Having presented the most important published sources for my biography of Captain Thomas Bowrey, the remaining blogs in this series is going to be more a tour along my bookshelves. These are books that I reach for continually whilst I am writing to fill in details, check facts or add some depth to the story. Today’s book is the one right in the centre of the books on my desk sandwiched between The Bay of Bengal and The Papers of Thomas Bowrey.
John Fryer’s A New Account of East India and Persia Being Nine Years’ Travels 1672-1681. Covering a period very similar to Thomas’ Bay of Bengal Fryer’s accounts provide a different perspective on the region. Fryer was a surgeon with the East India Company and, in 1672, he left London for Bombay on the Unity sailing in a fleet of ten Company ships. This book, edited by William Crooke, is a compilation of nine very long letters written during his time in the East.
It is unclear why the letters were written but it appears that they were probably sent as such back to London by Company ships. However, they were possible letters to himself to be used to as the basis of a book on his return. They appear to have been written verbatim from notes he kept and, thus, Fryer’s style is not easy reading. The book was originally published in 1909 by the Hakluyt Society. My copy, published in New Delhi in 1992, has no index making it difficult to use for reference. These faults stop the book being on my favourites list but it still remains indispensable. Fortunately, I manage to navigate it to some extent using the rambling contents list for each letter at the beginning, the list of illustrations and the versions available online.
It is a shame that there are few illustrations in the book because Fryer was a much better artist than Thomas whose pictures in the Bay of Bengal are truly awful.