Lot 91: Important Historic Content 1717 East India Company Letter at Isfahan, Persia
Historic Autographs, Civil War Encased Postage Stamps, Colonial, Revolutionary War, Federal Era, Coins, Currency, Medals
December 10, 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
1717 Letter by Agents of the East India Company in the Persian Capital of Isfahan with Superb Descriptions
1717-Dated Manuscript Letter Signed, "Francis Coppin," "Anto Rodney Buckridge," and "John Batson," 8 pages, measuring 9"" x 14.25", (at Isfahan, Persia, c. January-February, 1717), with Docket on final page: "14th May 1717. Agent & Councill at Spahaune (aka Isfahan) Recd overland via Aleppo & Legho the 11th March 1717."
A rare, original highly informative and lengthy Letter from three English East India Company agents based in Isfahan, Persia. This Letter was written toward the end of the rule of the Safavids, who dominated Persia from the start of the fourteenth century. The East India Company had begun trading cloth in Persia beginning in the seventeenth century, but only made significant inroads into the country at the end of the 1600s. Much of this Letter is defensive in tone as the agents offer their reasons as to why trade was so dull, citing widespread poverty, lack of hard coin and no reliable system of credit, and the lack of security along the roads leading in and out of the Persian capital. Minor mounting remnants along top margin, slightly soiled along expected transmittal folds, silked for preservation and laid into archival tissue, else appears very nice. These agents write (with period spellings retained), (** Please view much more of the written text in our online auction catalog) in part:
"... Our Last being of so fresh a date as ye 6th ulto wee have only to give answer to your commands of ye 30th November 1716 wd came to our hands the 24th Past wh two Enclosd for Bombay both wch were carefully Forwarded to Gomoon ye 26th Ditto in hopes they may be in time to prceed by the Ann [ship?] who has been some time expecd as your Honours will see by what wrote you in our Last but as yett wee have no news of her arrival the Packett for Bombay that came to us seald was so Forardd but the open Lettr pursuant to yr orders wee took a coppy of & then advisd yr cheif Councill att Gomroon what wee found relating to the New sort of Interlopers requiring them strictly to observe the same & not to give any such sor of Ship the Least help or assistance but to endeavour all they Can to defeat & disappoint them in their Voyages.
Wee observe our Sell Lettrs so Far as the 17th may 1716 were all got safe to ye hands be wee are Extreamly troubled to Find Our Selves so much under yr Honours displeasure upon acct of ye wollen Manufactures going off so Slowly but wee beg Leave to assure your Honours that the Fault has not been in us but in the badness of the Markett. & the small consumne here is For ill for wee have never turned away any Customr either upon acc of the Price or any thing Else in case he had but mony to pay for itt being very desirous to sell what we Coud wch would bee much more agreable to us than to have yr Cloth remaining in warehouse in So much that we faithuflly declare yr Hourns that we have always usd & will still Continue Our utmost Care & diligence to dispose of your Estate in Or hands as soon as possible & wee hope you will do us that Justice as to believe what wee write to be mattr of fact. especially if you will Pleas but to consider that itt can be no mannr of advantage to us upon any accle what ever to have yr goods remaining unsold but Quite the Contrary was itt only from the hazzard wee run of yr Honours displeasure besides these Strictr Obligations of honesty & Gratitude to Our Implyers.
... these Merchants would not bring Cloth to Persia could they ... Sell the Silke they carry from these Parts to Turkey for ready mony for their gain is upon their silke & not upon the cloth but when they carry their silke at Smirna or Aleppo they are generally Obligd to sell itt for part money & part in Cloth wch they bring down here & sell for Loss notwithstandg they sell for time & go from shop to shop & gather in 20 or 30 shat att a Time as the Shopkeeprs Can sell their Cloth & often make bad debts wch makes them much rather buy of them than of us becuase they are Poor & have not ready money to Lay down & sch a great deal of reason yr Honours have Likewise recommendd itt to us not to sell for trust for if we shoud the mony would be in great dangr of being Lost. for wee have no Brothers or any one Else that wee Can confide in to go from one Shop to another to gather in mony neigher will an Banian or Arenenian that is worth mony or fitt to be trustd Leve us & be security for all debts as the Late Brokers were for 2 1/2 Crocage seeing they mind themselves & merchants are now grown much worss & more dangerous to be trustd than in those times & unless wee could find Brokers that woud be security so that wee might sell for time wee aan do as well without them for all People that want Cloth or Perpetts since yr factory & will come without a Broker especially since wee make Presents often to the Cheifs of them who will take Care to bring them was only for his own advantage. (** Please view much more of the written text in our online auction catalog at: www.EarlyAmerican.com).
Much more fine content contained in this fascinating and important period 1717 dated Letter, documenting the early efforts of the East India Company to expand its influence within Persia. Later a lynchpin in the overland route between India and the Mediterranean Sea.
Additional Letter Content reads, in part:
"Yr Honours may see that in our Time generally every year wee have sold as much of yr wollenn Manufactures as was usually sold in the Time of Or Predecessors notwithstanding the diffidcultys wee have Labourd under for want of Brokers to that have been forced to sell only for ready mony wch they did not & yett wee have sold since th 31 july Last 1967 yrd Cloth & 1045 but had any come in this year from Turky wee dont belive wee shoud have sold so much for here is but a very Small consume for itt especially of Late all sorts of Provisions both for man & beat being extravagt dear & bread att four times the Price as usually wd putts a great stop to trade besides this Country is grown verypoor so that the Common People can hardly find necessaries for Life much Less to buy new Cloths & severall Poor people die daily in the Streets & upon the roads wth hungr which wee are sorry still reason still to make sue of as an argumt why yr goods goes of[f] so slowly...
...According to what wee Can Learn the true reason of yr Honours Late Brokers failing was their extravagancy by wch they spent great Sums of mony Debauchery, Drunkenness & neglect of their business & Acctt att wch they were guilty of in the hightest degree besides wd they had great Losses amongst the Ship keeprs & were so carless or foolish as to Lend 4000 Tomans at a Parcell of rascally Sorry fellows & take their for Suny wd was nevr Paid neither will they ever gett one Shakee of the mony & the same by 6 or 700 Tomans Lent one Lett wake a Christian of Sulpha & these things are Enough to break other guise Men than evr they were so need to say no more of that unfortunate business
The Persians as yett wont admit of our Caplars[?] going as formerly without being Searcht purely to prevt sending down treasure to Gomroon [Bandar Abbas, a port at the Straits of Hormuz] so that wee are gLad to find the Methods wee have usd has mett wth yr Honr Approbation & wee Shall continue the same with all Care that is possible...
Mr Daneil Olgher arivd safe att Gomroon the 16th march wth the 5363 Chequeens sent by him & wee shall send another Large Parcell by the first good Conveyance that offers & shod have done itt before this time but that for sometime past no Caphlar has ventured to go for Carinania by reason of the daily reports of ye Bollockies being come or a coming upon that road wch hitherto has provd False so hope as soona s their Cammells have done grazing they will take Courage & go that way for wee Cant Send itt by direct raod Via Shyeass by reason the Rhoaddars are so strict that they wont Lett the Least thing or so much as a Man Pass taht way without Searching him teh hazard in sending down mony is very great tho hope shall have the same good Success as have hitherto had for wee shall Continue the Same Care & Caution wch wee are also forcd to use in buying of the Cheques privately & by small parcells att a time for Otherwise the Governmt would have notice of itt & they woud certainly be Seized so that wee are sometimes obligd to wait a favourable Opportunity for buying them as well as for Sending them down...
... The Muscovite Embassador having Condescended to [?] things as were reasonable had an audience of the King ye 4th Inst was treatd wth the usual ceremony his Lettr not being yett translatd wee Cant Learn for Certain what he is come about..."