Papers of the Board of Longitude : Vouchers

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p style='text-align: justify;'>With <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00020'> (RGO 14/20)</a> this volume comprises a collection of ephemera related to the Board of Longitude's accounts between 1811 and 1823. Both volumes give a vivid picture of the financial transactions of the Board, and particularly the complexity of putting together a publication like the <i>Nautical Almanac</i> . Compared to the financial documents in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00017'> (RGO 14/17)</a> which deal with the period from the 1760s, these volumes show the extent to which such transactions had become more routine for the Board by the 1820s.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Two men stood at the centre of this web of accounts, claims and receipts for money. Between 1811 and 1818, John Pond, as Astronomer Royal, had responsibility for the <i>Nautical Almanac</i>, and dealt with the resulting correspondence and finances. With Thomas Young's (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw81992/Thomas-Young?LinkID=mp04986&role=sit&rNo=5'>portrait</a> at the National Portrait Gallery) appointment as Secretary of the Board and Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, after the re-constituting of the Board by the 1818 Act, these responsibilities moved to him. The increased institutionalisation and bureaucratisation to which this change led is evidenced by a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(305);return false;'> letter (RGO 14/19:153r)</a> in this volume from Young to Coutts & Co, informing them that he was opening an account in his name on behalf, and by the instruction of, the Commissioners of Longitude. All money seems to have then passed through this account and therefore through Young's hands. Almost every claim or receipt is accompanied by a bankers' draft signed by Young. Young's accounts from 1820 and 1821 are preceded by a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(667);return false;'> note (RGO 14/19:332r)</a>, signed by a group of Commissioners, approving his expenses and agreeing that his documentation was all correct.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>One group of payments deals with instruments commissioned by or repaired for the Board, and their storage and transport. Vouchers include bills from George Dollond, from William Cary [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;authority=agent-167421;makerReference=agent-167421'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], from Thomas Jones [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;authority=agent-169245;makerReference=agent-169245'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], and from John Barrett. John Chinnery also received payments for transport and customs duties on instruments, and Stephen Lee, librarian of the Royal Society, was regularly paid the rent and land tax for the warehouse which the Board of Longitude shared with the Royal Society. A <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(315);return false;'> note (RGO 14/19:159r)</a> from Joseph Banks [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/107455.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], John Barrow [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/107724.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and William Wollaston [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/136781.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] also proposed that Lee be paid £50 for his care of the instruments while in this store. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(213);return false;'> Accounts (RGO 14/19:108r)</a> from the printer John Murray (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw35508/John-Samuel-Murray?LinkID=mp03237&search=sas&sText=John+Murray&role=sit&rNo=2'>portrait</a> at National Portrait Gallery) also dealt with the Board's publication of descriptions related to instruments they had supported, such as John Harrison [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/107002.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>]'s watch [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/79142.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and John Bird [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/127570.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>]'s mural quadrant [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/11133.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>]. Two bills and a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(477);return false;'> letter (RGO 14/19:239r)</a> record the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(481);return false;'> purchase of canvas (RGO 14/19:241r)</a>, and the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(433);return false;'> making of a tent (RGO 14/19:217r)</a> from this, for Captain Basil Hall to take on HMS Conway, along with 'the instruments furnished me by the Board' showing the more prosaic accoutrements which also went on expeditions funded by the Board of Longitude.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The largest group of vouchers and accounts under both Pond and Young dealt with the computation and publication of the <i>Nautical Almanac</i>. Regular payments are recorded to Thomas Bensley and John Murray for printing, and to Longman and Dickinson for paper. The same names appear repeatedly, as computers and comparers, either claiming or acknowledging receipt of money: Mary Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, Thomas Browne, John Crosley, William Dunkin, Nicholas James, Richard Martyn, Thomas Taylor, Edward Troughton [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/203200.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], Henry Meikle. Some are accompanied by letters asking for money in advance or explaining why some calculations had been held up. These link with the plaintive letters now housed in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00012'> (RGO 14/12)</a> and, in some cases, show the successful end of the pleas for assistance made therein. A <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(741);return false;'> bill (RGO 14/19:369r)</a> made out to Margaret Mackay in 1822, for instance, shows the happy result of her <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00012/61'> letter (RGO 14/12:326r)</a> pleading for the Board's financial assistance as her husband had acted for them on the <i>Nautical Almanac</i>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Katy Barrett<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>


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