This biography of the great Dutch explorer Jan van Linschoten, whose discoveries made it possible for the Dutch to acquire the East Indies, is so rich with background detail that van Linschoten himself is limned more by associations with his backgrounds than by personal history. That he is difficult to pin down is evident when, in two pages covering his youthful visit to San Lucar, the author manages thirteen variations of ""doubtless"", ""probably"" and ""must have been"". Nevertheless, the book covers his travels to Portugal, then called Asie Portugal as part of Asia, to the East Indies and two abortive voyages into the Arctic, all of which earned him the sobriquet of the subtitle. His own records, quoted here, lack the spice of the everyday, for van Linschoten kept alert mainly to navigation, business and politics rather than mores. (He had understandable difficulty getting his later books published.) The reader is hard put to discern just what sort of a man he was--one surmises that he was a pragmatic, keen fellow, not strait-laced, who charted his travels well, but was quiet about the course of his own life.