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stepping stones of maritime history


The Kleine Erasmus (Small Erasmus), hence forth Erasmus was named after Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), founding father of humanism. Built in Rotterdam, the Erasmus started its journey in the East when it arrived at Batavia on 20 January 1623. The Erasmus played part in a quarrel between Japan and the Netherlands known as the Nuyts Affair (1627 -1633).

The start of the Nuyts Affair

In 1628, the Dutch-Japanese relations had just about cooled down to a point well below zero, where all further trade between Japan and the VOC trading post in Hirado was put on hold. This crisis was caused by an accumulation of incidents starting in 1627, mainly revolving around cases of ill-treatment of overseas Japanese merchants by Dutch parties on Formosa (Taiwan). The main character involved was Pieter Nuyts (1598-1655).

These incidents escalated to a point where the Japanese on Formosa had taken Pieter Nuyts hostage, threatening to end his life. After a week of negotiating, the Japanese and Dutch at Formosa agreed to take five hostages on each side who were to be sent to Nagasaki, Japan. Among the five Dutch hostages was Pieter Nuyts' own 15-year old son Laurents.


A Japanese junk carrying the five Dutch hostages was sent to Nagasaki, and the Erasmus followed, carrying on board five Japanese hostages. Upon arrival in Japan, the Japanese hostages were released, while the Erasmus, the crew and the Dutch hostages were arrested. The Erasmus was stripped from its sails, rigging, armament, masts and rudder and was held in a ditch with as little water as possible, while it was enclosed by a 'heavy palisade'.

On 14 March 1630, after two years of being enclosed in the shallow ditch, the Dutch deemed the hull useless and sold it for scrap, for as little as 80 taels (fl. 240).

End of the Nuyts Affair

The Nuyts Affair ended when Nuyts had to stand trial in Batavia in 1636-37, much to the desire of the Japanese. In the meanwhile, his son Lourents had died in captivity from dysentery and fever on December the 29th in 1630.


Hirado is a small fishing village situated in the south west of Japan, in the north western part of Kyushu. In the year 1609 the Dutch had established a trading post in Hirado. The port of Hirado was the centre for foreign trade in Japan until Japan closed most of its borders for the outside world in 1641. All Portuguese merchants, Jesuits and their Japanese following were banned from the country, while only the Dutch and Chinese merchants were allowed to continue their trade with Japan through the port of Nagasaki, until Japan reopened its doors to the outside world in 1853.


Built: Rotterdam

Tonnage240 ton (120 last)


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