About this project

Archive Documents

Various archive documents of thevoyage of The Unity have been preserved in the archive of the MCC. The archive documents used for this blog are in various inventory numbers.

•  Logbook
•  Captain’s letters
•  Trade book
•  Surgeon’s Logbook
•  Statements of the Ship’s Council
•  Notarial Deeds
•  Ship’s pay and muster rolls
•  Correspondent’s letters
•  Minutes of the MCC board of directors
•  Travel papers, Instructions, etc.
•  The ‘bills’ of the equipage, trade cargo and return voyage
•  Ship’s book


Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inventory number 383

The first mate kept the ship’s logbook, noting down position, wind speed, weather, repairs conducted on board, trade transactions, the deaths of enslaved Africans and crew, and the names of other ships and their captains.

The first few pages of the logbook include a list of trading goods, of which the first mate thought – “to my mind” – that they had been traded along the African coast. The existence of the list can be explained by the fact that the captain became very ill. The first mate would be held personally accountable for any damages in case of the captain’s death.

The blog provides the daily entry of the logbook.

Captain’s Letters

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 376

This inventory contains the letters of all of the voyages of The Unity.

During the third voyage of The Unity the captain wrote a total of eleven letters to the directors in Middelburg, writing about the course of the voyage, trade, the presence of competitors, and deceased crew members.

In the blog the letters are published on the date mentioned in the letters.

Trade book

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 384 and inv.nr 385

Both the captain and the first mate were responsible for the trade book, by noting down daily transactions. In case of the death of the captain, the first mate had to be able to continue trading. Should he fail to do so, he could be held accountable for any damages incurred.

The contributions from the trade book have been published according to date, insofar as that was possible. When the date was missing, or did not concur with the logbook account, the date of the latter has been used.

The administration contains two copies of the trade book, which are identical apart from the following:

  • In front of nr. 385 is a lose page containing a summary of the trade along African coast, written by the captain.
  • Nr. 385 misses the section ‘expenses on the cargo’.
  • In the back  of nr. 384 there is a small note on which the right price according to the captain of the small gunpowder kegs and the blue salempouris (textile) is mentioned.

Both books were written down in hindsight. Their content includes the following:

  • The purchase of slaves, ivory and gold.
  • The purchase of water and provisions for consumption on board; the purchase of palm oil, lime juice and millet for the enslaved Africans; goods used from the cargo, tax payments, and the remainder of the cargo.
  • Financial accounts on departure from Africa.
  • Auctions in Berbice, expenses in Berbice, auction in Essequibo, remitted letters of exchange, expenses at Essequibo, sales of the remaining cargo in Essequibo, remaining cargo, payment for the enslaved Africans.
  • Financial accounts on departure from Guyana.

This blog uses images from inv.nr. 384.

Surgeon’s Logbook

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 390

Concerns the enslaved Africans. The surgeon wrote down a description of the symptoms and development of the decease per patient. He then noted down a number which referred to the prescription he was writing out. An overview of all the prescriptions was added after the descriptions of the patients, who included both crew members and Africans.

The logbook of the surgeon is extremely rare. It is one of the few such journals which has been preserved in the administration of the MCC, and is also exceptionally extensive.

The logbook was put together in hindsight: the descriptions of the patients often run over the course of several months to a year. Still, most of it will have been written during the voyage. The earliest posts from the logbook date from the winter of 1762-63.

Why this logbook was preserved when so many others were not, remains a mystery.

For the blog, the surgeon’s posts have been cut into separate parts. Every time a patient’s condition changed, the new state of affairs, including all relevant bits from the patient’s history, was also written down. The relevant prescriptions have also been added to the daily account, while the menu contains an overview of all of the prescriptions.

Statements of the Ship’s Council

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 375.3

The ship’s council consisted of the four highest ranking officers (captain, first mate, second mate and third mate), sometimes extended with the boatswain (responsible for the sailors). Together, the council took important decisions which could deviate from instructions, or it wrote statements concerning unforeseen damages or costs.

The statements were not written in a book, but kept together with other loose papers. In the blog, the council’s statements are published in accordance with the date which occasioned it  as much as possible. However, that date of the event is usually not the same as the date on which the statement would be written. The provocation of the statement can usually be found in the logbook.

Notarial Deeds

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr. 375.3 and inv.nr 389.3

Some situations required a notarial statement. A limited number of notarial documents have been preserved, between pieces concerning the stay in Guyana and the return voyage of the Unity. Because they do include relevant information of our voyage, they have been included in the blog.

Ship’s pay and muster rolls

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 387 and inv.nr 388

The crew members were enrolled with name, place of origin and salary (per two months), in both the muster roll and the ship’s wages roll.

The latter was kept in guilders and included:

  • Promotion and salary increases
  • Advances on the salary. Before the voyage began two months’ worth of wages was usually paid – ‘op de kist’, though three months or one month was also done. During the voyage money could be borrowed. This usually happened right before the auction of the personal possessions of a deceased crew member.
  • Premature termination of service, due to death or desertion
  • In the case of death: the proceeds of the auctioned possessions

The muster roll contains an alphabetical index by first name, followed by the same data given by the ship’s wages roll, in addition to some extra, more specific facts concerning:

  • Advances
  • Payment of salaries, including the signature of the recipient

The muster roll amounts were noted in Flemish pounds.

Both books contain loose papers with lists of auctioned goods of deceased crew members, as well as declarations concerning money loans.

Correspondent’s letters

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 58.1 and inv.nr 59.1

The MCC had an extensive network of correspondents from Europe, Africa and North and South America at their disposal. For the period of our voyage, there is correspondence from Guyana. Two correspondents wrote about the Unity: Abraham Wijs from Berbice (inv. Nr 59.1) and Adriaan Spoors in Essequibo and Demerara (inv. Nr. 58.1).

Minutes of the MCC board of directors

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 20 and inv.nr 21

The directors of the MCC met almost weekly. The minutes mention received letters, though they do not include content. A range of other topics were also discussed. The minutes of the third voyage, inv. Nr. 21, for example, contain the appointments of the highest ranking crew members, the charge to put together a concept cargo, a request for prices of the various cargo goods, deciding the date of departure, escorting the ship’s departure, the return of the ship and decisions concerning the method of selling the return cargo. Data concerning the construction and naming of the ship can be found in inv. Nr. 20.

Travel papers, Instructions, etc.

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 375.3

The letter of articles, instructions to the captain and other traveling papers such as passports can be found in inv.nr. 375.3. Other documents which can be found here include: the statements of the council, a notarial statement, an account of the outstanding loans of a deceased sailor, and much more.

The ‘bills’ of the equipage, trade cargo and return voyage

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 389.1, inv.nr 389.2, inv.nr 389.3

These bills contain a lot of information on the equipage of het ship, the trading cargo and the return voyage. The bills can be found respectively in the inv. Nrs. 389.1, 389.2, and 389.3. For example: an account of the purchase of provisions, the price indications of a textile trader, a bill concerning the rent of cargo space.

Ship’s book

Zeeland Archives, MCC Archives, inv.nr 374

The ship’s book contain the most important financial information of the ship: form its construction until its last voyage. The book contains the final accounts of the third voyage of The Unity, including its profits and losses.

Inventory online

The inventory of the MCC archive can be viewed online. The MCC archive is described herein. Each description includes the scans of the relevant archive documents.