On this day in 1687 Henry Alford wrote from Madras to Thomas Bowrey at Porto Novo.
Alford is replying to Bowrey’s letter concerning the musk he had acquired. Unbeknown to Bowrey when he purchased the musk, the East India Company had changed their rules and independent merchants were no longer permitted to ship musk to England.
Musk was a high-value commodity used for making perfumes. The relative transport costs for high-value items were low because there was less bulk and/or weight for the same value. At this stage, Bowrey was preparing to return home to England and converting his wealth into high-value items such as musk and diamonds.
Shipping anything home incurred risk from piracy, shipwreck or theft and the papers provide evidence that Bowrey attempted to spread his goods over a number of different ships.