Narratives of Voyages towards the North-West, in Search of A Passage to Cathay and India. 1496 to 1631.

This very early volume from the Society contains “Selections from the Early Records of the Honourable the East India Company and from Mss. In the British Museum.

p. 61, on the Voyage of Captain George Weymouth and his Instructions:

IV. Muster-roll and wages } A list of the persons embarked in the expedition, with the pay attached to their respective ranks, has been framed from the Court-minutes, the accounts of disbursements, and some miscellaneous documents. Except in some instances of the rating of the men, respecting which the information is defective, the list may be considered correct. The original agreements entered into by seventeen of the crew arc preserved. Of these persons four make their marks, three write their initials, and ten affix their signatures. This presents a favourable view of the state of education in the time of Elizabeth: that is, as far as regards writing, and, it may be presumed, reading. Writing and reading were not, however, the sole tests of efficiency. It will be perceived by reference to the autographs, that a well-trained seaman, though unlettered, was rated above and considered entitled to better pay than the man, his inferior in the profession, though excelling him in the mechanical part of education.

p. 66-67, again the voyage of Weymouth:

The particulers of ye Mutinie.

The nineteenth day [of July 1602], the wind was north and by east, and our course to the eastwards. The same night following, all our men conspired secretly together, to beare vp the helme for England, while I was asleepe in my cabin, and there to haue kept me by force, vntill I had sworn vnto them that I would not offer any violence vnto them for so doing. And indeede they had drawne in writing, the causes of their bearing vp of the helme, and thereunto set their hands, and would haue left them in my cabin: but by good chance I vnderstood their pretence, and preuented them for that time.

The twentieth day, I called the chiefest of my company into my cabin, before Master John Cartwright, our preacher, and our Master, William Cobreth, to hear what reasons they could alledge for bearing vp of the helme, which might be an overthrow to the voyage, seeing the merchants had bin at so great charge with it. After much conference, they deliuered me their reasons in writing :

Concluding, that although it were granted, that we might winter betweene 60 and 70 degrees of latitude, with safetie of our liues and vessels, yet it will be May next before wee can dismore them, to lach out into the sea. And therefore if the merchants should haue purpose to proceede on the discouerie of the nortlh-west parts of America; the next yeare you may he in the aforesaid latitudes for [from] England, by the first of May, and so be furnished better with men and victuals to passe and proceede in the aforesaid action.

Seeing then that you cannot assure vs of a safe harbour to the northward, we purpose to beare vp the helme for England; yet with this limitation, that if in your wisedom, you shall think good to make any discouery, either in 60 or 57 degrees, with this faire northerly winde, we yeeld our liues, with vour self, to encounter any danger. Thus much we thought needefull to signifie, as a matter builded vpon reason, and not proceeding vpon feare or cowardise.

Then we being in latitude of 68 degrees and 53 minutes, the next [day] following, about eleuen of the clocke, they bare vp the helme, being all so bent, that there was no meanes to perswade them to the contrary. At last vnderstanding of it, I came forth of my cabin, and demanded of them: Who bare up the helme? They answered. One and All . So they hoysed vp all the sail they could, and directed the course south and by west.

The two and twentieth, I sent for the chiefest of those which were the cause of the bearing vp of the helme, and punished them seuerely, that this punishment might be a warning to them afterward for falling into the like mutinie. In the end, vpon the intreatie of Master Cartwright our preacher, and the Master William Cobreth, vpon their submission, I remitted some part of their punishment.

p. 85, in Admiralty Instructions for the Voyage of Sir Thomas Button:

11. Last of all: see that you and all under yor charge, doe faiethfullie obserue and followe all such further directions and instrucĉons as shal be given by the Aduenturers . And to the end it may appear what care we have of the Action and howe acceptable everie mannes good indevour and service therein wilbe to Us, Let theis be perticerlie read once everie Moneth, if it can be, to your whole Companie.

p. 94, re the Voyage of James Hall, has a complicated passage on different longitudinal readings of Baffin [1612] and Sir John Ross much later [1818?]: Captain Gibbons , it will be recollected, accompanied Sir Thomas Button on his voyage in 1612, as a volunteer; and it is evident the knight entertained a very high opinion of his relative. Sir Thomas “saith, albeit that bee is so neare in blood, as that modestie will not allow of his speaking too much of his merit, yet hee will boldlv sav thus much of his sufficiencv, as that he is not short of anv man that ever yet he carried to sea.

p. 145, Voyages of Bylot and Baffin: Therefore briefly thus, and as it were in the fore-front, I entend to shew the whole proceeding of the voyage in a word: as namely, there is no passage nor hope of passage in the north of Davis Straights, We having coasted all, or neere all the circumference thereof, and finde it to be no other then a great Bav, as the vovage doth truelv shew.’ Wherefore 1 cannot but much admire the worke of the Almightie, when I consider how vaine the best and chiefest hopes of men are in thinges vncertain; and to speake of no other then of the hopeful passage to the North West. How many of the best sort of men haue set their whole endeauoures to prooue a passage that wayes? not onely in conference, but also in writin; and publishing to the world. Yea what great summes of money haue been spent about that action, as your worship hath costly experience of. Neither would the vaine-glorious Spaniard haue scattered abroad so many fake maps and journals, if they had not beene confident of a passage this way; that if it had pleased God passage had been found, they might have eclipsed the worthy praise of the adventurers and true discouerers….

p. 223: This brief discourse I had concluded with a request to any noble- minded traveller that should take it down, or come to the notice of it, that, if we should perish in the action, then to make our endeavours known to our Sovereign Lord the King. And thus, with our arms, drums, and colours, cook and kettle, we went ashore; and first we marched up to our eminent cross, adjoining to which we had buried our dead fellows. There we read morning prayers, and then walked up and down till dinncr-time. After dinner we walked up to the highest hills, to see which way the fire had wasted; we descried it had consumed to the westward sixteen miles at least, and the whole breadth of the island. Near our cross and dead it could not come, by reason it was a bare sand. After evening prayer I happened to walk along the beach-side, where I found an herb resembling scurvy-grass; 1 had some gathered, which we boiled with our meat for supper. It was most excellent good, and far better than our vetches. After supper we went to seek for more of it, which we carried off to the quantity of two bushels, which did afterwards much refresh us.