Trotter, William (1769-1822) Seven Manuscript Ship's Logs, 1787-1800
Seven small-folio volumes completed by hand detailing Trotter's voyages to Britain, Cadiz, Madeira, St. Jago, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de la Plata, around the Cape of Good Hope to Mauritius, and Jakarta, Australia, Tonga, Canton, Hong Kong, around Cape Horn to Christmas Island, Hawaii, and Vancouver.
Volume I: original half leather with marbled paper boards, in need of resewing and paper repairs to first few leaves, front board detached, binding elements work. This volume is signed and dated by Trotter inside the front board, Workington, Cumberland, England 27 October 1787; the first section (13 leaves) consists of lessons on the calendar, geometry, plane sailing, traverse sailing, and middle latitude sailing; after 5 blank leaves, the next section contains accounts of numerous journeys to Balboa, Cape Verdean islands, Boston, China, Macao, and the North Pacific, aboard the ships Betsy, Mercury, Massachusetts, Snow Eleanora, Ameilia; an interesting note dated 19 August 1789 reads as follows, "Bonavista Cape Deverds came three schooners under Dutch colours to the north side of this island where the wreck of the Hartwell Indiman lay in order to partake of part of the money that lay underwater, but the wind blowing fresh from the NE the surf breaking over the reef so much that they cannot dive"; the next entry describes the return journey from Bonavista Island back to Boston aboard the Mercury; the log entries are very detailed, and include maps, sketches of landscape features, large pencil sketches of ships, and other occasional drawings; approximately 165 inscribed pages, covering journeys from 1789 to 1793, 12 1/2 x 8 in.
Volume II: pre-printed ship's log with engraved templates for each day, fulfilled by hand throughout, bound in full reversed sheep, with the ticket of London stationer Frederick Gardner pasted inside the front board, Trotter's signature in pencil inside gutter of ffep, beginning with a voyage from Canton toward Providence, 27 November 1794, aboard the Halcyon, followed by journeys of the Susan, to Botany Bay, Hawaii, Tonga, and the Northwest coast of North America; in addition to the ship's log information about the headings, weather, and generally running of the ship, Trotter also includes lengthy narratives of interactions with natives, including details about trading and other onshore activities of the crew, approximately 240 pages, covering journeys from 1794 to 1796, 14 3/4 x 9 1/2 in.
Volume III: manuscript ledger ruled by hand in red, bound in half leather with paper-covered boards, cloth ties, sewing structure failing, in need of paper restoration; this volume continues the Pacific Northwest voyage of the Susan from the previous volume, now returning from thence to Hawaii, entries begin in August of 1797; the next trip is to China in 1798; approximately 200 pages, approximately 25% blank, the first section with ship's log information and narratives; the final 18 pages with navigational calculations, 13 x 7 3/4 in.
Volume IV: the largest of the volumes, pre-printed with engraved entry pages specially designed for ship's logs; begins with a description of how to enter the Rio de la Plata with a finely drawn map, and a lengthy and detailed twelve-page description of Buenos Aires made by Trotter in September of 1799, followed by approximately 100 pages of log pages, dated from June 1799 to November 1800, detailing a journey from Santiago, Cape Verde, to Rio de Janeiro, up the River Plata, to Buenos Aires, Providence, and then to Madeira; no entries have been made in the second half of the book; first few signatures detached, 14 3/4 x 9 1/4 in.
Volumes V-VII: these volumes consist of account, day books, and transcriptions of correspondence; because Trotter's journeys were missions of trade, these books contain detailed information about the quantity, disposition, and value of traded goods; one volume is bound in contemporary half leather with paper boards, worn; the other two are full parchment, all small folio, with dates from the 1790s to about 1800. (7)
William Trotter had a long career of adventure in exotic locales across the globe at the end of the 18th century. His drawings, maps, and narratives show that he was an intelligent and observant traveler. Because of the manuscript nature of this material, and its sheer volume, minute valuable information undoubtedly sits undiscovered in his journals. Trotter was born in England and emigrated to Providence, Rhode Island, at the age of nineteen, having first been apprenticed as a cabin boy at the age of nine. After a lucrative career at sea, Trotter retired and purchased a home in Attleboro, Massachusetts, later settling in Bradford, Vermont.
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