The Logbook as Timekeeper

Kate Wersan

A Journal of a voyage from Salem to St. Helena, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape de Verd Islands in the Brig Augusta 1803 and 1804, Log 1067.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, captains and navigators, even those educated in the most cutting edge navigation practices, struggled to translate what they knew at their “finger ends” into generalizable maxims or—perhaps more crucially— accurate navigation.  The extensive collection of ships’ logs in the Phillip’s Library collection testify to the frequent sense of disorientation, frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty that plagued navigators as internal perceptions of space, time, and movement clashed with astronomical observations, soundings, or observations of the natural world. In these entries we can see mariners weighing what they know about their local environments and geographical and temporal locales, seeking reliable patterns, and trying to identify anomalies or outliers.  Read more

Agridulce

Logbook of the Elizabeth Leavitt, traveling to Havana from Boston, 1858.

When my fellow librarians and I became aware of this month’s theme for PEM/PM, we knew right away that the Phillips Library collections needed to be a part of it.  “Agridulce,” or “Bittersweet” in Spanish, is a perfect descriptor of the contentious sugar, slave, and rum trade prevalent in the Caribbean in the 17th through 19th centuries.  We have decided to bring a selection of materials from our collections which, as a whole, demonstrate the more bitter side of international trade through Salem. Read more

“Collecting All Valuable Publications in Every Language”: The Salem East India Marine Society’s Library

George Schwartz

"Remarks on a Voyage to the Marianna Islands"

During the dedication of the “Marine Room” gallery at the Peabody Academy of Science in 1905, Director Edward Sylvester Morse remarked, “A student of history must be the one to properly bring together the records of the East India Marine Society, but on this occasion it is necessary to give an epitome of well-known data.” Over the past year, I spent my workdays in the cozy confines of the Phillips Library’s Reading Room taking up Morse’s challenge, poring through the museum’s substantial institutional archive and other material for my dissertation on the Peabody Essex Museum’s founding organization. The librarians have greeted me every day with great enthusiasm for my project, the first comprehensive work on the East India Marine Society since 1949, retrieving volumes and letters to aid in my endeavor. Read more