'I, Jeronimus, am a man of phials, a measurer of powders on bronze scales, a potion brewer, an opium and arsenic merchant. The primped and perfumed Amsterdam burgers came to me in droves requiring cures for fevers, love balms, the miscarriage of a bastard child and, of course, poisons. Ah, poisons ...'
Long before the British started to send convicts into exile in Australia strange and terrible things were going on in Terra Australis, the Great Southland. The Dutch East India flagship, the Batavia sank off the coast of Western Australia in 1629 and Jeronimus Cornelisz, a deranged psychopath, took command of the 316 castaways. Less than half of them (only 107 men, seven women and two children) would survive.
Jeronimus Cornelisz was born in the year 1598, probably in Friesland, one of the most isolated of the northern provinces of Holland. His mother and father were very well-off and were amongst the most high-powered people in the area.
He would probably have attended school from the age of six or seven as at the beginning of the 17th century the Dutch education system was easily the most advanced in all of Europe. It was common in those times for most boys and girls to leave school by the age of nine or ten, but as the son of wealthy parents Jeronimus would have continued his education at one of the famous Latin schools.
Being a well-educated rich young man he would have had many choices of work in the Dutch republic. He could have been a minister, physician, studied law or trained as a bureaucrat.
Jeronimus instead chose apothecary, a less high-powered but still well-paid job, He was apprenticed some time between 1615 and 1620. In early modern Europe, fully qualified apothecaries had the first and the...