The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys
A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter
New Books in BiographyNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network February 26, 2009 Marshall Poe
When we speak of the “Age of Discovery,” we usually mean the later fifteenth and sixteenth century. You know, Columbus, Magellan and all that. But the “Age of Discovery” continued well into the seventeenth century as Europeans continued to travel the globe in search of riches, fame and adventure. And after they made port at home, they often “wrote” books about their travels for readers eager to hear about what was “out there”–or at least what these travelers said was “out there.” Take the subject of Kees Boterbloem new book The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys. A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter (Palgrave MacMillan, 2008). Sturys was an illiterate, itinerant, indefatigable Dutch sail maker. He went everywhere, did everything, and when he got back from his adventures he was asked by some profit-seeking Dutch publishers to “contribute” his tales to a book about his travels. Of course Stuys could neither read nor write, but that didn’t stand in the way of the publishers. They assigned him a ghost writer who listened to Struys’ stories and, where he found them wanting, embellished them with material purloined from other travel books. The results were part fact, part fiction, and all international bestseller. It was in such books that Europeans learned about the “discoveries,” and by such books that modern publishing was born. We should thank Kees for telling us the tale in this fascinating account.
By the way, Kees is also editor of The Historian, a journal of popular history that you should really read.
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