The Geldermalsen: the Wreck and the Porcelain

GeldermalsenThis is a book about the sinking of the Dutch trading vessel the Geldermalson which was wrecked on a reef in January 1752 as it returned from the East Indies.

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From the preface by Christian Jörg.

“In December 1985 I received a telephone call from Christie’s in Amsterdam. Michael Hatcher had found a new ship with over 150,000 pieces of porcelain. Most of it was already in Amsterdam for an auction in ’86. Perhaps I could come over and have a look.

My acquaintance with Hatcher dates back to 1984. At that time  there was an auction at Christie’s of mid-17th century porcelain, which Hatcher had recovered from the wreck of a Chinese junk. The pieces exceeded everyone’s expectations, to the great disappointment of the museums, whose budget is very limited these days.

Hatcher then donated over 50 pieces to the Groningen Museum as a basis for a public reference collection.

And now Christie’s had called about a much larger find. I’m not likely to forget the visit I paid to Amsterdam shortly after that phone call. We went to a shed in the dock area and there, on wooden racks, I saw endless rows of porcelain, Cups, saucers, plates, bowls…stacks and stacks of them. This is how it must have looked in the days of the Dutch East India Company, I thought. Just a warehouse full of porcelain, in all shapes and sizes, merchandise ready for auction. The warehouse of a large present -day department store looks exactly the same; racks of simple crockery meant for the general public. For a little while it was very difficult to see 18th century Chinese porcelain as something exclusive and rare.

Geldermalson Porcelain
Geldermalson Porcelain

After this first impression, excitement and curiosity got the upper hand. What I saw here corresponded nicely to the pictures I had formed of such a cargo when writing my thesis “Porcelain and the Dutch China Trade”. The records had given the impression of the type of porcelain the Dutch East India Company was shipping around the middle of the 18th century., and now I was eSeeing the real thing with mu very own eyes.

But if this had really come from a Dutch ship, then which East Indiaman could it be? The most obvious candidate was the Geldermalsen, which had sunk on her homeward voyage in 1752.




Leila Seth. A Woman Lawyer In India. Her Autobiography.

On Balance Leila Seth

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The first woman Chief Justice in India, the first woman Judge of the Delhi High Court, the first women to top the Bar examinations in London, seventy three year old Leila Seth has led a full life. In this autobiography Leila talks about its joyous as well as its difficult moments. Figuring prominently are her early years of homelessness and struggle, her straying into law while in England with her husband Premo, and later practising in Patna, Calcutta and Delhi; and her happy marriage of over fifty years, including the experience of bringing up three remarkable children; writer Vikram, peace activist Shantum and film maker Aradhana.

With candour and wit, she tells of her taking up law studies because this could be conveniently combined with caring for her son and husband; and of the difficulty she faced as a women barrister in Calcutta in trying to find a senior to ‘devil’ with; of her lighter moments as the sole women judge on the otherwise all male bench of the Delhi High Court. Also dwelt upon are her views regarding corruption, discrimination and delay in the legal system; some judgement dealing with education and with inter personal and constitutional law; and her experience as a member of the 15th Law Commission.

Intertwining family life with professional, Leila movingly describes the years after her father’s premature death when as children they were obliged to live with friends. There are also delightful vignettes: Premo and her turning an old mansion into a splendid home in Patna, Vikram’s writing of the novel A Suitable Boy, Shantum’s ordination as a Buddhist teacher by Tich Nhat Hanh and Aradhnana’s marriage to Peter, and Austrian diplomat and work as an art director on films like Earth and Water.

Intimate, intricate, charming and often amusing, On Balance presents a rich and heart-warming portrait of an exceptional woman, her family and her times.

Leila Seth retired as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh in 1992, was appointed in 1995 as the one member commission to examine the death in custody of Rajan Pillai, and from 1997 to 2000 was a member of the 15th Law Commission of India. She does arbitration work and is involved in human rights activities. She lives in Noida with her husband Premo, son Shantum, daughter-in -law Gitanjali and granddaughter Nandinin.


The Mughal Throne by Abraham Eraly

The Mughal Throne by Abraham Eraly

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The Mughal rule marked the the last Golden age of India, epitomised by the peerless grandeur and beauty of the Taj Mahal. Complesx and talented, the Murghals built a great empire, raising the elite urbsn culture of Britain to its pinnacle. Yet the end of the Murghal rule would be as chaotic as its dramatic rise.

“An excellent introduction to this period and the sometimes forgotten moment of multicultural assimilation it represented…a superbly readable narrative….from Barbur, born in 1483, to Aurangzeb, who died in 1707, Erarly gives a richly readable account of one of the most crucial and misrepresented periods of Indian history” William Dalrymple – Sunday Times

“This book marks the return of the narrative i  historical writing. Early weaves together accounts of the people and politics of the Empire and explodes myths about controversial emperors like Babur and Aurangzeb” Outlook

(Quotes and description from the cover)