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Papers of Nevil Maskelyne : Journal of voyage from Bengal

Bishop, Robert; Kerr, Robert

Papers of Nevil Maskelyne

<p style='text-align: justify;'>An abstract of a journal of an East Indiaman compiled by Robert Bishop, former master and pilot in the West Indies who produced charts and sailing directions for the region. It was in his capacity as pilot for this region that Bishop was examined in 1763 by a Parliamentary committee with respect to John Harrison's fourth chronometer, noted by Derek Howse in Nevil Maskelyne: Seaman's Astronomer (Cambridge, 1989). He was also appointed by the Board of Longitude in 1768 to instruct and issue certificates to masters relating to their ability to use almanac and quadrant <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/177'> Confirmed Minutes for 12 November 1768 (RGO 14/5:173)</a>, and he compiled tables for the computation of longitude, some of which are held in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00067'> Observations on Voyages of Discovery (RGO 14/67)</a>. Bishop used the journals from routine East India Company voyages to compile his East India Navigator's Daily Assistant (London, 1773), a volume of sailing directions in which journal summaries such as this are reproduced alongside textual description.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This journal summary is from the 1768 to 1769 voyage of the East India Company ship Valentine from Alderney to Bengal and the return voyage, written by the First Mate Robert Kerr. Physically it is made up of four folded leaves and is approximately 23 by 30 cm in size. The summary is tabulated, with columns for recording the daily latitude and longitude 'by account', longitude corrected by observation and the difference between the two longitude positions. A final column is for observations on magnetic variation. Remarks inserted, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> transgressing the lines of the table (RGO 4/155:3)</a>, suggest the importance of navigational information extraneous to the form here proposed for describing the ship's passage, as well as the significance of recording particular experience, not only as part of shipboard bureaucratic practice but also in subsequent texts produced for use in the field. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> Particular remarks (RGO 4/155:4)</a> concern the hazy weather and consequent inability to make observations after leaving the Cape of Good Hope on the return voyage, as well as details on soundings and notes of sightings of land.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Compared with the <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00156'> Journal of East Indiaman Speaker (RGO 4/156)</a> and the <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00158'> Journal of East Indiaman Prince of Wales (RGO 4/158)</a> it is notable how rarely the corrected longitude and difference are recorded, here 38 times in a return voyage of over 300 days. Along with these other journal summaries compiled by Bishop (<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00156'> (RGO 4/156)</a>, <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00157'> (RGO 4/157)</a> and <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00158'> (RGO 4/158)</a>), this volume is significant as it contains some of the data from which his East India sailing directions were constructed, and speaks to the potential use and utility of shipboard inscriptions.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Megan Barford<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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