The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION III. What the chief Merchandizes, and most Staple, and other Commodities are, which are brought into this Empire.

THe most Staple Commodities of this Empire are Indico and Cotton Wool; of that Wool they make divers sorts of Callico, which had that name (as I suppose) from Callicut, not far from Goa, where that kind of Cloth was first bought by the Portugals.

For the Spices brought hither by the East-India Fleet, they are had more Southerly, from the Islands of Sumatra, from Ja∣va Page  367 major and minor, from the Moluccoes, and from other places thereabouts: In which, as in the Molucco Islands, and those other parts too from whence the richest Spices come, the Low-Country Merchants have got such footing, and such a particular interest, that our English Factors there (for the present) buy those Commodities; as we sometimes do buy Provisions and Commodities here at home, out of the engrossing Hucksters hands: So that our English in those parts have a free Trade for no kind of Spice, but for that, which is one of the lowest prized, namely, Pepper, which they fetch from Bantam. Which more general Trade of the Dutch, they have formerly gained at a very vast expence, by fortifying themselves there, in the places where-ever they settle; and then standing, upon their Guard, put a kind of force upon the Natives to sell them their Commodities.

What the carriage of that people hath formerly been in those parts towards our English, (where their Swords hath been longest) is sufficiently made known by other Pens: This I may conclude from their example (and I would they were singular and alone in it) that when a people will not be ordered by that Royal Law, which commands us, Matth. 7.12. To do nothing, but what we would be content to suffer; as to do nothing unto others, but what we would be well content to suffer from others: But on the contrary, when they measure things, not by the strait and even Rule of Equity, but by the crooked and oblique Line of Power, arming their Injustice to do what they please, because they can do what they will: This causeth many to make very bold with God in cases that seem to give advantage unto their high thoughts and Commodities: For what evil cannot Ambition and Covetousness do, when they are backt with an Arbitrary and unlimitted Power here below, if they be not checkt by a stronger Arm from above? Whence we see it often come to pass, that when the Laws of Nature and Nations, yea of God himself, lye in the way of their profit, or earthly advantages (what-ever their sufferings or loss be afterward) they either spurn them thence, or else tread and trample upon them at pleasure, to com∣pass their ends for the present. This I can say of the Dutch (something from my own knowledge, but more from the re∣port of others) that when I lived in those parts, and we English there were more for number than they, and consequently could receive no hurt from them, we there used them as Neighbours and Brethren; but in other places, where they had the like ad∣vantage of us, they dealt with us neither like Christians nor Men. But I will not here any longer digress, but return to speak further of the Commodities to be had in East-India.

The Indico we bring thence, is a good, and a rich Commo∣dity. It is there made of little leaves, not bigger than those on our Goos-berry bushes, and the shrubs that bear those leaves Page  368 are about their bigness. These leaves they slip off from the small branches of those bushes, which grow with round and full heads without pricks. The leaves thus stripp'd off, are laid in great heaps together certain dayes, till they have been in a hot sweat; then are they removed, and put into very great and deep Vessels fill'd with a sufficient quantity of water to steep them in, where they leave their blew tincture with their substance; this done, the water is drain'd out into other exceeding broad, but very shallow Vessels, or Vats, made of Plaister (like to that we call Plaister of Paris) which will keep in all the Liquor till the hot Sun in short time extracts the moisture from it; and then what mains in the bottome, is a Cream about one quarter of an inch thick, which suddenly becomes hard and dry, and that is our Indico, the best sort whereof comes from Biana, near unto Agra, and a coarser sort is made at Cirkeese, not far from Amadamaz; about which two places, are a very great number of those shrubs planted, which bear those leaves.

For their Cotton-wooll, they sow seed, and very large quanti∣ties of Ground in East-India are thus seeded. It grows up like small Rose-bushes, and then puts forth many yellow blossoms; those afterward falling off, there remain little Cods, about the bigness of a Man's Thumb, in which the substance at first is moist and yellow; but as they ripen, they swell bigger, till they break their Covering, and after, in short time, that within them be∣comes Wool, as white as Snow, and then they gather it. Amongst that Wool they find seeds to sow again as they have occasion; but those shrubs bear that Wool three or four years e're they supplant them. Of this Cotton-wool they make divers sorts of white Cloth (as before I observed) some broad, some narrow, some coarse, some fine, and very fine indeed; for some that I have seen there I believe was as fine as our purest Lawn. Much of the coarser sort of that Cloth they dye into Colours, or else stain in it variety of well-shaped and well-coloured Flowers or Fi∣gures, which are so fixed in the Cloth, that no water can wash them out. That pretty Art of staining, or printing fixing those variety of Colours in that white Cloth, the People of Asia have engrossed to themselves, where the most curious Pintadaes are made; whither neighbouring, as well as more remote Nations, bring their Monies to fetch them thence.

In Decan, which bounds upon the Mogol's Territories South, (the Princes whereof are Tributaries unto him) there are many Diamond-Rocks, in which are found those most pretious of all other Stones; and they are to be sold in this Empire, and con∣sequently to be had by those who have skill to buy them, and Money to pay for them. But as all the Stones in East-India are not pretious, so those that are, the Natives know very well how to value.

But further, for the Merchandizing Commodities the Mogol's Provinces afford, there is Musk (by reason of their abundance Page  369 of Musk-Cats) to be had in good quantity; and there are Be∣zar stones: which are not so called from any Beast of that name, but they grow in the maws of Goats, which when they observe to grow exceeding lean, they kill them, and find those stones in them; and if they did not so, that stone in them would make an end of them. By which we may observe, how that pre∣tious Bezar stone, that proves many times such a Cordial, and Preservative to the Life of Man, is destructive and mortal un∣to the poor Creature from whence it is taken: Like that pre∣tious Word of God, that may proceed from the Lips of him that hath a lean Soul, and may do others good, but himself no∣thing but mischief. The greatest number of those Goats, from whence those Bezars are taken, feed on the Mountains of Lar in the Persians Territories, the Western-Bound (as before) of the Mogol's great Empire.

They have some store of Silk here; but the greatest quantity of that rich Commodity, that any place in the whole World affords, comes out of Georgia, a Province belonging unto the King of Persia. Those Georgians and Armenians, (both under the Command of the Persian King) are by profession Christians, like those of the Greek Church. And the Abissins, under the Command of Prester John, are in profession Christians like∣wise, but these Abissins circumcise their Males before they bap∣tize them. Alass poor People! who for want of better instru∣ction cannot know what they should, and therefore know not what they do. All those Armenians, Georgians, and Abissins, (as I have it from others, but can relate something of it out of my own knowledge) even all of them see Christ but in the dark, and by reason of the general ignorance that is in them, cannot know God as they ought in Jesus Christ. These are the differ∣ent cases of many which profess Christ in the World; some cannot know him, some care not to know him, and some will not know him; Amongst the first of these, they all may be ranked whom I but now named, as many others of the Greek, and those that profess Christianity in Russian Churches, with many-many others of the Romish, who have the Truths of God sealed up in an unknown Tongue, to keep, and to conti∣nue them in ignorance; who instead of the two Breasts of the Church, the Law and the Gospel, are fed with mouldy and finnowed Traditions; and their case being so, our Chari∣ty towards them may lead us thus far, to believe that they would do better, if they knew better; and this may speak much in their excuse. But what Plea can be made for us of this Nation, that Do not what we Know; or if we be ignorant, it is be∣cause we will be so; not because we cannot know, but because we care not for knowledge, and will not know?

But to return to the place where I began my last digression; I told you that the People here have some store of Silk, of which they make Velvets, Sattins, Taffataes, either plain, or mingled, Page  370 or strip'd in party-colours; but the best of them for richness and goodness come not near those which are made in the parts of Italy.

Many curious Boxes, Trunks, Standishes, Carpets, with other excellent Manufactures, may be there had. They have medicinal Drugs, and amongst them very much Cassia grow∣ing there in Canes. They have Gums well sented, and much Lignum Aloes, which burnt, yields a perfume better than any one thing in the world that I ever smelled. They have great store of Gum-lac, of which they make their hard Wax; and that Gum likewise they there imploy for many other neat uses. The Earth there yields good Minerals of Lead, Iron, Copper, Brass, and (they say) they have Silver-Mines too; which (if true) they need not open, being so enriched from other Na∣tions of Europe, and other parts, who yearly bring thither great quantities of Silver to purchase their Commodities. Which I collect from our English Trade there; for, though we vent some quantity of our Wollen Cloth, with some other things we carry thither, yet the greatest part by far of Commodities brought thence, are caught by the Silver hook. And this is the way to make any Nation of the world rich, to bring, and leave Silver in it, and to take away Commodities. And, as all Ri∣vers run into the Sea, so many Silver Streams run into this Mo∣narchy, and there stay; the People of any Nation being there very welcome that bring in their Bullion, and carry away the others Merchandizes; but it is look'd on as a Crime that is not easily answered, to transport any quantity of Silver thence.

The Coyn, or Bullion, brought thither from any place, is presently melted and refined, and the Mogol's Stamp (which is his Name, and Titles, in Persian Characters) put upon it. The Coyn there is more pure than in any other part of the world, being (as they report) made of pure Silver, without any Allay; so that in the Spanish Money, the purest of all Europe, there is some dross.

They call their pieces of Money, Roopees; of which there are some of divers values, the meanest worth two shillings and three pence, and the best two shillings and nine pence sterling. By these they count their Estates and Payments. They have another Coyn of inferiour value in Guzarat, called Mamoodies, about twelve pence sterling; both the former, and these, are made in halfs, and some few in quarters; so that three pence is the least piece of silver current in those Countries, and very few of them to be seen. That which passeth up and down for ex∣change under this rate, is Brass or Copper Money, which they call Pices, whereof three, or thereabouts, countervail a Penny, Those Pices are made so massie and thick, as that the baser me∣tal of which they are made, put to other uses, is well-nigh worth the Silver they are rated at. Their Silver Coyn Page  371 is made either round or square, but so thick, as that it never breaks nor wears out. They have pure Gold-Coyn likewise, some pieces of great value; but these are not very ordinarily seen amongst them.

I have now done with this Section, wherein I have related much of the Commodities, and Riches, as before of the Provisions and Pleasures which are to be found in that vast Monarchy, and, I conceive, nothing but what Truth will justifie. And now, lest that place I have describ'd, should seem to be an earthly Para∣dise, I must acquaint my Reader, that the Contents there found by such as have lived in those parts, are sour'd and sauc'd with many unpleasing things; which he must needs know, when he takes notice.