It was by stumbling over this book that I discovered Captain Thomas Bowrey and eventually came to write his biography. It was also my introduction to Sir Richard Carnac Temple, the book’s editor.
First published in 1905 by the Hakluyt Society of London, Temple had first been become aware of Bowrey’s incomplete manuscript some years earlier. It had been inherited by Eliot Howard but was not previously unknown having been quoted in a number or publications including the Oxford English Dictionary. It had not in itself been published. In editing the work, Temple carried out a huge amount of detective work in order to identify the author. The manuscript had simply been signed “TB”. It has since been deposited with the British Library.
This all happened many years before the discovery of Bowrey’s papers but Temple deduced “TB” was Thomas Bowrey, the “Captain Bowry” mentioned in the diary of one of Howard’s ancestors, Peter Briggins. After discovering Bowrey’s will, Temple identified many references to him in the archives of the East India Company and associated them with a number of maps drawn by him in the British Museum Library as well as Bowrey’s Malay-English Dictionary. Temple went on to uncover an number of individuals that, with the benefit of the advantages of online indexes, I have since established were Bowrey’s relatives.
In editing the manuscript, Temple added copious, useful notes making A Geographical Account of Countries Round the Bay of Bengal a work that continues to be studied today. At times I have been frustrated with Temple’s biased conclusions but that does not distract from my gratitude for the work he carried out. The task of writing Thomas’ biography would be much more difficult without his contribution. The book remains almost the only record of Thomas Bowrey between 1669 and 1679.