On This Day: 13 March 1701/02

On this day in 1702, Dr Thomas Hyde wrote to Bowrey from Oxford asking him to ascertain the truth about a merman killed off the coast of Denmark.

Hyde, an orientalist, had resigned from his post a Librarian of the Bodleian Library the previous year and was to die in April 1703. During this period of retirement he worked with Bowrey on a book on oriental scripts. The exact nature of this book is unknown because, following Hyde’s death, nothing more appears to have happened.

The relationship between Hyde and Bowrey was complex. They and their respected wives appear to have met but it is not known when. All that remains are the letter from Hyde to Bowrey. Hyde had provided input to Bowrye’s Dictionary in the form of copper plates of the Malay Jawi script. Bowrey clearly needed Hyde’s expertise in oriental languages if he was to produce another book and Hyde had a relationship with an engraver able to produce the copper plates. But it is clear from Hyde’s letters that he considered the work underway important and that Bowrey was funding the project.

Bowrey was helpful to Hyde in another way. Hyde had a great interest in all things connected with the East and was constantly request Bowrey to obtain information from his mariner friends and acquaintances. The merman is just another example of this. It was said to have been killed off the coast of Denmark by Captain Juniper. The merman’s hand and a picture of the creature had been sent to Oxford for exhibition. Hyde wanted Bowrey to ascertain the truth of the story.


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