Pieter van Woensel, Remarks, made on a journey through Turkey

An English translation and commentary by Laban Kaptein of Pieter van Woensel, Aanteekeningen, vol. 1 (1791): Remarks, made on a journey through Turkey, Natolia, the Crimea and Russia, in the years 1784–89.

Pieter van Woensel (Haarlem 1747 – The Hague 1808), a staunch critic of antisemitism, slavery and serfdom, was a well travelled physician with publications on the plague and whooping cough to his name, the first Medical Inspector-General of the Dutch Navy, and notorious for his atheism, and proposals like ‘Rental Wives’, biological warfare (for Turkey to deter Russia!) and vivisection on condemned criminals. Several of his (medical) works were translated into Polish, Russian, French, English, Italian and German.

This text edition consists of a translation (Part I) and a comprehensive, copious Commentary (Parts II and III). The reader finds detailed discussions on contemporary ideas and developments both in Europe and Islamic Turkey. Special attention is given to typographical and linguistic peculiarities. Years of research in archives and primary sources in many languages spanning many centuries have resulted in numerous discoveries, and a wealth of materials never treated before.

The text of Remarks is assessed in the context of all the drawings and writings by Van Woensel known to date, including his Raadgeevingen (Seaman’s medical guide), assumed lost for almost two centuries, but now recovered by editor Kaptein, and a work, in the opinion of a contemporary reviewer, that ‘ought to deny him all contact with decent women’.


Product details

Price for the Hardcover 3-volume set consisting of Part I, II and III: € 360

Publisher: privately published (Asch, 2015-2019)

Part I. ISBN 978-90-816096-0-9 (Hardcover)
English translation of Pieter van Woensel, Aanteekeningen I (1791 Dutch edition)
Additional materials:
– facsimile of original Dutch edition (→copy of Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht)
– digitised plain text of the Dutch original

Click for sample pages: Part I: Translation (PDF)

Part II. ISBN 978-90-816096-2-3 (Hardcover)
Commentary to Preface, Bundle One and Bundle Two.

Click for sample pages: Part II: Commentary (PDF)

Part III. ISBN 978-90-816096-5-4 (Hardcover)
Commentary to Bundle Three to Bundle Six, & Index.

(Remember, these book are self-published, so please order through this website only. Thank you for your consideration.)


Pieter van Woensel

piter-van-woensel-closeup150In April 1808, Dutch physician, writer and world traveller Pieter van Woensel tried to heal his broken leg the alternative way, contrary as always. The fracture deteriorated into gangrene and Pieter died in The Hague, only 61 years of age. With his premature death, the country lost a pioneer in modern Dutch, a Cervantista, and the first writer of Voltairian prose in the Netherlands, as well as its finest Enlightenment caricaturist. In his oeuvre, his book Aanteekeningen (“Remarks”), on a journey through Turkey, the Crimea and Russia, came to take centre stage. Read more…


Contemporaries on Pieter van Woensel and Remarks.

‘I think him a miscreant and most dangerous customer (…) by his blasphemous conversation, and indiscreet conduct, he had incurred the contempt of everyone.’
—Dutch Ambassador to Turkey Van Dedem (1786)

‘Our author would have better consulted his own reputation as a writer, if he had left this subject untouched; for all that he says on it (…) betrays the most astonishing folly and the most contemptible impertinence.’
Monthly Review 6 (1791)

‘What more shall we say about his present work? To blame it, we can not; to praise it, we dare not. (…) so we think it most advisable not to add another thing about it, but rather (…) state that we do not want to be understood as authorising or approving the content thereof, much less so as to be helping it under our protection and care to any more credit, prestige or reputation.’
De Recensent 11 (1792)

‘(…) ought to deny him all contact with decent women.’
Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen (1803), review of Van Woensel, Seaman’s medical guide (“Raadgeevingen”)