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A Swedish traveller in the Comoro Islands: The description of Anjouan/Nzwani by Christopher Henric Braad in 1750, translated and annotated

Un voyageur suédois aux îles Comores : la description d’Anjouan/Nzwani par Christophe Henric Braad en 1750, traduite en anglais et commentée
Jeremy Franks† et Anthony S. Cheke

Résumés

La description illustrée que le marchand suédois C.H. Braad a faite en 1750 des dirigeants, des habitants, des cultures, du bétail et de la faune de « Johanna » (Anjouan/Nzwani) aux Comores est ici traduite, avec de nombreuses annotations, à partir d'une partie de son récit manuscrit d'un voyage en Inde sur le Götha Leijon.

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Texte intégral

I (ASC) think it is only fitting to reprint JF’s acknowledgements as they appeared at the end of his linked articles in The Linnean (J. Franks, 2005):

“Having worked on the Braad papers for ten years, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to have this as a first opportunity to acknowledge my debts of gratitude. For financial support that’s let me work at home and in distant archives I am indebted to, respectively the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Foundations and the Helge Ax:son Johnson Trust, all of Stockholm. Those in Australia, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, the United States and the Vatican who’ve helped me in many ways will excuse me, I hope, for putting off a final settlement until there’s space to thank each by name. This won’t do, however, for three in Sweden: Tomas Anfält in Uppsala; Philip K. Nelson in Norrköping; and Bo Ralph in Göteborg, to whom I’d like to offer my warmest thanks for support and guidance in especially the initial years of my work. Finally my gratitude to my wife for her affectionate forbearance in putting up Braad as our lodger is more than all the rest: I’m happy to acknowledge it but to thank her adequately for it is quite another matter.”

I myself have to thank first Jeremy’s interest in elucidating points of natural and human history, with which I was able to help him, and his eventual unfulfilled wish for me to help edit the Braad oeuvre, of which this article is but a very small part. I thank Martin Walsh for helpful input, especially on shinzwani words, and for first finding JF’s date of death, then speculatively contacting Peter Franks in South Africa on the off-chance he was a relative—he is, and he led me to Rebecca Ekenberg, JF’s daughter, holder of the archive, who clarified a puzzling passage. Also I thank Thomas Vernet-Habasque as editor for detailed and constructive comments on the document as a whole, and two referees for their useful contributions. One was anonymous; the other, Sophie Blanchy, was unusually forensic and provided several useful references; the paper is better as a consequence. The article is dedicated to the memory of the late Jeremy Franks.

Introduction [by ASC]

1Christopher Henric Braad [1728–81] was a long-term employee of the Swedish East India Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companiet, SOIC) and travelled on company ships to Asia, first as ship’s clerk and later as supercargo (J. Franks, 1999, 2005). In the Swedish company the supercargo was the company’s representative on board, on a level with the captain and in charge of buying and selling of goods and produce in the countries visited (T. Frängsmyr, 1990). Sinha (A. Sinha, 2012) has provided a brief history of the company, with a more economic take offered by Rönnbäck & Müller (K. Rönnbäck, L. Müller, 2020). During 1750–1752 as ship’s clerk, Braad travelled on the Götha Leijon, leaving Gothenburg in early March 1750, via Madeira and the Comoros to Surat in India, and thence to China. The extract published here is his account of his visit to the island of Anjouan (Nzwani), 17 or 18–20 August 1750, which I have cited previously in manuscript.1 He wrote up his travels with a view to publication, but his manuscripts, produced in duplicate, never saw the light of day and only recently have been explored by Jeremy Franks and translated; Franks (J. Franks, 2006) published a summary survey of the extent and contents of Braad’s writings. Scanned versions of Braad’s travel manuscripts are available online in the digital SOIC archive kept at Götheborg (Gothenburg) University, including both copies of the Surat journey,2 written up during the latter part of the voyage and presented to the company in 1752.3 The full title of the manuscript is given below at the head of the translation, which was made from the Gothenburg MS,4 the original, the Academy’s version being a copy made in 1753 (J. Franks, 2005). Fourteen years later Braad illicitly wrote in the Academy’s copy a brief retrospective note (J. Franks, 2005):

In reading through this account of travel that is a copy of the original that I delivered in 1752 to the directors of the East India Company, I have noticed not only many clerical errors but also in many places usages especially in style that discover a young man’s work. As I later had opportunities during a stay of several years in the places described to examine matters more closely and obtain information about matters that escaped my notice on my first visit, I hope in future, should the Almighty grant me health, to be able to communicate a more reliable account of my travels in Asia. In the meantime may I remark that the errors in this book do not materially run counter to truth; but every traveller ought to be able to attest to the general truth that one ought later to see a matter otherwise than on the first hurried occasion.

  • 5 “I’d been hoping I might complete what I’d begun but I fear I can’t, which is a poor way to reward (...)
  • 6 https://bokforlagetstolpe.com/en/authors/jeremy-franks/ gives his dates as 1934–2016 without furthe (...)
  • 7 In addition to the text published here, I also have from Franks considerable, albeit somewhat disco (...)
  • 8 Anders Larsson (Senior Librarian, Manuscripts Department, Gothenburg University Library), email 17 (...)
  • 9 He founded a review in English of Swedish literature in 1979, and the website https://libris.kb.se/ (...)

2The translator of the Swedish text, Jeremy Franks, was editing Braad’s corpus of manuscripts for publication, but having agreed that as natural-history advisor I should be also co-editor,5 he ceased communication in May 2015 having told me he had kidney failure and required regular dialysis. He was going to get back to me ‘in a few days time’ but never did. When I contacted his Indian publisher a year later, he had likewise heard nothing from Franks. I discovered much later that he had died sometime in 2016,6 and only in April 2023 did a serendipitous contact with a cousin lead to communication with Franks’s daughter Rebecca Ekenberg, who has kept his computer hard drive and its contents. Before he died he had over some years sent me various texts to comment on and elucidate the natural history content thereof, including the one reproduced here. I am indebted to Robert Prys-Jones, formerly of the UK Natural History Museum, Tring, for passing Franks’s initial query to the museum on to me in the late 2000s, in connection with this text on Anjouan. The text is as translated by Franks, apart from a few minor tweaks where he had failed to unravel Braad’s meaning and where, with the help of Google Translate, I have been able to clarify the passages in question.7 Franks lived outside the small town Kungälv north of Gothenburg,8 and from 1979 onwards translated many Swedish books and texts into English.9

3While there is nothing of great moment in Braad’s account of Anjouan, surprisingly full for a two-day visit, it adds a useful account of the island, its people and its productions from a period from around 1720 to the 1780s, when despite many visits by English and French ships, few accounts were written, presumably because the island was by then considered well known. Other than the standard domestic livestock and crops described by Braad himself, I have where possible (in footnotes) identified animals, plants and people mentioned or described but unnamed in the text. Braad’s is the only known account of any of the Comoro islands by a Swede and thus looks at the island, despite the short visit, in a slightly different light from English and French commentators, though with the usual bias of European superiority. One can usefully compare his text with Grose’s (1766) account from a six-day visit a fortnight earlier. Braad’s reading of past information is sometimes somewhat awry, possibly because some information came orally from the Anjouanais and his reading of the semi-fictional book by Defoe (1724); this is picked up in the footnotes.

4The emphasis here is on the translation of a previously unseen historical account, and, apart from some elucidation in the footnotes, I have made no attempt to enlarge on the larger political and economic circumstances of the time. Apart from Franks’s investigations there is little literature on Braad, excepting Melkersson’s thesis (R. Melkersson, 2013), using the account of Braad’s 1748–49 Hoppet journey, but which however focuses on Braad’s style and graphology rather than the historical content. Melkersson acknowledged that Franks “is the one who has paid the most attention to Braad in recent years and is perhaps the one who has most eagerly asserted the intrinsic value of Braad’s texts” (my translation with Google’s help). Allibert (C. Allibert, 1984, citing J.C. Hébert’s personal data) was aware of the Swedish visit to Anjouan in 1750, mentioning Olof Torée [sic, for Torén, see below], in a list of visits to the Comoros, which he admitted was far from complete.

Christopher Henric Braad, a brief biography

5[condensed from scattered information in J. Franks, 1999, 2005, 2006]

6Born in Stockholm in 1728, Braad lived in his mother Gertrude’s home town of Torneå, northern Sweden, where his father Poul was an official, moving to Norrköping with his family at age six. After private tutoring and learning several languages, he went to Uppsala University aged 14, but left dissatisfied. Briefly working as a clerk, he joined the SOIC, sailing for the first time in January 1748 as ship’s clerk on the Hoppet [Hope], on a voyage to Canton. He made further journeys in 1750–52 (on the Götha Leijon), then again in 1753, when, having reached Canton, he was directed to travel independently to gather natural history material in Southeast Asia and India, much of which time he spent in Bengal, considered a spy by the British but cleverly diverting their attention. He lost almost all his papers from 1754–58, some earlier ones, and “two chests with many rare natural-history specimens of all the realms of nature [in] Asia” in a shipwreck on his return voyage to Europe in 1758. He got back to Sweden in summer 1759, writing his account of Malaya and Bengal that autumn. He met Carl Linné (Linnaeus) to discuss his findings in 1760. On his first two journeys the ship’s pastor was Olof Torén, a pupil and correspondent of Linné, and there is evidence in Torén’s correspondence with Linné of discussions with Braad, although he is not mentioned. Torén died in 1753, a depressive and alcoholic according to Braad’s unpublished autobiography. Promoted to supercargo, Braad sailed again for Surat in 1760, but by then the British were foiling all other traders; the mission was not a commercial success there, but did better in China. Back home in 1763, he was offered, but declined, a directorship in the SOIC, preferring to retire at age 35 with the money he had made in permitted private trading. He settled back in Norrköping, marrying and being widowed twice, then marrying a third wife in 1772. He had three daughters by his first wife, and a son by his third. He built up an impressive library of 3,000 books. Apparently still in good health, he began a more detailed account of his life but died in October 1781, just four months after starting it.

Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat oen åtsillige andre Indianske Orter opsat och i ödmjukhet öfwerlemnad till Högloflige Swenska Ostindiske Compagniet10

  • 10 Both manuscripts (see note 2) have the same title; I have used the online scan of the Gothenburg Un (...)

7Description of the ship Götha Leijon’s voyage to Surat and several other Indian places laid open, and humbly presented to the Honorable Swedish East India Company

  • 11 Footnotes are by Anthony S. Cheke, unless initialled ‘JF’; square-bracketed comments in the text ar (...)

8[Chapters on Anjouan, Comoro Islands, translated by JF and annotated by ASC]11

Vth Chapter: Onward voyage to Johanna, and about Madagascar

935 [...] On August 8 [1750] we sighted the islands of Mohilla [Moheli/Mwali] and Johanna [Anjouan/Nzwani], and the following day that of Mayotta [Mayotte/Maore], although we could not make much way towards them. Ever since we had sighted Madagascar, the wind had been light and now it became even lighter and became finally a calm, so that we could only drift on the current between these islands that lay now to the north east, then between SW by S and N. On the evening of 11 August we were close to the eastern side of Johanna, and because we could only assume that we could come in on the following day, we sent the ship’s boat ashore to see whether any other ships were there before us, and to report our arrival; but by fortune a west-going current that night was so strong that the slight wind could not stop us from losing sight of land in the morning; we could not anchor, for the bottom would not hold, so that some days were spent working to windward that was lost at night

Figure 1. Braad’s drawing of the view of the bay at ‘Samoder’ (Mutsamudu), Anjouan, from offshore

Figure 1. Braad’s drawing of the view of the bay at ‘Samoder’ (Mutsamudu), Anjouan, from offshore

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 12 The captain’s log, in William Bookey’s own hand, of the English East India Company (EIC) ship Shaft (...)

10and in calms. On 14 August we were so far from the island we intended to reach that it could be seen as a splendid whole: it is the foremost of this group and lofty, as shown in the accompanying drawing [Figs. 1 & 6], but just then a fresh wind sprang up that, turning under [veering towards] the land, helped us at last to reach it; at nine in the evening on 18 August we anchored in coral in thirty-three fathoms, immediately opposite the town [Samoder/Mutsamudu] in the northern bay of Johanna, with an English ship, the Schaffsbury [Shaftesbury], lying off our bow.12

11These difficulties in reaching the island derived largely from the poor wind, but the strong adverse current and the lack of any anchorage except close to land were part of them. I have no reason to believe that our course off the east of the island could make so great a difference, although the author of the English India Pilot Book does not advise it, but his reasons are not consistent and some seem false, for the strong northerly winds that he mentions were not apparent along the coast, 36 where calms mostly prevailed, while the SW monsoon was blowing strongly a bit further out to sea, and the land winds were not as steadily from the SE as he claims but blew from all quarters.

VIth Chapter: Description of the island of Johanna

12Johanna, one of the largest of the Comoro islands, is situated between the mainland of Africa by Mozambique and the northern point of Madagascar, at the exit of the Mozambique channel that, on account of the eastern extension of this island, is at its widest point. Its [=Johanna’s] longitude is 44°10´E from London and its northern end’s latitude from accurate observation is 12°10´S; its coastline is fourteen to fifteen Swedish miles [140–150 km] long, in the form of a triangle with corners to the south, to the north east and the north west. Between the latter two a deep bay [Fig. 1] is most serviceable for visiting ships that can anchor close to land, off an inconsiderable spot or settlement, over a small sandbank in 40–50 fathoms; the sea constantly breaks over a depth of 20 fathoms, and on the shore, so that one who lands has trouble to keep dry; the ebb and flood run very strongly here, respectively south and north, with a rise and fall of three fathoms. Otherwise the whole island comprises heights surrounded by precipitous falls of land that give the uneven and rising hills that are covered with greenery an agreeable appearance; occasional sandy dells detract slightly from its charm.

  • 13 G. Dellon, 1695, or the English translation, A voyage to the East-Indies: giving an account of the (...)

13The Comoros were probably discovered [by Europeans] late in the 16th or early in the 17th century, shortly before or after Madagascar was discovered and visited, for they lie so near this island that anyone who sails by its northern end must come across them, but I have been unable to obtain any confirmation of this. No doubt the Portuguese assigned its name to Johanna following their custom of naming places for the day of their discovery, but its inhabitants call it Anziuani [now Nzwani], which I took trouble to ask about, while the Dutch charts give it in this form; otherwise one finds that innumerable writers name it as ‘Don Juan’, ‘Anjouan’ and even ‘Johan de Nova’ which is in fact the name of a quite different island. Dellon uses the first and says the Portuguese who found the island called it so.13

  • 14 Although Voani would appear closer to ‘Voni’ than Wani, it is a village on the SW coast, nowhere ne (...)
  • 15 The 1711 edition of The English Pilot, Third Book (S. Thornton, 1711) introduced “the Road of Vasse (...)

14It is said the island has four places that its inhabitants call towns, lying on the beaches 37 but containing only a few miserable houses. The king of the island lives on its eastern side at Lumoni [=Domoni]. Musini [? =Sima] lies on the western edge, and Samoder [Mutsamudu] and Vanu [Wani]14 close together on the northern bay. I don’t know what the English Pilot Book means by ‘Vassey roads’15 that it indicates as lying on the eastern shore, and have been unable to learn anything about them from the inhabitants.

15Samoder lies near the beach by the bank where our ship anchored, a bit to the east of the middle of the bay, below a great height and between two groves of coconut palms, with the one to the west on the farther side of a small stream. It is a random collection of seventy to eighty stone buildings that seem to have narrow alleys between them. All are old and dilapidated with small apertures for windows. The land around each is fenced in by interwoven palm leaves that are also used everywhere as roofs, except on the largest mosque that differs from the others on account of its round tower in stone, but its interior comprises no more than bare walls.

16Otherwise one sees nothing in houses beyond a bed, a chair and table, some bottles and broken china hung like a frieze around the wall. A curtain separates the harem or women’s quarter from the living room and, to tell the truth, they need not fear any virtuous European would be tempted by the beauty of their womenfolk; others need not be mentioned for locks and portcullises are too weak to resist such lusts. Some people say that because the houses are so old, badly kept up and roofless they were built by the Portuguese. But, besides not resembling any European building, they evoke no wonder that the Muslims do not do up their dilapidated and time-worn buildings because the inevitability of fate so impresses them that they apply it to the most minor matters.

  • 16 Braad nowhere named the ‘king’ (technically Sultan) or his viziers/sheriffs, often termed ‘governor (...)
  • 17 Here Braad was clearly echoing the Swahili/Comorian word sharifu (ex Arabic sarif), which does roug (...)
  • 18 Here Braad is not using a local shinzwani word, but a term in wide general use in the East, ex Arab (...)
  • 19 The tactical anglophily of leaders and merchants in Anjouan in the 18th century is explored in J. P (...)
  • 20 Comorians, especially nobles, merchants and pilots were often well travelled, on European, Arab, In (...)

17To the governance of this place they have besides two Vaziri {waziri} (doubtless derived from Turkish vizir [i.e. Viziers]) who supervise the rights of the king.16 Europeans usually call the sheriff17 [vizier of Mutsamudu] ‘the prince’, a title of honour received with great seriousness by the person in question, whose outward distinction was no more than that he wore worn-out shoes without stockings, while others were barefooted, and carried a stick embellished with silver. On our arrival, he honoured our vessel with his presence in a long close-fitting kabay18 of checkered cotton cloth under an open green coat with a belt over his left shoulder and a small crocheted or 38 knitted skull cap on his head. He was an honourable well-built old fellow of fifty or sixty with a small beard who could speak well in English19 or French of what he had learned of numerous European countries on his travels to Surat, Bombay, Pondicherry and several other places.20 The other subordinates took no more notice of him than to kiss his hand and make their salaam when something was brought in. Like the good father of a family, he deigned to work as required and employed his own royal hands for instance to cut down banana plants for the cattle in our vessel.

  • 21 The Swedish reads “men jämnforelsen måste snart förfalla då jag feck besinna, at här hade nöden ing (...)

18I felt [as if] I was experiencing the first innocent herdsmen, when patriarchs themselves pastured their cattle, and the lords of the world chose their great leaders from the plough[men], but the bucolic vision soon vanished when I perceived that need had no law here,21 and that a well-off Swedish farmer would not see any reason to welcome an exchange with a prince on Johanna.

19This subject reminds me that I cannot overlook what others say of many thoughtless travellers who publish narratives that so embellish minor but absolute Indian rulers and call them ‘prince’ and ‘king’ and other such titles, and speak without reserve of their residences, courtiers, states and I do not know what else, so that their readers are all too often gulled into believing their abused and ill-chosen words signify what they signify in Europe. Nothing in fact could be more different. One does better to say that such peasants are more suited to be servants to some Don Quixote. Whoever mistakes miserable hovels for royal palaces or slavish blacks for courtiers, must have eyes unlike those of others or use them to perceive what only some mounted but itinerant knight can perceive.

  • 22 Piasters: the Spanish peso, or ‘pieces of eight’, mostly minted in Mexico and South America, genera (...)

20Otherwise it may be said that the sheriff always delivers on his king’s behalf to any European vessel arriving here a slaughtered ox and some greenstuff, which gift is later increased with four or five live oxen, for which he receives in the king’s name some ammunition and so on. The presents we gave were a quarter of a firkin [about 9 litres] of powder, thirty pounds of cartridges, a barrel of pitch, pairs of muskets, pistols and spades, and twenty-five piasters22 in cash, besides more cash as his personal reward.

21I admit that I had hardly seen a fairer land than Johanna. Although high and hilly everywhere, it is nowhere bare and rocky, but in a few places open expanses are sandy, and is covered up to its hill tops with thick jungle. 39 The wide valleys between the hills are as richly covered with every sort of fruit tree, with crowns impervious to the fiery sun and casting a shade that is as cool as it is pleasant. Countless small streams of the clearest water bubble between the trees and, together with many small birds’ calls, harmoniously appeal to the most discriminating of senses. In a word, these pleasures are so great that one can scarcely believe that a more appealing place exists outside some romances.

22As to its fertility, it is no less, especially on the island’s northern side. For the most part its soil is black without any larger stones in it, and I saw in many places where they have dug or where the ground has fallen away that the soil depth is two alnar [about 110 cm] so that this, and the many streams that run down from the hills, and the many springs that can be found everywhere, can only cause an incomparable fertility.

  • 23 Scientific names are not added for ordinary cultivated plants or domestic animals unless there is a (...)
  • 24 Surinamese (Sranan Tongo) for lime, Citrus aurantifolia (Martin Walsh, pers. comm.)—though where Br (...)
  • 25 The list in Swedish reads: “papaj, gojaves, granataplen, pamplimouser, tamarind, lemkis, citroner, (...)
  • 26 Sea-beans are species of Entada, tropical lianas, dispersed on ocean currents. Although there are n (...)
  • 27 The list in Swedish reads “bland iordwäxter wanckades öfwerflöd af pompor, watter lemones, potatoes (...)

23It is beyond me nor my aim to put names to the multitude of flowers and plants that so greatly colour the fields and so greatly please an observer’s eyes. Their plenitude could, it seems to me, occupy a lover of botany for longer than our short stay permitted. Nor can I count up all the other trees and plants growing in this fertile soil and must therefore be content to name those that I knew. Coconut23 palms with high trunks and banana plants with broad leaves comprise thick jungles everywhere and, between them, countless other [trees] bore papayas, guavas, pomegranates, pomelos, tamarinds, lemkis [lime],24 lemons, bitter [‘Seville’] oranges and small oranges [mandarins].25 Although small in growth, pineapple bushes revealed their presence by their agreeable scent, and sugar cane grew along the banks of all the streams, together with a ‘sea-bean’ as big as a riksdaler, chestnut-brown in colour and contained in a sabre-shaped pod about one and a half aln [about 90 cm] long.26 In their games, the island people fasten some of these around their waists that, being shaken as they move, serve to make a sort of music. Among the fruits of the earth are great quantities of gourds, ‘water lemons’ [passion fruit], ginger, dill, purslane, mint and several others that flourish without being planted,27 so that almost nothing of what one would wish to subsist on and can be planted seems to fail to grow. Grasses grow abundantly, waist high, but no inhabitant thinks 40 of cutting or gathering it, for here the climate all year is as good as summer and cattle graze as well before as during the rains. The pleasures of this island include a clean, healthy atmosphere, in which all those on board our vessel sick from scorbutic [scurvy] or other complaints soon recovered their health. There is nothing to complain of here but the heat, which is fierce in the sand dunes where the sun is reflected from the hills.

  • 28 The word in both MSS appears to be ‘ijra’ or ‘ÿra’, which is not a standard Swedish word; yr/yra is (...)
  • 29 Cattle with a shoulder hump, known as zebu (Bos ‘indicus’), are originally from India. Cattle in Ma (...)

24Among domestic animals, there is an abundance of oxen, of the sort that is found on Madagascar, quite small and (grey?),28 but fat and plump; over their shoulders they have an uprising lump of hard fat, the skin of their throats hangs almost down to their forefeet.29 Large flocks of sheep and goats abound, all well nourished not just with grasses but with cut pieces of banana plants, which are especially nourishing and loved by these creatures.

  • 30 More normally spelt kvarter; 1/4 of an aln, 1/2 a fot—i.e. a Stockholm foot of 29.7 cm (H. Hogman, (...)

25These pisang [banana] plants, which flourish in all hot parts of the East and West Indies, are commonly eight to twelve feet [2.5–3.7 m] high. Their trunks are concentric layers of juicy leaves, as fine and white as the thinnest parchment, that increase in thickness with their proximity to the surface. Where this trunk emerges from the ground, it is surrounded by a tufted, more enduring growth. The tops of this plant comprise many branches that all have very large leaves, one-and-a-half to two qwarters30 [22–30 cm] across and two or three aln [110 to 180 cm] long, with a stalk in the middle, in consistency like a cabbage stalk and about an inch thick; it contains such a quantity of glue-like juice that when one cuts it across and slowly separates the two pieces thousands of tiny fine threads extend between them and hold them together; this juice is so abundant that should one slice the stalk and separate the slices one can draw out from the many pores as many new threads to a length of some two fathoms [3.7 m]. The stalk is thicker where it attaches to the trunk and comprises internally a mass of cells, like those of a honeycomb.

  • 31 Braad’s use of ‘detergent in his Swedish, the same word as in English, is its earliest known occur (...)
  • 32 Hobson-Jobson notes that pisang “is the Malay word for plantain or banana [...] It is never used by (...)

26The leaves are considered to be a fine detergent31 and it is asserted that applied to scorbutic swellings they do good. The flower [=inflorescence] at their top grows like an artichoke, between each single leaf [=bract] grow twelve sets of petals [=flowers] that have five stamens and a pistil each that grows to form a long stem around which, later, the fruit grows like a cochlæa [i.e. spirally] 41 or in a twisting arrangement towards the ultimate point that bears 250 to 300 fruits called pisang.32 Usually each is half a qwarter long [15 cm] and a tum [Swedish inch, 2.47 mm] thick. When ripe it is surrounded with an easily removed thin loose yellow skin within which its flesh is soft and pleasantly but strongly sweet. It is generally called pisang, or Botanici Musa, also banana and Indian fig. They who call it Adam’s Fruit are superstitious for, in the middle of the fruit, a cross is visible when it is sliced; it is said in Goa that slicing it is forbidden. Otherwise there are two sorts here, the second twice the size of the first, which the English call plantains. As most narratives of travel in the East or West Indies say how it should be cooked for food the matter is passed over here. For this reason, I say nothing particular about other Indian fruits although what is mentioned here will be such as I have found others have described more particularly and in my view less accurately.

  • 33 ‘buffaloes, cows, monkeys, apes’: here Braad was uncharacteristically careless. There were then, no (...)
  • 34 Whereas in 1673 Fryer had commented that “Honey and Mullasses they have good store” (W. Crooke, 190 (...)

27To return to other animals on Johanna than those already mentioned, one sees buffaloes, cows, monkeys, apes and so on.33 Nothing was heard of snakes, but multitudes of grasshoppers in the grass were revealed by their insufferable shrieking morning and evening; and harmless lizards run about everywhere in trees and bushes. Butterflies and other small insects everywhere were nourished by flowers; I remarked bees but did not see that the people knew how to benefit from them, for I heard of neither honey nor wax.34

  • 35 ‘A great many hawks’ (en stor hop af hökar) suggests a bird that congregates (JF), which implies th (...)
  • 36 There are no pheasants on Indian Ocean islands; Braad was no doubt referring to guineafowl (Numida (...)
  • 37 There are two species of flying-fox on Anjouan (M. Louette et al., 2004), but Braad probably saw on (...)
  • 38 The word oxe [ox, bullock] is missing in the Gothenberg original MS, but has been inserted in the A (...)

28Besides an abundance of every sort of small birds, the presence of which could be concluded from their agreeable cries, for none could be caught, I noticed a great many hawks that were as shy as usual; black ravens with white rings round their necks,35 and a good many pheasants.36 As well I saw the largest bats I have ever seen, with outstretched wings two feet long [60 cm] and bodies one and a half qwarters [23 cm] long;37 together with other creatures of the air; chickens and such not to be mentioned for I consider them not the least of the previously mentioned refreshment foreign vessels can obtain, while their abundance makes their prices so slight that in August 1750, when we were there, a bullock weighing 10 to 12 lispund [85–102 kg] sold 42 for 2½ to 6 piasters,38 a goat for ⅓ to ½ of a piaster and, for a piaster, twelve to fifteen chickens, or twenty to twenty-five baskets of greens, potatoes and lemons or forty gourds and so on.

Figure 2. Braad’s drawings of two marine animals from the Mozambique Channel, and a Anjouan flying-fox

Figure 2. Braad’s drawings of two marine animals from the Mozambique Channel, and a Anjouan flying-fox

His Fig. 1 (left) appears to be a gelatinous blanket octopus Tremoctopus gelatus, Fig. 2 (middle) a probable starry triggerfish Abalistes stellatus (see note 41), and Fig. 3 (right) Pteropus comorensis, Comoro flying-fox.

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 39 JF interpreted Swarte Swännerne in Braad’s Swedish as ‘black swans’, but his daughter Rebecca point (...)
  • 40 In English in the manuscript.
  • 41 Vernet (T. Vernet, 2009) and Walker (I. Walker, 2019) discussed the long-standing trade in Malagasy (...)
  • 42 See note 19; 18th-century Anjouanais actually pretended a kind of ‘Englishness’ (J. Prestholdt, 200 (...)
  • 43 Braad’s drawing of a käring [old woman] or ‘old wife’ (in English!) is a good rendering of a trigge (...)

29While fish abounded on the shores and out to sea, they are seldom caught for the people are not active fishermen. We received a remarkable demonstration of this from a man who brought a couple of fish on board to sell them. When asked if he had more, and where he had caught the two he had, he replied with astonishment and anger that this was nothing to do with him but for the young black men39 (‘black fellows’),40 for great use is made on Johanna of slaves from Madagascar.41 The finest touch was that he was convinced that he was white, whereas the peoples of Johanna and Madagascar differ so little in colour that, without other distinctions, their skins could not be differentiated. So generally are people conceited that they can scarcely ask themselves whether others may be superior before promptly putting themselves first.42 We could identify in the sea around our vessels, fishes only of the sorts called old wives [Fig. 1], porpoises and dolphins.43

VIIth Chapter: On the inhabitants [of Johanna] and [remarks] on the other Comoro islands

  • 44 ‘Women’ is missing in both MSS, but Grose’s description (J.H. Grose, 1766, p. 23) of women’s adornm (...)

30The seemingly considerable numbers of inhabitants, once as many as fifty or sixty thousand but now fewer, can really be thought immense in relation to this small island. They are all more and less black but especially the older people are not ugly. Their noses are not squashed nor do their eyes bulge, like those of the people of Java, and only large lips that are not really so common seem at all out of proportion; they are not less well shaped than Europeans. Most shave off their slightly curly black hair but let their beards grow above the mouth as well as under the chin in the Muslim manner. A large proportion, as well as their small children, go mostly naked but for a narrow cloth around their waists or a small covering for their shame; the others’ usual clothing is generally unvarying: no more than a short open shirt 43 and perhaps a bit of patterned cotton wrap around the waist, with an end hanging down to the heels like a constricting [girdle?]. The better sort dress with some style, wearing over these clothes an open coat while the ends of a belt-like wrap around the waist are thrown over the shoulders. These wraps are got from Madagascar, where they are woven in dark-coloured silk and decorated at their ends with fringes or pearls. They wear small mottled skull caps, while turbans are used but are seldom seen. Shoes are rarer still, and no-one was seen to wear them but the sheriff, as mentioned above. No-one is without a rifle or a knife hanging in a string led over the left shoulder, or dagger-like knives in a belt; some bear silver-embossed sabres either in their hands or resting over one shoulder; people gave them precedence, so one could guess they were servants of justice. [Women]44 wore rings in the upper and lower parts of their ears, and on their fingers, and many wore seven or eight tin or brass [bangles], or pearl rings, one over another, on their bare arms; some were so intent on not leaving their throats unembellished that if all else failed they would hang a chain of roses there.

  • 45 In English in the manuscript.
  • 46 “about 20 Years ago, Captain Cornwall, Commadore of an English Squadron, assisted them against anot (...)

31They share an innocent temperament and are particularly good-natured towards foreigners, so that private individuals can walk in the jungles without running the least risk of harm. Whoever one meets may know no more of European languages than to be able to say ‘How you do?’ and ‘Very velcome.” [sic] in the friendliest way.45 Besides their natural inclination towards tranquillity, much of their good nature towards Europeans derives from the services given by Commander Cornwall, an Englishman, in 1700, when he stayed here and helped them in their war against the people of Mohilla and conquered this island for them.46 They have since then so effectively sought to acknowledge this assistance that the English Company’s court of government in Bombay has been induced to declare them to be its allies 44 and has promised them in future every sort of protection and satisfaction in response to the violence of some Englishmen, and given them a written assurance of this, which is preserved by the sheriff, from which they have derived the saying that is constantly in their mouths that the English and the people of Johanna are brothers. I found that this good nature extended to more than Englishmen; it touched us, too, with no difference, for they are to be found always ready to show this in every way, and letting it be clearly understood how much they would be pleased to extend the honour of this brotherhood.

32One finds them neither given to thievery or quarrels but it is well known that they show themselves to ready to avoid trouble, being happy to let days go by, but this may be put down more to the conditions of their lives, which do not require them to work very much, than to their natural inclination, for nothing so induces hands and minds to go to work as a lack of things. But they are not covetous and their resources are slight, so they can all the more easily renew them. Fortunate people! Their morals have not yet been spoiled by much intercourse with foreigners or the oppression of some conqueror, through example to imitate those sins that are perpetrated under such circumstances. But no such virtues are exhibited by their way of life that one can adduce as exemplary or comparable to some of the ancient and celebrated philosophers’ strictly honourable customs, so can they even so be prized as blessed in an ignorance that averts many gross moral errors, and the less they take trouble to curb their desires, the more their innocent way of life is to be envied.

  • 47 Braad has confused the container for the contained—‘syvi’ {shiwi} is the sort of ladle made from a (...)

33Their food comprises fruits, the flesh of their beasts and rice that grows further up and in other parts of the island; no fields can be seen along the northern coasts. When an ox is to be slaughtered it is tied up and its throat cut without any blow on its head to stun it; it is left until its blood has run out, which the Muslims consider an abomination to consume. They know nothing of making strong drink, such as arrack or rum, while they have serviceable resources instead, using pure water and syvi {shiwi}, a liquid drawn from the tops of coconut palms;47 when fresh, it both cools 45 and tastes pleasant. The better-off are outwardly very sober but people in general have got a taste for both wine and spirits from Europeans which they receive when they can and also chew tobacco and opium.

34One finds among them neither indigents nor beggars who might expose their country to rebuke: each and every man has what he needs, in the form of an allotment of a bit of land that can be used for cattle, for planting or for sowing rice. The fertile soil that almost of itself gives rise to every sort of the most delightful fruit and plant makes easy their labours for the seven or eight summery months between rain periods while, when the rains do come, they have nothing more to do than to go into the jungles and knock down coconuts, so the whole of their lives pass in agreeable peace and quiet.

  • 48 The use of slave labour in a form of plantation economy, widespread in the Swahili coast, was parti (...)

35They live under the trees in their huts [Fig. 3] - some on stilts - that have walls of interwoven leaves, and pay a very slight tax in the form of their buffaloes and rice; those who are called town dwellers are exempt from it. It provides a modest income for their king [Sultan], who resides in Lumoni [Domoni]; most of his income is derived from his plantations that he, like his richer subjects, cultivates with the labour of slaves bought in Madagascar for eight or ten piastres each; some could have a total of forty or fifty of them.48

Figure 3. Braad’s drawing of a rural scene in Anjouan

Figure 3. Braad’s drawing of a rural scene in Anjouan

Pineapple (lower left), banana (extreme right) and coconut palms (background) make up the identifiable vegetation.

‘Resident’s forestry on Johanna’, from Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

36They say that they themselves have come from Arabia but it seems most likely that they have come from Mozambique or the nearest part of Africa, for they are distinguished from the Malagasy by their hair, which falls in small clumps instead of keeping it long.

  • 49 Braad uses a short, not very legible word—tjåt?—for this ‘priest’, which is not possible to interpr (...)

37In religion they are Muslims and Sunnis like the Turks, who reject Ali’s interpretation of the Koran favoured by the Persians or Shia, which holds that Omar, Osman and Abubecker [Abū Bakr] are the Prophet’s rightful heirs. They pray five times a day in their mosques of which some are very simple, with walled cisterns of water outside their entries, where they wash themselves before and after praying. Friday is their holy day but they do not celebrate it with greater ceremony than any other day, and the sheriff himself, who seems to exceed the others in judgement, for he is their superior priest,49 does not scruple to absent himself. When the ceremony of their religious service is to be undertaken, 46 all arrange themselves in order and their mullah or priest stands at the front, clad in a dark-coloured coat, facing an aperture in the north wall that is their kiblah that indicates the direction of the location of Mahomet’s grave in his birthplace of Mecca to which they should face in prayer. Once they have bowed down their heads so deeply as almost to kiss the earth and raised them again innumerable times, and raised their hands with their palms turned outward, their priest finally mumbles some words, like a song, that they repeat after him, causing in this way an indefinite—and for an observer—a not particularly pleasant noise. Some of them affect great outward devotion and reserve; I saw one who after prayers sat by himself with a Koran on a stand and read it so intensely that none of us foreigners who stood around could catch his eye and distract him.

38Women, who are less constricted here than among other Muslims, are permitted to visit the mosques, the largest being to that end divided in two, so that each sex had their own room.

  • 50 Although most of the Comorian words Braad recorded were accurate, I can find no documentary support (...)

39During our visit Ramadan or the month of fasting that they called ramram50 in error was celebrated and lasted for thirty days. I was astonished at the precision with which it was observed by all, even those of the lowest quality, for although a mass of people hung over us on board all day, they would taste nothing while the sun shone, regardless of temptation, but as soon as it set they hurried off so quickly as acknowledged their intention of making good at night the injuries they had suffered during the day.

40Here was elegantly demonstrated how easily one who does not check can err by assuming a number of things from seeing them [only] at first glance. Most of our crew, when they saw how the people of Johanna ate during Ramadan took it that they always did so and one, who was a little sharper than his fellows, wrote in his diary of the incomparably restrained people of Johanna who did not eat during the day. When I had returned home I heard many speak of this amazing people, including some devoted souls who praised them, for their eternal fasting was exemplary for Christians. Nothing was in fact more absurd. So soon can one ignorantly deceive oneself and others. I do not doubt at all 47 that if one began closely to inspect and copy the pile of the last two centuries’ published accounts of true travel stories that are as well based as this one, both these discursive books and a great many Indian curiosities would become really quite slim.

  • 51 i.e. the king always keeps his number of wives ‘complete’ at four (if one dies or is divorced), as (...)

41Polygamy that is practised here permits them to take not merely a legitimate wife but innumerable concubines. Their king may have four wives, which number he readily keeps complete, for the female sex is not as costly here51 as among their fellow Muslims who (not to beat about the bush) take additional wives for themselves and could part with them yet rarely do or rarely give any reason for doing so.

  • 52 Shinzwani, the Comorian dialect on Anjouan, is, like the other island dialects, a Sabaki language r (...)
  • 53 Kurtass: dictionaries vary: kar(a)tas(i), kir(i)tas(i), ex Arabic kartas. This method of paper prep (...)

42The usual language or mother tongue of the Comoro islands closely resembles Arabic,52 but most people on the northern side of Johanna speak a sort of Portuguese larded with English, but more clearly than the Chinese do; some indeed pronounce these languages, and French, with an admirable fluency. Many made a point of learning something of our language [Swedish] and badgered people on board to instruct them and teach them useful words and expressions. They filled whole sheets with what they wrote down, saying that they would be very pleased if, when any Swedish ship came here, they could address its officers and crew in Swedish. They use Arabic characters for writing and make paper of the internal tissues of bamboos and call it kurtass {karatasi}, call pens of rushes or goose feathers kam {kalamu}, and call the black liquid that serves them as ink ioncko {nyongo}.53

  • 54 The ship dropped anchor on the evening of 18 August (17th according to the Shaftesbury’s log); she (...)
  • 55 Neither JF not I could identify maksell; it would appear to mean ‘handiwork’ or ‘manufacture’.

43They count the years in the Arabian way and divide each into twelve months of twenty-nine or thirty days and interpose a whole month every third year to put right the discrepancy caused by this erroneous calculation. I could not see whether their scholarship is insightful, for the only book I saw was a Koran. So far as their experience and abilities in manual dexterity are concerned, I saw few examples in the short time we were there;54 that they understood something of smithery could be concluded from their axes and so on of their maksell55, a product of their own invention and usage.

  • 56 grab: not Shinzwani, but a widely used term for a broad shallow-draft 2- or 3-mast square-rigged sh (...)

44They mint no coins and trade between them relies on barter. Cowries are brought from Mayotta, which English and Moorish vessels from Bombay and Surat, with good profits, and often whole 48 capital, offer for sale in Bengal or to such vessels as proceed there. Otherwise on Johanna, they build grabs56 and other small vessels, in which they visit Madagascar, Mozambique and Mombasa, whence the better-off acquire what they greatly appreciate, the blades of sabres that, with arrows and bows, are their usual weapons.

  • 57 Although modern milled coins had begun to appear, many of the piastres in circulation were crudely (...)
  • 58 Reals and pistorins: a real was one eighth of a piastre (see above; hence ‘pieces of eight’ reals); (...)
  • 59 Condorins: Chinese currency (originally weights), at the time was 1 tael (or ‘Chinese ounce’) = 10 (...)

45Vendors of provisions that are commonly sold to individuals will most readily barter them for linen cloth and clothes, bottles, mirrors, nails, knives, locks, paper and so on; and if one gets more for it [that is, of the bartered goods], they accept monies when they can get nothing else. They do not want English and other silver coins, but consider as good only whole and half square piastres,57 preferring also reals and pistorins.58 When ships depart, vendors’ monies are of little further use and they therefore readily lay them out on the cheap things mentioned above, or on new cotton handkerchiefs such as may be bought in Canton for two or three condorins59 and sold on Johanna for whole or half a [Swedish] krona. Some asked insistently for pepper, nutmegs, cloves and other spices, also glass pearls and tin for arm rings, which they said they would take to Madagascar but I do not know whether this is worth the effort.

46Otherwise it was remarked that all provisions for the ship had to be ordered on land from the sheriff, who made his money once he knew what was ordered. Besides him, masses of people came on board from narrow dug-out canoes with double outriggers, like those of Java, loaded with greenstuffs, hens, goats, eggs, milk and so on that they offered for sale in an open market on board from morning to night, without in any way abusing the freedom that we gave them, to go wherever they liked on board, by stealing things.

  • 60 Which coasts are not specified, but presumably African (further north) and possibly Arabia/Gulf als (...)
  • 61 This is presumably ‘Charles Johnson’, whose A General history of the pyrates… (1724), is a semi-fic (...)

47Most English ships bound for the coasts and Bombay pick up provisions here.60 Water can be taken in any quantity from either of two places: a source in the town is not wholly clear but a bit to the west a stream with many bends is so clear and fine that its water can be compared with the best sources elsewhere. As much wood may be cut in the jungle as is needed, provided those who cut it can carry it away. Ships from Portugal call here from time to time but those from France seldom come here, for the Isle de France [Mauritius] is so close. The Dutch came here first in 1624 but since 1684 little has been heard of the island. 49 How the harbour was disturbed 30 years ago by pirates is a remarkable story in Captain Johnson’s book that is mentioned above.61

  • 62 ‘Mackra’ (as spelt by D. Defoe, 1724) was actually James Macrae, later governor of Madras, 1725–173 (...)

48Edward England, a pirate captain, came here from Mohilla in two ships, one of 33 cannons, the other of 30, just as two other English ships and one from Ostend were making sail; this was on 25 July 1720. Captain Kirby, in Greenwick [Greenwich], and the Ostend ship had promised Captain Makra (later governor of Fort St. George)62 of the other English ship, Cassandra, all the help he might need but, breaking their words, took advantage of his engagement with the pirates to sail off and leave him in the lurch. Although abandoned, Captain Makra and his crew spared no effort despite their despair to fight to the end against an enemy who was infinitely stronger, and so they kept on bravely for some hours until they were overcome by numbers and one of the enemy ships. He and his men could do no more, under cover of powder smoke, than leave the ship and go ashore, where the king, despite the pirates’ offer of a reward of ten thousand dollars to give Makra up refused to betray him. After some negotiation and promised security, Makra dared to go on board to [speak to] E. England; despite threats from those who were bitter over injuries caused by his persistent resistance, the pirate gave him instead of Cassandra that he had commanded the smallest of his own vessels, in which Makra managed to reach Bombay where he loudly protested the cowardice of his comrades.

Figure 4. Braad’s map of the four Comoro islands

Figure 4. Braad’s map of the four Comoro islands

Although his text refers to these four islands plus ‘St.Christopher’, the latter is omitted from the map.

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 63 Augustin de Beaulieu [1589–1637], commanding French trading ships to the East Indies, stopped brief (...)
  • 64 The original quotation is Omnes insulani mali, Siculi autem pessimi [All islanders are evil; Sicili (...)

49So far as concerns the others of the Comoro islands that, apart from Johanna, are four in number [Fig. 4], Comro, the largest [Grande Comore/Ngazidja], gives them their name; it lies 11°30’N and 26° east of the longitude of Uppsala and the nearest to Africa of all five. Its height is so considerable that in clear weather it can be seen from the north-east corner of Johanna that lies fifteen Swedish miles [150 km] away [Fig. 5]. Ruled by twelve kings who are at war with one another, its savage inhabitants call it Angasacha [Ngazidja]. Every circumstance suggests that that it is the Nangasia that Commander Beaulieu mentions,63 giving a grim description of its people who can command the wind and the weather greatly to injure those who have annoyed them, so that the ancient proverb insulani mali, siculi pessimi,64 with a suitable change in its last phrase, could apply to them.

Figure 5. Braad’s silhouettes of Grande Comore/Ngazidja (upper two) and Anjouan (lower)

Figure 5. Braad’s silhouettes of Grande Comore/Ngazidja (upper two) and Anjouan (lower)

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 65 Thought to be named after the Dutchman François Valentijn who published a map of Anjouan island, wi (...)
  • 66 Presumably Robert Glover, captain of the pirate ship Resolution, which visited the Comoros in 1695 (...)

50Mayotte, the next in size, between 13°5’ and 10’S, and in a longitude of 27°30’E 50 of the Cape of Good Hope as ordinarily calculated lies 15–18 minutes of degree further east; it is uneven and full of hills; one on its eastern side is Valentine’s Peak,65 the highest. It was formerly ruled by its own king but is now by the potentate who also rules Johanna, whose people conquered it. The latter told us that its people are evil and uncivilized. An English Captain Glower,66 whose ship missed the SW monsoon, stayed at sea in vain for four months before proceeding to Mayotta to lie there but could not stay for more than three months: the people were so evasive that every time he tried to obtain any provisions he had to use force and was therefore happy for the rest of the time to try to stay at Johanna, as the people of this island told us.

Figure 6. Braad’s silhouettes of Mohilla [Moheli/Mwali] and Anjouan (upper two), and Mayotta [Mayotte/Maore] from two different angles and distances

Figure 6. Braad’s silhouettes of Mohilla [Moheli/Mwali] and Anjouan (upper two), and Mayotta [Mayotte/Maore] from two different angles and distances

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 67 Moheli/Mwali became independent again by 1743, having defeated an army from Anjouan (I. Walker, 201 (...)
  • 68 French traveller Pyrard de Laval (F. Pyrard de Laval, 1611; S. Linon-Chipon, 2003) was at ‘Moaly’ 2 (...)
  • 69 St. Christopher: An imaginary island, at least in the form described by Braad. Historically it was (...)

51Mohilla or Mohilia [Mohéli/Mwali, Fig. 6], 12°15’S and 26°5’E of Uppsala, was conquered for the people of Johanna, as related above, by Commander Cornwall but has since rebelled and now has its own king.67 Pirar [Pyrard] de Lavall and others who call this island Malaill say its people are very subtle but so deceptive that one must be extremely careful in having anything to do with them.68 The smallest of the islands, St. Christopher,69 lies in almost the middle of the Mozambique Channel at 17°10’S and has its own ruler; despite its relatively remote location, it is to be counted as one of the Comoro islands.

52The English ship Schaftsbury [=Shaftesbury] that lay ahead of us at Johanna had in passing between Madagascar and the African coast unexpectedly encountered an island that its officers took to be the well-known and much-feared Bassas de India; and while the few [published] remarks about this are as valid as new ones, and I cannot do better than to be able to offer my readers some of the latter; it seems to me that there is no better place to include them than at the conclusion of the present account of the island of Johanna.

  • 70 Braad implies (below) that the island seen by the Shaftesbury was at 16°55’S, but the Shaftesbury’s(...)

53Since passing the Cape of Good Hope, they [the crew of the Shaftesbury] had not seen Madagascar or any other land when one morning before dawn they heard a strong soughing, like a rushing stream or waterfall, without being able to discover why or sight any land. For safety’s sake, they hove to and at dawn saw to their great amazement one-and-a-half English miles away a beautiful island,70 full of bushes and trees, as the accompanying drawing shows, which they communicated [Fig. 7] 51.

Figure 7. Braad’s drawing (from an original supplied by the English EIC ship Shaftesbury) of ‘Bassas da India’

Figure 7. Braad’s drawing (from an original supplied by the English EIC ship Shaftesbury) of ‘Bassas da India’

But as this atoll is largely submerged and has no vegetation, the depiction is in fact probably Europa, some 120 km to the SE. This image is Braad’s Tab:VII included with silhouettes of Madagascar at p. 31 in the manuscript.

From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.

  • 71 This sentence proved difficult to translate, as key words appeared to be missing—I think the transl (...)
  • 72 This latitude does not match the value of 22°20’ recorded in the Shaftesbury’s log (see note 69 and (...)
  • 73 The mention of cliffs that the shipwrecked mariners could not climb suggests a raised coralline isl (...)

54As the weather was fine and windless, they sent their jolly boat to land and could guess it was ten to twelve English miles round its shores; it comprised mostly small sand hills, was wholly green and full of shrubby vegetation. Among other things they found a tree that was so full of sap that, when it was cut with an axe, it filled a bucket in a short time. Unbelievable quantities of fish and many turtles could be found off its shores; on them a mass of land birds and other observations suggested there must be fresh water on the island. Although they had sounded they found no bottom until close to land, which was precipitous and comprised stones and coral. The sea broke fiercely on its beaches. That meant that unexpectedly one could only with difficulty get ashore, for the soughing of the breakers could clearly be heard at a distance of two to three English miles from the island, [and] that despite its small size [the breakers] could easily conceal [reefs], however slight the wind might be.71 Despite these facts, they believed it would not be unsuitable for getting refreshment if its anchor ground had been better, and other near-by well-provided places made it less necessary. They could not find the least sign of any concealed underwater dangers which gives me all the more reason to wonder at the basis of this alarming account that seems to be of the ‘Indian rocks’ at 16°55’S and 47°25’E of the Lizard;72 I wonder further at what is told of Admiral Ferdinand Mendoza’s [Fernão de Mendonça] Portuguese ship St. Jago [Santiago] that on its voyage to Mozambique in 1585 ran onto these rocks and was lost; of the five hundred persons on board only few could save themselves who managed to get by boat to Africa but the others were lost when they could get no handhold on the steep bare cliffs, as this account relates. From this different depiction of this event on what is said to be the same land one could conclude that either the public has mistaken the nature of Bassas da India, or that the English saw some other near-by island that has previously been unknown, which cannot be thought impossible, for all ships’ companies so fear getting too close to a part of the sea that has been so devastating, with the consequence that fewer vessels make use of it.73

VIIIth Chapter: Journey from Johanna to Surat roadstead

55The ship Shaftesbury left Johanna on the 19th of August, and the next day we followed, as expected, provisioned and watered. [...]

56[They crossed the Line on 28 August and anchored at Surat on 16 September. The Swedish company were operating freelance, without factories or trading posts in any of the ports (Sinha 2012)]

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Annexe

Appendix A: Extracts from the log of the English East India Company (EIC) ship Shaftesbury74

Some details are additional to Braad’s account. The Shaftesbury logged the Gotha Leijon’s arrival as on August 17th, not 18th. Although Braad mentioned sending the longboat ashore several days in advance of the Gotha Leijon’s eventual arrival, he did not say that it failed to return, or who was in charge. It carried supercargo John Irvine. He and Braad did not get on; Braad wrote of him in 1767:

“Our [i.e. Hope’s 1748–1749 & Götha Leijon’s 1750–1752] supercargo’s envy was much the cause of all obstacles put in the way of my gaining any knowledge. The first [supercargo], a Scot, John Irvine, born in India, but favoured by his fellow-countryman Col. Campbell in Göteborg, otherwise an idiot but whom possessed all Scots arrogance who showed through his behaviour how little he was worthy of the charge of Swedish effects and people he had been entrusted with” (J. Franks, 2005).

The language and spelling in the following is somewhat eccentric in places, but I have left it unchanged, with occasional clarification in square brackets. I have added full stops where there is clearly a break in the narrative, but they are absent in the text; I have started the new sentence in lower case, as did Captain Bookey.

Description of Europa island

Journal [‎36r]75

July Tuesday 31st 1750
The first part of the twentyfour hours calm, the latter light fanning airs at SW, exceeding warm and pleasant weather. have seen a large number of Birds about the Ship which I suppose have taken their flight from the Bassas da India by which I judge we draw near to the Island. Keept [sic] a good look out all night from the Bow Sprit and the fore yard, at 5 this morning made it very plain bearing NE dist 4 leagues. there being little or no wind at 8 o’Clock sent my Chief Mate in the yaul [=yawl] to sound. as he rowed alongshore about ¼ mile short of the Land had 35 faom water, found it a hard coral rocky ground and the account he gives of the Island when a Shore is near upon a Circular round Body, near as broad log, which is about 18 or 20 miles round; it’s very low and sandy to the Water Side and small shrubs and trees upon it, some making at a distance off, like Sails, others like Rocks. saw no appearance of fresh Water on it. I then made Meridian Distance at noon from Cape Lagullas [Agulhas] 17d46m and Latitude Observation off the Body of the Island 22d20m °S. [...] there are large numbers of Turtl [sic] that had we lay’d off the Island in the Night, I make no doubt but in a little we might have loaded the yaul and a good number of other Fish in shore.

Arrival, stay and departure from Johanna

Journal [‎39r]76

August Sunday 12
[having arrived at dusk on the 11th] [...] us stood off and on to check the Current till day light at which time we found we were sett to the S’ward of Sadle Island [Ile de la Selle] 3 leag
s. at sun rise the Extreams of Johanna from SEbS to N/2W dist off Shore at 2 miles. the Wind Breesed up finely, stood for the Bay of Johanna. soon after got within Sadle Island, found it calm, got our Boats a head to Tow the Ship in and took all opportunity of the Wind to get into the Road. at the same time came off severall Cannooes with Fruit, Greens and other Refreshments of the Island. at noon Sadle Island WNW, the Easternmost part of the Bay NE. at 5 PM anchored in Johanna Road in 7 fathom water abt ¼ mile off the Town with small [T]ower. found here a Swede Long boat, the Ship having been to Leeward of the Island 6 or 7 days and could not get in. She is called the Gothick Lyon Capt Sherman bound to Surat; Mr Irvine the Chief Super Cargo informs me that they left Madeira the 10th May, and that the day before they sailed came in there an English Ship bound to the W Indies in 13 days from the Channell, who said She saw five of his Majesty’s Ships under the Command of Admiral Boscawen off Portsmouth, and having under his Convoy 6 of the East India company’s Ships, and that She likewise saw a salute from Portsmouth, which She supposed to be the Admiral going a Shore. upon arrivall here I was informed by the Prince of Johanna that Ld Anson Capt Foulis77 sailed from hence the 3d of this month after having been 6 days here.

Monday 13
Hard squalls of Wind and a great deal of Rain from off the Land. employed sending empty cask a Shore & cleaning the Fore hold. likewise sent the Copper [cooper] a Shore to clean the Casks and get them ready for Water. set up a Tent for the reception of our Sick Peoples.

Tuesday 14
Land and Sea Breeses with fair weather. so large a surf, could not get any Water off. sent a Shore [blank in the MS] of our Sick People. heeld the Ship and scrapped [scraped] her on both Sides. the Swedes Long boat went out to look for their Ship.

Wednesday 15
Land and Sea Breeses with fair weather. employed rafting off Water. returned the Sweds [
sic] Long Boat not having seen their Ship.

Journal [‎39v]78

August Thursday 16
Land and Sea Breeses. employed as before, the Swede Ship in sight to the E’ward.

Friday 17
Land and Sea Breeses with fair weather. employed bringing in Cattle, in all 26. came in the Swede and anchored here. are getting the Ship ready for Sailing.

Saturday 18
Mostly calm. got on board five hundred Plantain Trees for the [cattle?].79 the two Governors of the Town came on board to whom I delivered the [?] Present for the King, being one Barl Powder and one Barl Pitch, the [King?] makes a present of a Bullock. each of the Governors also give [?] of a Bullock, in return they receive each one Ships Musket [and?] Five quarter Deck Cartridges of Powder. came on board or Sick [?]. found they were finley [finely] recovered since they went from the Ship. wonder for all the Places I ever was at, never met with such Plenty [?] as fine Beef, Fowls, Goats, Oranges, Limes, Lemons, Plantains, [Pine?] Aples, Potatoes, Purline Rice, Paddy, Calavances.80 all the above [even?] Beef are to be purchased for old raggs and botles. made clear for sailing [...] the Quantity of Water on board Forty five Tons.

Sunday 19
At 7 AM weighed with a light Breese from the NE [...]

Appendix B: The value of paper, and paper-making in the Comoros

Braad’s observations on how paper was made in Anjouan are interesting. In the 17th century paper was a rare and valuable commodity in the Comoros (e.g. G. Rantoandro, 1983, p. 88). In 1614 the Dutch trader/explorer Pieter van den Broecke bought a bull worth 90 florins from the king of Anjouan for a quire of paper (24/25 sheets), worth (in Europe) 3½ sous81 (A. Grandidier et al., 1903–20, vol. 2), and the following year on ‘Mohilia’ (Moheli/Mwali) Edward Terry (E. Terry, 1655; see also M. Newitt, 1983, p. 154, n. 53), chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe’s squadron, reported that:

“of all which we had sufficient to relieve our whole company, for little quantities of white paper, glass beads, low-pric’d looking-glasses and cheap knives; for instance we bought as many good oranges as would fill a hat for a quarter of a sheet of white writing-paper, and so in proportion all other provisions. […] Their King hearing of our arrival bad us welcome by a present of beeves, goats, and poultry, and the chief and choice fruits of his country; and was highly recompenced, as he thought, again, by a quire or two of white paper,82 a pair of low-pric’d looking-glasses, some strings of glass beads, some cheap knives, with some other English toys.”

In 1626 on Moheli, single sheets of paper were traded by the crew of Thomas Herbert’s ship for 6 coconuts or 30 oranges (T. Herbert, 1634). Fryer at Anjouan in 1673 noted that “paper is no despicable commodity among them” (W. Crooke, 1909), and in 1690, Robert Challes (R. Challes, 1721) reported that in Moheli:

“What these islanders still take willingly as payment is iron and especially writing paper, which they don’t produce. There’s no sailor who hasn’t got a chicken for a [single] sheet, and a goat for six, and vegetables in proportion. But with the French always bidding against each other, the price had tripled by the time we left.” (My translation)

Challes even bribed the king’s son with a quarter sheet of paper to use his authority to organize a delivery of twenty cattle.

It is clear from the extreme value placed on paper that there would have been considerable economic advantage in making paper in the islands, and it seems that by the mid-1700s the locals had learnt how to make their own, though I have not been able to establish when. Mathieu de Gennes de la Chancelière commented in 1743 that “it has not been long since, that, for a simple iron ring, a main of paper [25 sheets] or a pound of [gun]powder, one could acquire a bullock which nowadays costs 3 piastres”,83 suggesting that by then paper had lost trading value within recent memory, but several or even many years earlier. Between Fryer’s and Challes’s voyages and Genne’s there are few published accounts,84 and they do not mention trading in paper (e.g. J. Ovington, 1696, also in 1690; Merveille in 1708, in A. Grandidier et al., 1903–1920), implying that the technology may have reached the islands around 1700.85 One would expect that if paper was still in great demand from foreign visitors, the locals would have asked for it, and their unusual (in most places) request would have been recorded in these later accounts. Grose (J.H. Grose, 1766), in Anjouan a fortnight before Braad, and Braad himself, did not mention paper at all, nor is it mentioned by any subsequent visitors.

Using “the internal tissues of bamboo” may not be exact, as bamboos, except when growing and soft, are generally hollow without ‘internal tissues’, but some stems may have been soft enough to be turned into pulp. I have not been able to find any other reference to indigenous paper-making in the Comoros.

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Document annexe

  • Appendix C (application/pdf – 285k)

    Jeremy Franks’ transcription of Christopher Henric Braad’s Description of the ship Götha Leijon’s voyage to Surat and several other Indian places laid open, and humbly presented to the Honorable Swedish East India Company (text in Swedish).

    Jeremy Franks
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Notes

1 A.[S]. Cheke, 2010; A.S. Cheke, R. Bour, 2014. Braad’s visit is unaccountably wrongly dated to 1743 (p. 41) and 1751 (p. 42), not 1750, in A.[S]. Cheke, 2010, but is correctly dated in A.S. Cheke, R. Bour, 2014, although at the time I had an incomplete bibliographic reference.

2 http://www2.ub.gu.se/fasta/laban/erez/handskrift/ostindiepdf/39/39.pdf (from the MS in the Gothenburg University Library, Reference [arkivnr] H 22: 3 D) and http://www2.ub.gu.se/fasta/laban/erez/handskrift/ostindiepdf/184/184.pdf (from the MS in the library of the Royal [Swedish] Academy of Sciences/Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien: Reference: Braad, Christ. Hind.).

3 J. Franks, 2005. Braad was in the habit of taking several books with him on voyage (J. Franks, 1999, 2005) and clearly used these in compiling his account of the Götha Leijon voyage. The Gothenburg MS was signed by Braad in March 1753, but he himself wrote that he delivered it to the directors in 1752; perhaps he signed it only after it had been formally accepted.

4 The two manuscripts are almost identical textually, but there are some differences in page breaks, and the pagination marks in JF’s translation match the Gothenburg MS.

5 “I’d been hoping I might complete what I’d begun but I fear I can’t, which is a poor way to reward you for your interest, which has meant much to me. If you can think of some way to get something worthwhile out of what I’ve done do let me know”—to which I offered to edit and liaise with the publisher, to which he replied in his last email: “Please excuse me if I don’t try to comment now rather than in a few days time. Let me say straight off that I like the idea of working together with you and hope we can work out a way to do this. No more for now.”

6 https://bokforlagetstolpe.com/en/authors/jeremy-franks/ gives his dates as 1934–2016 without further detail.

7 In addition to the text published here, I also have from Franks considerable, albeit somewhat disconnected, translated material on India and Malaya, but not the material on China from Braad’s several voyages there; I also have a translation from Franks of a paper he wrote on coffee cultivation in Yemen, originally published in Swedish in their Academy of Sciences in 1761. However, it is hoped the complete material will soon be retrieved from his hard drive.

8 Anders Larsson (Senior Librarian, Manuscripts Department, Gothenburg University Library), email 17 April 2023.

9 He founded a review in English of Swedish literature in 1979, and the website https://libris.kb.se/hitlist?q=f%C3%B6rf:(Jeremy+Franks)&r=&f=&t=v&s=b&g=&m=50 lists 33 books which he translated or co-translated.

10 Both manuscripts (see note 2) have the same title; I have used the online scan of the Gothenburg University copy (http://www2.ub.gu.se/fasta/laban/erez/handskrift/ostindiepdf/39/39.pdf) when there have been queries in the translation.

11 Footnotes are by Anthony S. Cheke, unless initialled ‘JF’; square-bracketed comments in the text are editorial annotations or words added to clarify the sense. Bold numbers in the text indicate page numbers in the MS. Modern spellings of words in the local language on Anjouan (shinzwani) are interpolated in curly brackets (from M. Ahmed-Chamanga, 1992, 1997; H.J. Ottenheimer, 2011 and https://orelc.ac/academy/ShikomoriWords, with some input from F. Fischer, 1949). Spelling of Comorian words, mostly shinzwani, follows Ottenheimer’s kiswahili-based system.

12 The captain’s log, in William Bookey’s own hand, of the English East India Company (EIC) ship Shaftesbury is held in the British Library (India Office Records, reference IOR/L/MAR/B/610E); a digital scan of the entire log is available at the Qatar Digital Library (https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100000000179.0x000399). The East Indiaman arrived at Johanna on 12 August 1750, leaving on the 19th; the log records ‘the Swede’ anchoring on the 17th, not, as Braad records, the 18th (see Appendix A).

13 G. Dellon, 1695, or the English translation, A voyage to the East-Indies: giving an account of the isles of Madagascar, and Mascareigne etc (London, 1698). It is not among the fifty-odd books in Braad’s library in 1781 about the Indian Ocean world, nor in the bibliography to H. Yule et al., 1903, henceforth Hobson-Jobson - JF. Sophie Linon-Chipon discussed and analysed early French voyages to the Orient (S. Linon-Chipon, 2003).

14 Although Voani would appear closer to ‘Voni’ than Wani, it is a village on the SW coast, nowhere near Mutsamudu, whereas Wani, sometimes spelt ‘Ouani’, is adjacent to the latter. Although Braad used the letter ‘w’ in his texts, he also often used ‘v’ to represent the unvoiced sound of ‘w’ (for the idiosyncrasies of Braad’s spelling and usage, see R. Melkersson, 2013).

15 The 1711 edition of The English Pilot, Third Book (S. Thornton, 1711) introduced “the Road of Vassey, where Captain Beaus rid two months in 1701[...]”, on the east, away from the normal roadstead off Mutsamudu and presumably not in general use in 1750. However, the only extant similar toponym is Vassi on the western peninsula south of Sima.

16 Braad nowhere named the ‘king’ (technically Sultan) or his viziers/sheriffs, often termed ‘governors’ in the literature. The ruler in 1750 was Sheikh Sidi (or Saïd) Ahmadi, resident in Domoni (A. Gevrey, 1870), leaving matters in the trading capital Mutsamudu to his (unnamed) lieutenants. The officials are also un-named in the Shaftesbury’s log (Appendix A).

17 Here Braad was clearly echoing the Swahili/Comorian word sharifu (ex Arabic sarif), which does roughly mean ‘sheriff’ or high official, but here hereditary and indicates a lineage from the Prophet Muhammad.

18 Here Braad is not using a local shinzwani word, but a term in wide general use in the East, ex Arabic kaba (vesture) via Portuguese, for a ‘surcoat or long tunic of muslin’ (Hobson-Jobson, as cabaya). Shinzwani has cognate terms: H.J. Ottenheimer, 2011, has kabai, glossed as ‘short-sleeved shirt’; other dictionaries have kaba or kabaa as the collar of a shirt or robe, but do not include kabai.

19 The tactical anglophily of leaders and merchants in Anjouan in the 18th century is explored in J. Prestholdt, 2007.

20 Comorians, especially nobles, merchants and pilots were often well travelled, on European, Arab, Indian or less often East African (Swahili coast) ships (T. Vernet, 2015). The man in question fits the description of the elderly senior official (and herbal expert) in 1750 who was nicknamed Purser Jack (J.H. Grose, 1766, but see I. Walker, 2019, p. 59 & n. 34). It is unclear from the literature whether in fact the vizier and ‘Purser Jack’ as ‘the sultan’s agent’ (H.V. Bowen, 2018) were one and the same individual, although Braad clearly thought his ‘prince’/vizier was the agent for trade; the Shaftesbury’s log (Appendix A) refers to ‘two governors of the town’, and seven years earlier the main local interlocutor for Gennes’s visit was the king’s uncle Prince Zaid-Mahmet (A. Lombard-Jourdan, 1980).

21 The Swedish reads “men jämnforelsen måste snart förfalla då jag feck besinna, at här hade nöden ingen lag” (lit. “but the comparison must soon expire when I realized that here necessity had no law”). The meaning of the last phrase is unclear, but there seems no other way to translate it. Perhaps it means ‘here necessity came before / overruled protocol’. My interpretation; JF had no comment on it.

22 Piasters: the Spanish peso, or ‘pieces of eight’, mostly minted in Mexico and South America, generally called a pillar dollar (from the design) or piastre, became an international trade currency in the 17th and 18th centuries (S. Menzel, 2004; C. Marichal, 2007; A. Irigoin, B. Millmore, 2021).

23 Scientific names are not added for ordinary cultivated plants or domestic animals unless there is a special comment to make. None of these plants are native to the Comoros (J.W. Purseglove, 1968, 1972; H. Humbert, J.-F. Leroy, 1936–) indicating the degree to which Anjouan was part of the globalization of the age (e.g. D.Q. Fuller, N. Boivin, 2009; P. Beaujard, 2012).

24 Surinamese (Sranan Tongo) for lime, Citrus aurantifolia (Martin Walsh, pers. comm.)—though where Braad got the name we cannot know; neither JF nor I could trace it. The Shaftesbury’s log (Appendix A) called them limes.

25 The list in Swedish reads: “papaj, gojaves, granataplen, pamplimouser, tamarind, lemkis, citroner, pomerantzer, och små apelsiner”. J.H. Grose visiting two weeks earlier, was particularly effusive about the sweetness of the ‘small oranges’ known to him as ‘Chinese oranges’—i.e. mandarin oranges (J.H. Grose, 1766).

26 Sea-beans are species of Entada, tropical lianas, dispersed on ocean currents. Although there are now two species in the Comoros (P. Vos, 2004), the native one with a persistent pod is the African Dream Herb E. rheedii, whereas E. gigas, probably a more recent arrival, has pods that collapse into single-seed fragments (E.C. Nelson, 2000). The rixdaler was a Swedish silver coin, minted between 1534 and 1871, about 40 mm in diameter.

27 The list in Swedish reads “bland iordwäxter wanckades öfwerflöd af pompor, watter lemones, potatoes, iames, ingefära, dill, portlaka och mynta med flora dylika, som till störsla delen [...]”. Pompor is presumably modern pumpor, ‘pumpkin’, though JF preferred ‘gourd’. Watter lemones is more problematic, but as Braad used a West Indian term for limes (note 24), he was perhaps doing the same here—in the ex British Caribbean at least, ‘water lemons’ is a name for the lemon granadilla (a passion fruit) grown on the Jamaica honeysuckle Passiflora laurifolia (J.W. Purseglove, 1968).

28 The word in both MSS appears to be ‘ijra’ or ‘ÿra’, which is not a standard Swedish word; yr/yra is giddy/giddiness, so could mean ‘skittish’, but does not seem to fit the context; JF suggested ‘grey’.

29 Cattle with a shoulder hump, known as zebu (Bos ‘indicus’), are originally from India. Cattle in Madagascar and Mayotte, and by inference Anjouan, have majority Indian ancestry with some admixture from African taurine (unhumped) cattle (J. Magnier et al., 2022), so cattle probably reached Anjouan from Asia via Madagascar (A.[S.] Cheke, 2010) rather than via Arabia and Africa as implied by Fuller and Boivin (D.Q. Fuller, N. Boivin, 2009).

30 More normally spelt kvarter; 1/4 of an aln, 1/2 a fot—i.e. a Stockholm foot of 29.7 cm (H. Hogman, 2023).

31 Braad’s use of ‘detergent in his Swedish, the same word as in English, is its earliest known occurrence in the language (JF).

32 Hobson-Jobson notes that pisang “is the Malay word for plantain or banana [...] It is never used by English people, but is the usual word among the Dutch, and common also among the Germans, [Norwegians and Swedes, who probably got it through the Dutch]”. Braad used pisang for both fruit and plant.

33 ‘buffaloes, cows, monkeys, apes’: here Braad was uncharacteristically careless. There were then, nor are now, any buffaloes, monkeys or apes in the Comoros (e.g. A. Gevrey, 1870; M. Louette et al., 2004), though lemurs, commonly kept as pets, were often considered as ‘monkeys’ at that time—the mongoose lemur Eulemur mongoz occurs wild on Anjouan (M. Louette et al., 2004). As Fryer put it in 1673 (W. Crooke, 1909): “they have a sort of Jackanape they call a Budgee, the handsomest I ever saw”. J.H. Grose (1766) gave a fairly detailed description of a mocawk (the only allegedly local word he cited), but the striped tail he described is clearly that of a Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta, which must have been an imported pet from Madagascar. Prior (J. Prior, 1819), after discussing lemurs, said “the common species of monkey are numerous, but the people seem to dislike them”, suggesting that African monkeys may have also been imported. The well-travelled Peter Mundy in 1655 mentioned monkeys, with which he would have been very familiar from India, and as clearly different, described and sketched a bugee [ex Portuguese bugio, monkey], clearly a lemur (L. Molet, A. Sauvaget, 1971; R.E. Pritchard, 2011). Vervet monkeys Chlorocebus pygerythrus are kept as pets on Unguja (Zanzibar), Mafia and Pemba islands, and have become an agricultural pest on Pemba (M. Walsh, 2007), so given the long-standing trade links across the strait, Braad may have seen vervets. It is not possible to put more specific names to his grasshoppers, lizards and butterflies.

34 Whereas in 1673 Fryer had commented that “Honey and Mullasses they have good store” (W. Crooke, 1909), it was mentioned by J. Ovington, 1696, in 1690, and subsequently J. Prior (1819) noted that ‘wild honey is found in the woods’ in 1812.

35 ‘A great many hawks’ (en stor hop af hökar) suggests a bird that congregates (JF), which implies the black kite Milvus migrans, formerly abundant but now scarce (M. Louette et al., 2004). The ‘ravens’ are pied crows (Corvus albus).

36 There are no pheasants on Indian Ocean islands; Braad was no doubt referring to guineafowl (Numida meleagris), which were previously noted by Fryer in 1673 (W. Crooke, 1909) and others.

37 There are two species of flying-fox on Anjouan (M. Louette et al., 2004), but Braad probably saw only the smaller lowland species Pteropus comorensis, confirmed in his sketch by the pointed ears (Fig. 2), not rounded as in the larger hill-forest species P.livingstonii . Unlike most Europeans when faced for the first time by these large bats, he underestimated their wingspan—in fact, it is around 1 m.

38 The word oxe [ox, bullock] is missing in the Gothenberg original MS, but has been inserted in the Academy copy. The weight is in lispund (8.5 kg = 20 skålpund of 425 g), Braad using an abbreviation that appears to be ‘Ltt:’ or ‘Llt:’ depending on which MS is examined, but is actually the ideogram Image 100000000000002100000018A4B0386515D4C82B.jpg(H. Hogman, 2023). The live weight of modern Malagasy cattle averages around 200–250 kg (R.N. Rabearimisa et al., 2015), so Braad must be quoting carcass weights, even if the animals were then smaller or lighter.

39 JF interpreted Swarte Swännerne in Braad’s Swedish as ‘black swans’, but his daughter Rebecca points out (email 3 June 2023) that Braad’s swän is probably in fact modern Swedish sven (young man) not svan (swan). Braad frequently used ‘w’ where current Swedish uses ‘v’ and ‘ä’ is pronounced closer to ‘e’ than to ‘a’.

40 In English in the manuscript.

41 Vernet (T. Vernet, 2009) and Walker (I. Walker, 2019) discussed the long-standing trade in Malagasy slaves to the Comoros and the Swahili coast; Sophie Blanchy (S. Blanchy 2015) focussed on the importance of Anjouan as a slave-trading hub in the 18th century.

42 See note 19; 18th-century Anjouanais actually pretended a kind of ‘Englishness’ (J. Prestholdt, 2007), reflected in Braad’s observations on their ‘conceit’ and self-aggrandising. Thomas Vernet (T. Vernet, 2015, p. 199 n. 77) pointed out that Prestholdt used only English sources, and that the Anjouanais also pretended Frenchness, covertly playing the Europeans off against each other.

43 Braad’s drawing of a käring [old woman] or ‘old wife’ (in English!) is a good rendering of a triggerfish (family Balistidae) that was caught off Madagascar. Its fin and tail patterns suggest it was a starry triggerfish Abalistes stellatus (Fishbase online; E. Liske, R. Myers, 1994). In these waters there are no porpoises, but three species of dolphin are common (J. Kiszka et al., 2010): Spinner Dolphin Stenella longirostris, Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops spp., Humpback Dolphin or Chinese white dolphin Sousa chinensis, and numerous others are recorded. ‘Porpoises & dolphins’ is a characteristic Eurocentric reference to small cetaceans.

44 ‘Women’ is missing in both MSS, but Grose’s description (J.H. Grose, 1766, p. 23) of women’s adornments makes it clear that they were the subject of Braad’s sentence: “their arms and wrists they usually adorn with a number of bracelets, made of glass, iron, copper, pewter and silver, according to their respective ranks and circumstances. The small of their legs [ankles], their fingers and toes, are likewise decked with chains and rings. The ears are stuck full of mock jewels, and ornaments of metal, insomuch as the lobes of them are greatly dilated and weighed down, which they are from their infancy taught to consider a beauty.”

45 In English in the manuscript.

46 “about 20 Years ago, Captain Cornwall, Commadore of an English Squadron, assisted them against another Island called Mohilla, for which they have ever since communicated all the grateful Offices in their Power, insomuch that it became a Proverb, That an Englishman, and a Juanna Man were all one” (D. Defoe, 1724). In fact, the action took place in 1699 under James Littleton, commander of the Anglesey, who took a raiding party from Anjouan to Moheli (A. Hamilton, 1727; I. Walker, 2019), and there was a similar action in 1704 (I. Walker, 2019). Henry Cornwall did visit Anjouan, but not until 1720, without indulging in any military activity (M. Newitt, 1983; J. Prestholdt, 2007; I. Walker, 2019).

47 Braad has confused the container for the contained—‘syvi’ {shiwi} is the sort of ladle made from a coconut shell that is used for drinking from; the liquid itself is trembo if drawn from the tree, shijavu if coconut water from a green nut.

48 The use of slave labour in a form of plantation economy, widespread in the Swahili coast, was particularly developed on Anjouan in the 18th century, a prosperous hub of the slave trade from Madagascar to Africa (T. Vernet, 2017, p. 63). The ‘slight tax’, and the urban exemption, led to a serious ‘peasants’ revolt’ in ca.1784 that nearly toppled the ruling dynasty (I. Walker, 2019).

49 Braad uses a short, not very legible word—tjåt?—for this ‘priest’, which is not possible to interpret (JF).

50 Although most of the Comorian words Braad recorded were accurate, I can find no documentary support for ramram used for Ramadan. Dictionaries (F. Fischer, 1949 onwards) cite only ramadh(w)ani or (mwezi) wa tsumu [=fasting month], and Ottenheimer simply ramadan; however, it cannot be ruled out that a religiously incorrect mispronunciation has since been corrected by more instructed Muslim scholars. The admission of women to mosque ceremonies is an interesting and unusual practice not noted by other visitors.

51 i.e. the king always keeps his number of wives ‘complete’ at four (if one dies or is divorced), as the dowry for acquiring wives is lower than elsewhere (‘the female sex is not as costly’ does not imply slave purchase or sex work; thanks to Martin Walsh for clarifying the import here).

52 Shinzwani, the Comorian dialect on Anjouan, is, like the other island dialects, a Sabaki language related to Swahili, including Arabic loanwords (M. Walsh, 2018). However, Arabic was clearly spoken by the ruling class of Arabic descent, as in 1783 William Jones (J. Shore, 1807) communicated with them in that language in which they were also literate.

53 Kurtass: dictionaries vary: kar(a)tas(i), kir(i)tas(i), ex Arabic kartas. This method of paper preparation from bamboo appears to be an important observation. Bamboos are widely used for paper-making in Asia, but whole plants are mechanically processed, not ‘internal tissues’ (J.W. Purseglove, 1972, p. 132); see also Appendix B. Ioncko {nyongo} also means bile, presumably extracted from animals and implying that they used bile (currently or originally) for ink. Kam for kalamu echoes the elision seen in ‘Ramramfor Ramdhani, so it appears that Braad recorded a tendency for syllables to be either slurred or lost in everyday speech.

54 The ship dropped anchor on the evening of 18 August (17th according to the Shaftesbury’s log); she set sail for Surat on 20 August (JF).

55 Neither JF not I could identify maksell; it would appear to mean ‘handiwork’ or ‘manufacture’.

56 grab: not Shinzwani, but a widely used term for a broad shallow-draft 2- or 3-mast square-rigged ship, of variable size, for coastal trade (ex Arabic ghurab: Hobson-Jobson).

57 Although modern milled coins had begun to appear, many of the piastres in circulation were crudely stamped silver slabs from South American mints, often squarish and sometimes cut down to the right weight (S. Menzel, 2004, and numerous websites).

58 Reals and pistorins: a real was one eighth of a piastre (see above; hence ‘pieces of eight’ reals); a pistareen (usually so spelt) was a 2-real coin (J.M. Kleeberg, 1998; S. Menzel, 2004). Kleeberg cited the first usage of the term ‘pistareen’ (=small piastre) as in 1774, but clearly from Braad’s testimony the word was already in use 25 years earlier.

59 Condorins: Chinese currency (originally weights), at the time was 1 tael (or ‘Chinese ounce’) = 10 mace = 100 candareens = 1000 li = tsien (silver cash) (Hobson-Jobson), but their equivalence in piastres at the time is unclear.

60 Which coasts are not specified, but presumably African (further north) and possibly Arabia/Gulf also implied.

61 This is presumably ‘Charles Johnson’, whose A General history of the pyrates… (1724), is a semi-fictional work usually attributed nowadays to Daniel Defoe (see J. Rogozinski, 2000); there is no earlier mention in the Anjouan section of Braad’s manuscript. Braad’s reference to the first Dutch visit being in 1624 is incorrect—Heemskerk’s fleet stopped at Mayotte in 1601 and sent Willem van West-Zanen to Anjouan for extra supplies (H. Soete-Boom, 1648); there was also van de Broecke’s visit in 1614 (C. Allibert, 1984; Appendix B).

62 ‘Mackra’ (as spelt by D. Defoe, 1724) was actually James Macrae, later governor of Madras, 1725–1730, where Fort St. George was located. For a more nuanced account of this encounter, see J. Rogozinski, 2000, p. 212-213. England spared Macrae because, before he became a pirate, he had served under him; he gave Macrae the damaged Fancy, in which Macrae managed to sail to Bombay.

63 Augustin de Beaulieu [1589–1637], commanding French trading ships to the East Indies, stopped briefly at Grande Comore in May 1620 (A. de Beaulieu, 1696; S. Linon-Chipon, 2003), but he himself called it ‘Isle de Comorro’, though he reported that the inhabitants called it Nangaziia. The form ‘Nangasia’ seems to have first appeared on a map published by Guillaume Delisle in 1711 (G. Gravier, 1896). Beaulieu’s strictures on the inhabitants of the island are clearly largely second-hand, as he stayed only five days and only in one place, Mitsamihuli in the north.

64 The original quotation is Omnes insulani mali, Siculi autem pessimi [All islanders are evil; Sicilians, however, are the worst] from an anonymous satirical account of the lives and mores of Catholic cardinals under Innocent X, La giusta statera de porporati, published in English translation by H.C. Gent (1653); see also M.A. Visceglia, 1996. Braad called the quotation ‘an ancient proverb’, and it is sometimes attributed to Cicero, but this appears to be spurious.

65 Thought to be named after the Dutchman François Valentijn who published a map of Anjouan island, with depth soundings around Mutsamudu (F. Valentijn, 1726). He mentioned, but did not discuss, Mayotte.

66 Presumably Robert Glover, captain of the pirate ship Resolution, which visited the Comoros in 1695 (J. Rogozinski, 2000); Rogozinski did not include any details of the visit. Braad’s account here appears to be purely from local sources—the story does not appear in Defoe’s A General history of pyrates (1724).

67 Moheli/Mwali became independent again by 1743, having defeated an army from Anjouan (I. Walker, 2019).

68 French traveller Pyrard de Laval (F. Pyrard de Laval, 1611; S. Linon-Chipon, 2003) was at ‘Moaly’ 23 May–7 June 1602.

69 St. Christopher: An imaginary island, at least in the form described by Braad. Historically it was an early name given to Anjouan by the Portuguese (C. Allibert, 1984, p. 140-148), whose early navigators were never quite clear how many islands there were in the Comoros. Once some mariners started using versions of the native island names, some islands got duplicated, and ‘St. Christopher’ and ‘Isle du Ste. Esprit’ (=Mayotte) appear as large islands, in various languages and additional to the actual four, on several 17th-century maps, but more puzzlingly as late as 1791 on a map by the otherwise accurate French explorer Abbé Alexis Rochon (A.M. Rochon, 1791; C. Allibert, 1984). By that time the equally French master hydrographer d’Après de Mannevillette had shrunk it to a islet SE of Juan de Nova (J.B.N.D. d’Après de Mannevillette, 1775). It appears as St. Christoval, a little to the NE of Juan de Nova, on an official British chart from 1817 reproduced in Stommel’s book of imaginary islands (H. Stommel, 1984), though inexplicably it does not feature in his text. Jean Baptiste Lislet-Geoffroy (A. Hoarau, 1993) reduced the ‘island’ to a bank E of Juan de Nova. The 1897 Times Atlas shows it as a synonym of Juan de Nova (see below), which has never had permanent inhabitants, let alone a ‘king’ (A. Hoarau, 1993), and modern seafloor maps show an extension of the Malagasy continental shelf in that region, and a tiny Chesterfield Is. well to the NE much nearer the Madagascar coast.

70 Braad implies (below) that the island seen by the Shaftesbury was at 16°55’S, but the Shaftesbury’s own log records it as 22°20’S, the right latitude for the sandy and shrub-covered island of Europa (A. Hoarau, 1993), much closer, at c.120 km SE, to the real Bassas da India. The Shaftesbury’s log records looking out for Juan de Nova when at the right latitude of 17°15’S. Based on Braad’s erroneous latitude, I previously identified the Shaftesbury’s island as Juan de Nova and claimed it as the first recorded landing there (A.S. Cheke, R. Bour, 2014), but in fact it was the first known landing on Europa, previously considered as not discovered until 1764 (A.S. Cheke, R. Bour, 2014).

71 This sentence proved difficult to translate, as key words appeared to be missing—I think the translation given conveys the sense that Braad was trying to convey.

72 This latitude does not match the value of 22°20’ recorded in the Shaftesbury’s log (see note 69 and Appendix A).

73 The mention of cliffs that the shipwrecked mariners could not climb suggests a raised coralline island, whereas both Europa and Juan de Nova are low-lying and sandy, while Bassas da India is an atoll dry only at low tide (A. Hoarau, 1993). The nearest raised coral islands to the north are the islands in the Aldabra group, and Saint Pierre in the Farquhar group (D. Stoddart, 1967). However, the ‘cliffs’ do not appear in the original narrative (J. Duffy, 1955), which makes it clear that the ship ran ground on lightly submerged reefs; remains of the wreck have since been found on, as was correctly identified from the start, the Bassas da India atoll (F. Castro et al., n.d.).

74 Shaftesbury: Journal, British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MAR/B/610E, in Qatar Digital Library <https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/vdc_100000000179.0x000399>.

75 Shaftesbury: Journal [‎36r] (77/274), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MAR/B/610E, in Qatar Digital Library <https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/vdc_100081708467.0x00004e>.

76 Shaftesbury: Journal [39r] (83/274), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MAR/B/610E, in Qatar Digital Library <https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/vdc_100081708467.0x000054>.

77 The EIC ship Lord Anson, captain Charles Foulis, was the ship carrying John Henry Grose en route to Bombay (J.H. Grose, 1766). Grose himself reported leaving on 4 August.

78 Shaftesbury: Journal [39v] (84/274), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MAR/B/610E, in Qatar Digital Library <https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/vdc_100081708467.0x000055>.

79 ‘[?]’ in the 18 August entry indicates a word lost down the binding of the manuscript; likely ‘lost words’ are in square brackets.

80 Dolichos sinensis according to Hobson-Jobson = Vigna sinensis, the common cowpea (J.W. Purseglove, 1968).

81 It is not easy to assess the cost ratio when it is quoted in different currencies for each trade item. In A. Grandidier et al., 1903-1920, however, authors equated 90 florins to 189 francs, and there were 20 sous or sols to a franc (=livre tournois), so 90 florins = 3780 sous, which gives some idea of van den Broecke’s profit!

82 A quire being 24 sheets

83 A. Lombard-Jourdan, 1980, my translation.

84 A visit by the French ship Chauvelin in 1734, and the existence of its shipboard log, is mentioned by A. Lombard-Jourdan, 1980, but the log remains unpublished.

85 The technique does not appear to have come from Madagascar, where paper had been made by 1750 for some centuries, specifically using the bark of the (h)avoha tree Bosqueia thouarsiana (=Trilepisium madagascariense; Moraceae) (G. Rantoandro, 1983) and possibly other species in the genus, which does not occur in the Comoros (H. Perrier de la Bâthie, J. Léandri, 1952).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Braad’s drawing of the view of the bay at ‘Samoder’ (Mutsamudu), Anjouan, from offshore
Crédits From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 145k
Titre Figure 2. Braad’s drawings of two marine animals from the Mozambique Channel, and a Anjouan flying-fox
Légende His Fig. 1 (left) appears to be a gelatinous blanket octopus Tremoctopus gelatus, Fig. 2 (middle) a probable starry triggerfish Abalistes stellatus (see note 41), and Fig. 3 (right) Pteropus comorensis, Comoro flying-fox.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 197k
Titre Figure 3. Braad’s drawing of a rural scene in Anjouan
Légende Pineapple (lower left), banana (extreme right) and coconut palms (background) make up the identifiable vegetation.
Crédits ‘Resident’s forestry on Johanna’, from Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Titre Figure 4. Braad’s map of the four Comoro islands
Légende Although his text refers to these four islands plus ‘St.Christopher’, the latter is omitted from the map.
Crédits From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 97k
Titre Figure 5. Braad’s silhouettes of Grande Comore/Ngazidja (upper two) and Anjouan (lower)
Crédits From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Figure 6. Braad’s silhouettes of Mohilla [Moheli/Mwali] and Anjouan (upper two), and Mayotta [Mayotte/Maore] from two different angles and distances
Crédits From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure 7. Braad’s drawing (from an original supplied by the English EIC ship Shaftesbury) of ‘Bassas da India’
Légende But as this atoll is largely submerged and has no vegetation, the depiction is in fact probably Europa, some 120 km to the SE. This image is Braad’s Tab:VII included with silhouettes of Madagascar at p. 31 in the manuscript.
Crédits From Braad’s MS ‘Beskrifning på skeppet Götha Leijons resa till Surat’, 1752.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/4910/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 703k
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Jeremy Franks† et Anthony S. Cheke, « A Swedish traveller in the Comoro Islands: The description of Anjouan/Nzwani by Christopher Henric Braad in 1750, translated and annotated »Afriques [En ligne], Sources, mis en ligne le 18 juin 2024, consulté le 19 juillet 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/4910 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/11uml

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Jeremy Franks†

Anthony S. Cheke

PhD, Independent Researcher

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