces the history of the manuscript and its maker, as well as the larger historical context in which it was assembled. The second part provides the reader with a transcription of the original manuscript and an annotated translation.