“Copious but not compendious”?

I just realised that I haven’t mentioned where the title of my blog comes from. It’s from a letter from George Ball to Richard Cocks in 1617. At the time, Ball was the head (called the “president”) of the East India Company (EIC) merchants in the East Indies, and resided in Bantam (map), where the EIC had its main regional trading post. Cocks was at this time the head of the EIC merchants in Japan, where he was perhaps enjoying himself more than pursuing trade (although in fairness the Company was not really helping him in the job they had given him). But the following excerpt should rather be read as having to do with power relations and, perhaps, Company discipline, than with Cocks’ skills as a correspondent or merchant.

“Now as concerning your lettrs sent per the [ships] Thomas and Addvise, they were not so well licked or excepted [accepted] as happlie they wer ment or would have byn had Capten Jourden continewed still agent. They were sayd to bee copiuse but not compendious; large, but stufed with idell and nedles matter ill-beseeming one of your place, yeres & experyence …”
– George Ball at Bantam to Richard Cocks in Japan, 9 June 1617

Source: Anthony Farrington, The English Factory in Japan, 1613-1623 (London, British Library, 1991). You can read a calendared version of the letter on British History Online.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *