Dagbok East India Trading Company

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dagbok East India Trading Company

map 1749 China + East Asia


sea bug + tropical fish

sea bug (detail)

stylised sharks and fish

2 sailing ships

long boat + Chinese junk

Chinese junk (detail)

sea creatures

stylised flying fish and other fish

Cadiz map + sea shell + urchin

sailing ship + tropical fruit

Asian birds and stylised whale

birds and stylised animals

stylised ape (detail)

Chinese people

Asian nobleman and attendants

2 paintings - lighthouse and dock

Click to enlarge. Black bordered details were spliced from screencaps and almost all of the images have been cleansed. A bit.

The Swedish East India Company was formed under Royal Charter in 1731 and granted exclusive national trading rights with Asia, mostly through the port of Canton ( near Hong Kong). Round-trip voyages from the company's headquarters in Göteborg took around eighteen months and the major commodities transported back were tea, silk, porcelain and spices.

In all, there were 127 voyages undertaken prior to the company's becoming insolvent in 1813 due to reduced profits during the Napoleonic years. Eight major sailing vessels were either lost or partially destroyed while the company was operating, including the 'Götheborg', which famously sank on return to the harbour in Göteborg in 1745. In the 1990s, marine archaeologists were able to salvage some of the original ship, and after a ten year rebuilding project, a to-scale replica undertook a nineteen month voyage from Sweden to China and back, returning to Göteborg in June 2007.

The images above come from the diary of a cartographer (Carl Johan Gethe) on board the 'Götha Leyon', which left Sweden on a three year trading expedition in 1746. There is very little I can find about this particular voyage saving to note that a pupil of Carolus Linneaus, Carl Gustav Ekberg*, was the Ship's Surgeon and functioned as an amateur naturalist. One of the maps seen above is of the port of Cadiz in Spain, where ships stopped to trade merchandise for Spanish silver coins which they then used to purchase goods in China.

Gethe's diary ('Dagbok') (title: 'Dagbok hållen på resan till Ost Indien begynt den 18 octobr: 1746 och slutad den 20 juni 1749') is one of two diaries from crew members on the same voyage which are hosted by the National Library of Sweden. Although fairly similar, I think the quality of the watercolour sketches in Gethe's book is superior. The illustrations are elegant and beautifully colourful, if at times a little unsophisticated.

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