On This Day: 29 September 1704

On this day in 1704, Nathaniel Canning sent his bill to Thomas Bowrey. Canning’s writing is and spelling is awful but it would appear that, among other items, he supplied blocks and pumps for the Mary Galley. Blocks were the pulleys required by ships for the rigging, loading cargo and moving guns. We would probably call Canning an engineer.

Bowrey has endorsed the reverse of the bill: Mr Canning Blockmaker No 26 £19:11:0. This endorsement is an example of Bowrey at his most organised. Richard Carnac Temple published the story of the Mary Galley in his Papers of Thomas Bowrey because he believed that it was the most complete set of document recording the life of an 18th century ship from beginning to end to have survived. As Bowrey’s endorsement shows, he numbered the bills for this ship so that it is possible to match bills to accounts.

Bowrey was not always so thorough and, over time, his method of keeping accounts varied. During his final year in the East Indies, he experimented with double-entry bookkeeping for the first time. Invented in Italy in the middle ages, what as known in Bowrey’s  time as merchants’ accounts was not practiced by many merchants in England other than East India Company clerks. New skills can be difficult and Bowrey did not keep up this form of accounts for very long.

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