Isaac Abrahamszoon Massa


Isaac Abrahamszoon Massa was a Dutch merchant, diplomat, and writer. He was born in Haarlem to a family of wealthy merchants, apparently of Italian protestant descent who moved to the Low Countries at the beginning of Reformation.

In 1601 he came to Moscow for family trade business and thus witnessed the second half of Tsar Boris Godunov's reign, saw the sack of Moscow by the Polish troops and the usurpation of the Russian throne by an impostor, and survived many other dangerous events. In 1609 he was deported to Holland with other foreigners. Soon after his arrival he wrote an account of what he had witnessed in. (Een cort Verhael van Begin en Oorspronk deser tegenwoordighe Oorloogen en troeblen in Moscovia totten jare, 1610).

Two years later he published two articles: one on Russia in general and another on the geography of Samoed's land, accompanied by a map. In 1614 he returned to Moscow and resumed his now uninterrupted diplomatic and mercantile activities there. As an envoy of States-General of the Netherlands he obtained an exclusive trade agreement, similar to the Dutch-Ottoman treaty, and expected to investigate the trade routes into Persia. Merchants of Holland were interested in Russian grain and Persian silks.

In 1623/24 Massa was called upon by the Dutch Parliament to become an agent in Moscow. However, his appointment proved to be a controversial one and drew serious opposition. He then succeeded in engaging the interest of the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf to pursue trading agreement with Russia. He was knighted by the Swedish king in 1625 for his efforts to strengthen relations between Russia and Sweden. Interestingly enough, Massa carelessly informed young Russian Tsar Michail I Romanov and Michail's father, Patriarch of Moscow Filaret, of the internal affairs of the Dutch Republic. He was extremely artful in teasing out other people's secrets (as one of his contemporaries observed). Massa is credited with five published maps of Russia and its provinces, the last ones compiled around 1633, and two maps of the city of Moscow. The one exhibited here has hand-colored pictures of people in Russian native dress, of various towns and landscapes.

Moscoviae pars australis

[Amstelodami: Apud Ioannem Ianssonium, 1646]
G7100 1646 .M3

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