Lot 143
Sold for £40,800 (US$ 53,800) inc. premium

Lot Details
Two autograph log, journal and memorandum books kept by Thomas Bowrey:

(i) Volume comprising: (a) design of an escutcheon headed "17/ TB/ 03"; (b) "An account of the Journall of a Voyage from England to Bengall in the East Indias in the Worcester East Indiaman Commanded by Captin Thomas Bowrey from the 11th of December 1689 to the 14th of December 1691"; (c) a set of leasehold accounts for Bowrey's properties, between 1692 and 1711; (d) "A Description & account of the Diffrent Islands & Bays on the N W Coast In What Manner Situated & the product that arises from the Diffirent Islands & Likewise the Behaviour of the Natives from Each Diffrent place", beginning with "the Island of panmara... Situated 38 N Distance 136 Miles from Dangro", and concluding: "Thomas Bowrey Commander of the four Friends Saild from the port of London June the 10th On a Discovery In some parts of the south seas & other parts & Returnd Safe to the port of London again In the Year of our Lord 1699 on the 16th Day of May"; with some later additions in other hands, (e) a design in pen-and-wash for a memorial, nearly 200 pages, original tooled reverse calf, red morocco label on inside upper cover ('Thos Bowrey Born Jan., 4. A.D. 1661'), spine broken and other wear, some pages coming loose, folio, 1689-1711

(ii) Volume comprising: (a) a list of property rentals; (b) a log of "Some perticular Remarks at Kedgerry in Bengall River By Thos Bowrey Commander the Ship London", when on the business of the Honourable East India Company, beginning Sunday 14 July 1701 and concluding on 4 November 1701 ("...Having Now Made Sail for England I Leave further perticular Remarks to the Logg Book During the Course of the Whole Voyge Kept by James Gunning fourth Mate..."); (c) seven charts, one captioned "This peice of Work performd By observation on the transitt of Veness for Remarks against the Learned Doctor Bradley 22 of June 1702 By Thos Bowrey Late Commander in the India Companys Service"; "Remarks of the Different Coasts & points on the Norwest passage Yett unnown 1695 May the 14"; "A Description of the Nor West part from Dead Mans Bay By Thos Bowrey in the Year 1695"; "December 23 - 1695 Came to fields of Ice Expecting to be Cut asunder Impossible to return to Dead Mans Bay the Wind fortunately Shifted at 3 in the Morning Caried Us in to an open field of Ice Where We Shelterd all Hands & bore acrooss the Ice & Moord the ship safe and traveled by the Compas about 30 Miles Where We perceived it Very Warm to What We had been but the Wild Beast being so numerous oblidged us to return to the ship & there took observation the Ice Broke We unmored & got safe to a fair Courrant/ third Observation taken from this place Being 300 Miles Long 50 Wide Goes by the Name of Black Island the Natives free the Women Like Melotters but very Kind & plenty fruit wild by the Natives the men very strong & powerfull} Thos Bowreys observation"; (d) a narrative of his voyage to discover the Northwest Passage: "a Description of the plans of the Countreys & in What maner Situated East West North or South During the Course of My Voyge Endeavouring to find the Norwest passage But Many Dangers that attended that troublesom Voyge I Believe Will Never be found out Except Daylight Continued for A space of time to pass the Dark Shade which alters Every 4 hours... No Ship Will Ever Be able to Go Beyond Dead Mans Bay there I beleive Will Be an End to Endeavours put forth for that purpose the Countrys adjacent to Some parts of these Countrys are very fruitfull Good Supply of Water Vigitables Growing Wild such as our Gause Lettise & Sallery Wild Innions pasnips Something Like But Very fine & plenty of fruit. Good Eggs from birds as Bigg as our Geese & Ducks Laid in Sand You May take them by Hatt fulls the Birds are Very Good But Hard to be Caught... & fruit that Grows Like our potatoes only Grows on a Stalk Like our Sun flower or Holly Hawke You May Eat them the Same as Bread But Not too Many for they are very Watery... as to their Buildings are But Mean with rough sticks Laid across But such a Method of Keeping the Weather out i was amazd, it Was by the Bark of trees sowd together with flaggs & the Joints filld With Leaves to prevent the Water from Getting in"; (e) diary entries; (f) a pen-and-wash design for his church tomb; (g) a summary of his life from his birth up until his return from India on the Honourable Company's service in 1702, as described in his log ("...Thos Bowrey Born January 4th 1661[/2] at Barking In Essex & Mary Bowrey May 6th at Stepney Middlesex - at the Age of 14 Years I went as 6th Mate on Board the York Indiaman to India In 1675 & at the age of 17 Years I went 3d Mate Being Ready at My Learning & Understanding Navigation and at the age of 20 Years I went as 2d Mate on Board the York Returning Home Leaving that Service at the age of 24 I went to America..."); (h) a memorandum of "Chief perticulars of My Last Will & Testament", dated 4 February 1711, upwards of 150 pages, original tooled reverse calf, spine with a morocco label stamped 'Accoun[t] Book'), minor wear, but overall in good sound condition, folio, [c.1701-1712]


  • Thomas Bowrey (1662-1713) receives an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, largely on the strength of his Dictionary, English and Malayo, Malayo and English of 1701: "Later commentators have found much to criticize in the dictionary's clumsy, error-laden Malay phraseology and eccentric transliterations. None the less this unpretentious merchants' reference book seems to have remained the standard source for a century, and the quaint dialogues at the back convey with some immediacy the atmosphere of seventeenth-century Malayan, Sumatran, and Balinese docks, warehouses, and merchants' compounds" (Margaret R. Hunt). These two newly-discovered volumes - a mixture of logbook, memoranda and reminiscence - add a great deal to the sum knowledge of Bowrey's life and career (including for the first time, the year of his birth), as well as allowing the engaging personality of an intrepid explorer to appear. Not least, two notable episodes can be added to his biography: the voyage in search of the Northwest Passage of 1695 (one of which he was clearly prouder than any other), and his observation of the transit of Venus in 1702, undertaken at the behest of "the Learned Doctor Bradley".

Saleroom notices

  • This appears to be a mid eighteenth-century family transcript, and not in Thomas Bowrey's hand. The revised estimate is £5-6,000.
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