Patrick White letterbook  1791-1794
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Collection Scope and Content Note

These 3 volumes are an English translation of Robert Challe's Journal d'un Voyage fait aux Indes Orientales, which chronicles his journey to India as purser on the French East India Company's ship Ecueil between 1690 and 1691. The first volume opens with a brief introduction to the work, translated by "[I.?] R." for J. Boulter, a friend of Challe's. The volumes, which cover the entirety of Challe's travels on the Ecueil and contain many revisions and corrections, are accompanied by a two-page letter by Sir David Dundas concerning the manuscript's translation and contents, the background of the author, and the reasons why Dundas does not believe that the Hakluyt Society would be interested in publishing the text. Each of the 3 volumes bears the bookplate of Sir Thomas Baring, Baronet.

Challe began his narrative on February 24, 1690, when six ships under the command of Abraham Du Quesne departed from Port Louis, France, for the East Indies. He recorded his observations in daily entries, which vary in length between single sentences and descriptive passages of 30 pages or more. Challe recorded the ship's course and location, though he noted the unreliability of longitude measurements and remarked on the inaccuracy of contemporary maps (Vol. 1, pp. 67-68). After heading south along the coasts of France and Spain, the Ecueil made stops in the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, and Challe reflected on the history of Spanish conquests in the New World, as well as on predestination and other topics related to Christianity. Challe also described daily events onboard the ship and marine life he observed. The first volume concludes on May 30, 1690, with the ship's arrival at the Cape of Good Hope, which occasioned a discussion of Dutch trade.

The narrative resumed on June 1, 1690, as the Ecueil headed for Madagascar; the second volume includes a lengthy essay on the history, people, flora, and other aspects of the island of Moaly (Mohilla/Mwali) (pp. 30-63). The volume also contains a description of the ship's encounter with the British Philip Herbert , which ended when the trapped British captain set his own boat on fire, resulting in the death of most of his crew (Vol. 2, pp. 64-76). Challe composed entries as he traveled around the Maldives and Ceylon, and temporarily ceased writing after his arrival in Pontincheri (Pondicherry), India, on August 12, 1790. His next entry, dated August 24, 1690 (Vol. 2, pp. 116-158), describes the area, including observations on local slaves (Vol. 2, p. 137). After traveling along the eastern coast of India and down the western coast of Burma, the ship sailed to Bengal, where it remained at the close of Volume 2 on December 31, 1690. Volume 3 opens on January 1, 1691, shortly before the Ecueil began its return journey to France, a voyage covered in daily entries that often concern the wind speed and the author's increasing boredom. The Ecueil traced its earlier route around the Cape of Good Hope before crossing the Atlantic Ocean for a journey to Martinique and other Caribbean islands. After leaving the Americas on July 9, 1691, the Ecueil returned to Port Louis on August 20, the final date recorded in the journal.

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