Pieter van Woensel (1747–1808)

image: Portrait of Pieter van Woensel, Franciscus Sansom, after Pieter Wagenaar, (Jr.), 1790 (via Rijksstudio, publ. dom.)


One of the most fascinating figures in the Dutch Republic’s final days, was the writer, world traveller, cartoonist and medical man Pieter van Woensel. As a satirist and critic he was without equal in the Dutch-speaking world, and his Remarks on his travels to Turkey, Russia and the Crimea hold a universal appeal. For the first time, ‘Aanteekeningen’ is now available in an integral English translation, accompanied by a copious commentary.


The son of a physician, Van Woensel grew up in his native town of Haarlem, in the milieu of a Remonstrant, latitudinarian family. After finishing the Latin School, he enrolled in the Remonstrant Seminary in Amsterdam, but dropped out after two years. He took up Medicine at Leiden University, crowning his studies with a dissertation in Latin in 1770.
A year later, he made his first visit to St. Petersburg, where he became acquainted with the future Admiral Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen. Upon returning to the Republic in 1780, he was appointed in the Navy as a Medical Officer.


image: cartoons by Pieter van Woensel (via Rijksstudio)