Art / History / Culture & Curious Habits / Indonesia / Museums / Netherlands

Behind the museums’ storage doors : 16th C fruit trees and spices of Java

Since the dawn of the Internet, the idea of digitising, well, everything, became an obsession for many including museum and other collecting privates and institutions. And then as these datas being digitised there is also desire to make available for the public, or, what we know these days as Open Data. For example today, thanks to the hard work of many people ( and democracy, without it we would probably never see whats inside these cultural institutions vaults) can now easily access, for instance digitised collections of Rijksmuseum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art or different kind of Open Data that acts as an aggregator like Europeana and Virtual Asian Masterpiece from anywhere in the world (with an internet access).

From time to time I wander in these databases and collects what interests me. This time I did my wandering at Rijksmuseum collection and found these fascinating images of the 16th Century Java. Those were the early days when Bantam, Java and Mollucas had its tales of fame for spices all the way to Europe. The description says these illustration was from the first expedition of one Cornelis de Houtman in 1595 -1597 to the Archipelago. These images are now in the Public Domain.


If you see closely, you can guess what it is through what’s written or through the drawing. Like Mangostan = Mangosteen = Manggis. Talase = Taro = Talas. Asa= Tamarind = Asam (Pohon). Cubebe is interesting, because I honestly have never seen what pepper plant looks like, this Cubebe is a particular Java pepper. Lantor = Lontar = Palmyra, the older leaves, after some processing, are used to write on – it is widely used in the Southeast Asian region. Dorian is rather obvious, it is for Durian or Duren, famous for its tastiness and distinct smell.

RP-P-OB-80.269 (1)

This one has the obvious Chiabe = Chilli = Cabe. Canior, I am not very sure with this one, it could be Kunir or Kencur in Bahasa Indonesia or Galangal in English. Diringuo, I can’t quite make a guess yet.

RP-P-OB-80.271 (1)

Lancuas= Laja/ Lengkuas also a galangal family. Fagaras, Gomme, Tacca, Maca


Carcapuli. Casia. Cannela do mato = Canelle = Kayu Manis


Palmitas would be a kind of palm tree, though I don’t really know which one, Iacca would be jackfruit in English or Nangka in Bahasa Indonesia.


Mangas = Mango = Mangga, Ananas is quite obvious, pineapple or Nanas and Betel would be daun sirih or betlenut. Arcea would be a kind of palm tree, maybe palm nut tree which is consistent with its Latin name Areca (I think..).

Obviously, there are several I still don’t know what it could be, perhaps any of you could make a rough guess?


One thought on “Behind the museums’ storage doors : 16th C fruit trees and spices of Java

  1. This is so cool! Thanks for the info about the open data! I remember during the old days it was so hard to look for sufficient information about the history of Dutch indies. Hopefully they will open everything to public. Nice blog btw.

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