Australian Philatelic
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Lacemaking bobbins found on the Batavia wreck (1629)

There are 5 known wrecks of ships bound for the East Indies in the 17th and early 18th centuries lying off the Western Australian coast; one English and four Dutch. The stamps show artifacts recovered from the wrecks. The lace bobbins came from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Batavia (an early name for modern Jakarta), which was wrecked on June 4, 1629, on her maiden voyage. Apparently the ship had been deliberately steered off course in a piracy attempt. She struck the Morning Reef in the Houtman’s Abrollos about 80 km west of Geraldton on the west coast of Australia. About 300 of the 340 aboard got to shore before the ship sank, and part of the crew took longboats to get help. During their absence, and in the face of limited resources, a kind of 'Lord of the Flies' scenario took over. ~125 of the survivors were massacred. When help finally did arrive justice was fast and very harsh. There is a fascinating YouTube video of a flyover of the actual wreck site at http://tinyurl.com/mm6m9ng.

Five bobbins and fragments of lace were found on the Batavia, which was excavated from 1972-1976. The bobbins are very delicately turned, and represent some of the few lacemaking bobbins made before 1650 which have survived today.  Copies are occasionally made with varying degrees of success, see, for example, the Kleinhout bobbins at http://www.kleinhout.com/GB/Bobbins/index.asp?id=klosNL1. The scissors shown on the same stamp are from another wreck, the Zeewijk, which went down in 1727.

A replica of the Batavia using traditional materials was built at the Bataviawerf in Lelystad in the Netherlands from 1985 to April 7, 1995 under the direction of Master shipbuilder Willem Vos. The project provided work for the unemployed, and also used volunteers. No original plans of the Batavia exist, so the design was based on the remains of the ship and contemporary descriptions and illustrations of similar vessels. In September 1999 the ship was transported to Australia by barge and moored at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney, where it served as the flagship for the Dutch Olympic Team during the 2000 games. During the stay it was towed into open water and sailed briefly on its own. Representatives of the NSW branch of the Australian Lace Guild demonstrated bobbinlace on board. The ship was returned to the Netherlands in June 2001 and is now moored at the Bataviawerf.

 

 

 

References

Sheppard, Rosemary, "The Batavia Lace", Western Australian Maritime Museum Information, 1997

Lacemaker Rosemary Shepherd from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney did a careful reconstruction of the Batavia lace, which is linen and of Italian or Belgian design. 25 pairs are needed for the pattern, which resembles works of Elisabetta Catanea Parasole in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.