Datasets and Outputs
During the life of the project , the customs accounts were made available on this webpage in the form of Microsoft Excel worksheets, which were revised and corrected over time. Now that the project has finished the final versions have been published through the Bristol Repository of Scholarly Eprints (ROSE), along with a number of supporting documents. Additional copies have been deposited with the Economic and Social Data Service. The customs accounts have also been published in print format, as:
Other outputs include:
The following worksheets all relate to Bristol customs accounts. The aim was to cover complete accounting years, which ran from Michaelmas (29 September) to Michaelmas. The amount of detail varies from account to account. For instance, the ship type is only given in the early accounts. The precise column headings therefore vary slightly from worksheet to worksheet.
The 'particular' customs accounts (known as Port Books from 1565) were written in medieval Latin until the end of the century and employed an idiosyncratic shorthand peculiar to the Exchequer. To turn these Latin records into a worksheet that is readily comprehensible by non-specialists, the records had to be translated into English. To some extent it was also necessary to adapt and gloss the records. Notes on how this was done can be found below, under 'Transcription conventions'.
To assist in the interpretation of the information in these spreadsheets and to explain how the data was interpreted, the project has also published a number of glossaries through ROSE:
Data t ranscription conventions
In entering the data, the following general conventions were followed:
Italics were used to indicate where the transcriber filled in any word, or part of a word, that is not in the original document. For instance, the ship name 'Jhus' was transcribed as 'Jhesus' and similarly, dates that appear in the accounts as 'eodem die' were transcribed as the actual date and were italicised.
Bold was used to identify areas of uncertainty, such as where we did not know the meaning of a word, or how best to transcribe it.
Other comments relate to specific column headings.
Ship Type: This is only given in the early customs accounts (1503/4, 1516/17 and 1525/6). Most ships in these accounts were described as 'navicula' (small ship) or 'bata' (boat). The term 'navis' was only used for the greatest ships. The Latin terms were retained because the exact distinction between, for instance, a 'bata' and a 'navicula' was unclear.
Ship Name: The name of the ship was transcribed as it appears in the manuscript.
Port: The ports from which the ships came were transcribed using their modern spellings as they appear in the Times Atlas. Foreign versions of port names are generally used. So, for instance, the volume lists Leghorn as Livorno , Danzig as Gdánsk and Rendry as Errenteria. Exceptions have been made for places that still have a commonly-used English equivalent, such as Seville, Lisbon and Genoa . A full list of the port names, together with their location and the spellings found in the accounts, is given in the Glossary of place-names found in the sixteenth-century Bristol customs accounts.
In some cases the port is not listed, especially where a ship came from Bristol and had two names (e.g. Mary Conception or Trinitie Smyth). This was presumably because the customs officer felt that enough information had been given to identify the ship. If the origin of the ship is known from other entries in the account, or other sources, the port name is provided here but italicised. Where a port has not been identified it is transcribed as it appears in the manuscript and is italicised.
In a few cases, the 'port' listed in the account is not on a navigable waterway. For instance, 'Stonehouse' is four miles east of the River Severn and Huntley three miles west of it. It seems likely that, in these cases, the vessel in question was simply so small that it did not have a real port, being kept instead in a boathouse on the River Severn. In these instances the 'port' therefore probably refers simply to the domicile of the boat's owner.
Port Mod.: This gives the modern version of the port's name, using the spellings used by the Times Atlas. The entries in this column were put in italics to make clear that this information is not in the original manuscript.
Port Country: Gives the country in which the port is located. The entries in this column were put in italics to make clear that this information is not in the original manuscript.
Tonnage: From 1565, the Port Books list the size of the ship in tuns burden. This indicated the maximum number of tuns of wine the ship could carry. At this time ships were not required, however, to 'register' their tonnage in any formal sense. The size of the ship in these accounts thus appears to be a rough estimate, which could result in the same ship being given a slightly different tonnage in different parts of the same customs account.
Master 1st: In the manuscript, first names are generally Latinised, (e.g. Johannus for John, Egidius for Giles). These have all been translated into the vernacular. For details, see the Glossary of first-names found in the sixteenth-century Bristol customs accounts, published on ROSE.
Master surname: the customs officers did not Latinise surnames, they were recorded as they appear in the manuscript.
Destination: All the customs accounts indicate whether the ship was entering or exiting Bristol Not all of the accounts, however, indicate where exactly the vessel had come from or was going to. When the destination / departure place is stated, the worksheet follows the manuscript. Where the place a ship is sailing to or from is not stated, it is still generally possible to separate those ships sailing between Bristol and Ireland from those sailing between Bristol and the Continent. This can be done by examining the cargoes carried. In these cases, the fact that the destination is only an informed guess, is indicated by the italicization of the entry. For a discussion of the methodology adopted for making these judgments, see: E.T. Jones, 'The Bristol Shipping Industry in the Sixteenth Century' (PhD, Edinburgh 1998), Appendix 6. When the destination / departure place is stated, the transcription is given using the Times Atlas spelling.
Destination Mod.:This gives the modern name for the place the ship was sailing to or from, using the spellings used by the Times Atlas. The entries in this column were put in italics to make clear that this information is not in the original manuscript. A full list of the port names, together with their location and the spellings found in the accounts, is given in the Glossary of place-names found in the sixteenth-century Bristol customs accounts.
Destination Country: Gives the country the ship was sailing to or from. The entries in this column were put in italics to make clear that this information is not in the original manuscript.
Date: The date of almost all the entries is known. However, many entries in the 'particular accounts' are listed as 'eodem die' (the same day). This means the ship sailed on the same day as the previous ship that is listed in the account. Where this happens the date given is based on the last dated entry in the account. In such cases the date is italicized to indicate that the date itself is not listed in full in the account.
Merchant 1st : Lists the first name of the merchant who owned the goods. As with the Master's first name (see above), Christian names are generally given in Latin in the customs account, e.g. Robertus for Robert. In the worksheet, this is translated into English. For details, see the Glossary of first-names found in the sixteenth-century Bristol customs accounts, published on ROSE.
Mechant Surname: Lists the surname of the merchant, as it appears in the manuscript.
Merchant Dom.: The Port Books (1565+) include the domicile of the merchant.
Merch. Dom Modern:This gives the modern name for merchant's domicile, using the spellings used by the Times Atlas. The entries in this column were put in italics to make clear that this information is not in the original manuscript.
Merch. Occup.: The Port Books (1565-) include the occupation of the 'merchant'. This is often simply 'mercator ' (merchant), but other occupations are sometimes given, e.g. draper, glover or fruiterer. Where female merchants occur these are generally listed as 'widow', implying that they were the surviving spouse of an established merchant.
Origin: The customs officers always indicate whether a merchant was considered indigenous, alien or Hansard. Hansards (members of the Hanseatic League ) and other aliens had to be distinguished from indigenous merchants because they paid different duties. Indigenous merchants, which are indicated in the transcription by the letters ' Ind ', included merchants from the 'English' communities of Ireland, as well as merchants from England and Wales .
Signature: The Port Books (1565+) generally include include the signature of the merchant after the entry. A merchant's mark is sometimes given in place of a signature. Sometimes the entry is signed by a factor.
Quantity and Unit: Where possible this is the same as it appears in the manuscript, albeit with the adoption of modern spellings. However, where a given entry includes more than one unit of measure, the figure was generally converted into a single unit. For instance, if the account read'2 lasts 3 barrels' white herring, this was rendered as 27 barrels (since 1 last = 12 barrels). Similarly, if an account read'7 tuns 1 pipe 1 hogshead' wine this was rendered as 7.75 tuns (since 1 pipe = 0.5 tuns and 1 hogshead = 0.25 tuns). Where it was not possible to determine the conversion ratio, the entry records both measures.
Commodity: In the customs accounts this is generally given in Latin, e.g. 'vini' for wine, 'feri' for iron, 'pannus' for cloth. Sometimes, however, English is used. This was presumably because the customs clerk did not know the Latin name for the particular item of merchandise. In the transcription, the modern English spelling was used. For instance 'cere' and 'wex' were both recorded as wax. Where the meaning of the term used was not established with certainty (e.g. 'pilores tinct'), the term used was left in the original and italicised. Further details of the terms used are given in theGlossary of commodities, weights and measures found in the sixteenth-century Bristol customs accounts.
Commodity Comments: With the introduction of the Port Books (1565+) the accounts often include extra information about individual consignments, such as how they were packed.
£, s. d. f.: Pounds, shillings, pence, farthings. Most goods paid a tax called 'poundage', so called because it was a tax of one shilling in the pound (i.e. 5 percent) on the merchandise. To determine the tax paid, the customer would first write down the value of the goods. His valuations were based on his 'Book of Rates', which provided the nominal value of most of the goods he might encounter. For details see: N.S.B. Gras, The Early English Customs System (Harvard, 1918), Appendix C: 'A book of rates, 15 July 1507'; T.S. Willan (ed.), A Tudor Book of Rates (1582), (Manchester edition, 1962). General inflation during the sixteenth century meant that the market value of the goods was often much higher than the values listed in the accounts.
Some goods (in particular, wine, woollen cloths of assize and leather) did not pay 'poundage'. Instead, they paid 'specific' duties, such as 'tunnage', a 3s. duty on each tun of wine imported. To enable a rough estimate of the value of these goods relative to goods paying poundage, nominal values were assigned to wine, cloth and leather. For the period before 1558, when the valuations of goods paying poundage was roughly doubled to allow for inflation, wine is valued at £4 per tun, cloths of assize at £2 per cloth and leather at £1 per dicker. These valuations were roughly in line with the figures for poundage. To indicate that these valuations do not appear in the original manuscript, the figures were italicized. After 1558 the values were doubled (£8 per tun for wine, £4 per cloth and leather at £2 per dicker) to keep them in line with the approximate doubling of the values listed for goods paying pundage.
Mod.£: To facilitate calculations, this column converts the valuations of the listed commodities into decimal, e.g. £1 13s. 4d. = £1.67.
Doc Ref.: This indicates the folio number in the respective customs account, using the numbering system found in the manuscript. Where appropriate, 'R' (Recto) is used for the front of a folio and 'V' (Verso) for its back.