Portuguese were the first to begin trading with various West African
empires, but the English too began to look for profitable trade
there. They particularly sought gold and pepper (a valuable spice).
They commented on the adornment of the West Africans.
other things . . . touching the manners and nature of the people,
this may seem strange, that their princes and noblemen used to
pounce and raise their skins with pretty knots in diverse forms,
as it were branched damask, thinking that to be a decent ornament.
And albeit they go in manner all naked, yet are many of them,
and especially their women, in manner laden with collars, bracelets,
hoops and chains, either of gold, copper, or ivory. I myself have
one of their bracelets of ivory, weighing two pound and six ounces
of troy weight, which make eight and thirty ounces. This one of
their women did wear upon her arm. It is made of one whole piece
of the biggest part of the tooth, turned and somewhat carved,
with a hole in the midst, wherein they put their hands to wear
it on their arm. Some have on every arm one, and as many on their
legs, wherewith some of them are so galled that, although they
are in manner made lame thereby, yet will they by no means leave
them off. Some wear also on their legs great shackles of bright
copper, which they think to be no less comely. They wear also
collars, bracelets, garlands and girdles, of certain blue stones
like beads. Likewise, some of their women wear on their bare arms
certain foresleeves made of the plates of beaten gold. On their
fingers also they wear rings, made of golden wires, with a knot
or wreath, like unto that which children make in a ring of a rush.
Among other things of gold, that our men bought of them for exchange
of their wares, were certain dog-chains and collars.
are very wary people in their bargaining, and will not lose one
spark of gold of any value. They use weights and measures, and
are very circumspect in occupying the same. They that shall have
to do with them, must use them gently; for they will not traffic
or bring in any wares, if they be evil used.