Richard Eden's Decades of the New World


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Decades of the New World by Richard Eden (excerpt)
HistoryWiz Primary Source

1555

 
 
 

The 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.

Among 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.

They 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.


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