The Discovery of Muscovy etc. by Richard Hakluyt

THE DISCOVERY OF MUSCOVY ETC. Contents: Introduction The New Navigation and Discovery of The Kingdom Of Muscovy The Coins, Weights, and Measures, used in Russia The Voyage of the Ambassedor The Manners, Usages, and Ceremonies of the Russians The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan King Alfred’s Orosius The Geography of Europe. Elegiac verses by William
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  • 1893
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The New Navigation and Discovery of The Kingdom Of Muscovy The Coins, Weights, and Measures, used in Russia The Voyage of the Ambassedor
The Manners, Usages, and Ceremonies of the Russians The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan
King Alfred’s Orosius
The Geography of Europe.
Elegiac verses by William Wordsworth


The first relations between England and Russia were established in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, in the manner here set forth, by the expedition undertaken by Sir Hugh Willoughby and completed by Richard Chanceler or Chancellor, captain of the Edward Bonaventure. Chanceler went on after Willoughby and the crew of his ship, The Admiral, with the crew of another vessel in the expedition, had been parted from Chanceler in a storm in the North Sea, and Willoughby’s men were all frozen to death. A few men belonging to the other ship were believed to have found their way back to England. The story of Chanceler’s voyage and the following endeavours to open Muscovy to English trade is here given, as it was told in Hakluyt’s collection of “The Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries made by the English Nation,” the folio published in 1589.

The story of our first contact with Russia belongs to the days of Ivan the Terrible. The Russians are a Slavonic people, with Finnish elements to the North and Mongolian to the South, and old contact with the Swedes, from whom they are supposed to have got their name through the Finnish Ruotsi, a corruption, it is said, of the Swedish rothsmenn–rowers. Legends point also to a Scandinavian settlement in the ninth century in Northern Russia. A chief Igor, whose name is supposed to represent the Scandinavian Ingvar, was trained by a warrior chief Oleg (Scandinavian Helgi?), who attacked Byzantium and wrung tribute from the Greeks. After the death of Oleg, Igor reigned, and after the death of Igor his wife Olga was regent, and was baptised at Byzantium in the year 955. Her son Sviotoslaff the first chief with a Slavonic name, was a conquering chief, who did not become Christian. He was killed in battle, and his skull was made into a drinking-cup. His son Vladimir was a cruel warrior, who took to Christianity, was baptised in the year 988, and caused the image of the Slavonic god of Thunder, Perun, to be first cudgelled and then thrown into a river. Vladimir, who first introduced Christianity, divided his dominions, leaving Novgorod to his son Yaroslaff, who established the first code of laws. After the death of Yaroslaff, in the year 1054, Russia was broken into petty principalities, until the year 1238, when there was a great invasion of the Mongols, who became a great disturbing power, and remained so until the year 1462, when Ivan III. began the consolidation of a Russian empire. He reigned forty-three years, suppressed the liberties of many independent regions, annexed states, checked the Mongols, married a Byzantine princess, and so brought Greek culture into Moscow. Ivan III. bequeathed his throne to a son Basil, who made further addition to the dominions of Muscovy, and treated with foreign princes. Herberstein, an ambassador to him from Germany, has left a description of his court. Then followed the reign of Basil’s son Ivan IV., Ivan the Terrible, who was, when his father died, a child of three years old. He was at first, from 1533 to 1538, under the care of his mother, Helen Glinska, a Pole. In 1543, when a boy of thirteen, he broke loose from the tutelage of chiefs, and caused one of them who had most worried him to be torn to pieces by dogs. In 1547, at the age of seventeen, he was crowned, and took the title of Czar (Caesar). He married a good wife, submitted to the guidance of a good priest, Silvester, revised his grandfather’s code of laws, issued a code for the Church, conquered enemies upon his borders, had desires towards the civilisation of the West, and did nothing to earn his name of “the Terrible” before the year 1558, five years after the setting out of Willoughby and Chancellor. His cruelties continued from 1558 until his death, in 1584.

H. M.

THE NEW NAVIGATION AND DISCOVERY OF THE KINGDOM OF MUSCOVY By the North-East in the year 1553: Enterprised by SIR HUGH WILLOUGHBIE, KNIGHT, performed by RICHARD CHANCELER, Pilot-major of the voyage. Translated out of the Latin into English.

At what time our merchants perceived the commodities and wares of England to be in small request with the countries and people about us, and near unto us, and that those merchandises which strangers in the time and memory of our ancestors did earnestly seek and desire were now neglected, and the price thereof abated, although by us carried to their own ports, and all foreign merchandises in great account, and their prices wonderfully raised; certain grave citizens of London, and men of great wisdom, and careful of the good of their country, began to think with themselves how this mischief might be remedied: neither was a remedy (as it then appeared) wanting to their desires for the avoiding of so great an inconvenience: for seeing that the wealth of the Spaniards and Portuguese, by the discovery and search of new trades and countries, was marvellously increased, supposing the same to be a course and means for them also to obtain the like, they thereupon resolved upon a new and strange navigation. And whereas at the same time one Sebastian Cabot, a man in those days very renowned, happened to be in London, they began first of all to deal and consult diligently with him, and after much speech and conference together, it was at last concluded that three ships should be prepared and furnished out for the search and discovery of the Northern part of the world, to open a way and passage to our men for travel to new and unknown kingdoms.

And whereas many things seemed necessary to be regarded in this so hard and difficult a matter, they first made choice of certain grave and wise persons in manner of a senate or company which should lay their heads together and give their judgments and provide things requisite and profitable for all occasions; by this company it was thought expedient that a certain sum of money should publicly be collected to serve for the furnishing of so many ships. And lest any private man should be too much oppressed and charged, a course was taken that every man willing to be of the society should disburse the portion of twenty and five pounds apiece, so that in a short time by this means the sum of six thousand pounds being gathered, the three ships were bought, the most part whereof they provided to be newly built and trimmed. But in this action, I wot not whether I may more admire the care of the merchants, or the diligence of the shipwrights: for the merchants, they get very strong and well seasoned planks for the building, the shipwrights, they with daily travail and their greatest skill, do fit them for the dispatch of the ships, they caulk them, pitch them, and among the rest, they make one most staunch and firm, by an excellent and ingenious invention. For they had heard that in certain parts of the ocean a kind of worm is bred which many times pierceth and eateth through the strongest oak that is, and therefore that the mariners and the rest to be employed in this voyage might be free and safe from this danger, they cover a piece of the keel of the ship with thin sheets of lead; and having thus built the ships, and furnished them with armour and artillery, then followed a second care no less troublesome and necessary than the former, namely the provision of victuals which was to be made according to the time and length of the voyage. And whereas they afore determined to have the east part of the world sailed unto, and yet that the sea towards the same was not open, except they kept the northern tract where as yet it was doubtful whether there were any passage yea or no, they resolved to victual the ships for eighteen months, which they did for this reason. For our men being to pass that huge and cold part of the world, they wisely foreseeing it, allow them six months’ victual to sail to the place, so much more to remain there if the extremity of the winter hindered their return, and so much more also for the time of their coming home.

Now this provision being made and carried aboard, with armour and munition of all sorts, sufficient captains and governors of so great an enterprise were as yet wanting: to which office and place, although many men (and some void of experience) offered themselves, yet one Sir Hugh Willoughbie, a most valiant gentleman, and well born, very earnestly requested to have that care and charge committed unto him: of whom before all others, both by reason of his goodly personage (for he was of a tall stature) as also for his singular skill in the services of war, the Company of the merchants made greatest account: so that at the last they concluded and made choice of him for the general of this voyage, and appointed to him the admiral, with authority and command over all the rest. And for the government of the other ships although divers men seemed willing, and made offers of themselves thereunto, yet by a common consent one Richard Chanceler, a man of great estimation for many good parts of wit in him, was elected, in whom alone great hope for the performance of this business rested. This man was brought up by one Master Henry Sidney, a noble young gentleman and very much beloved of King Edward, who this time coming to the place where the merchants were gathered together, began a very eloquent speech or oration, and spake to them after this manner following:-

“My very worshipful friends, I cannot but greatly commend your present godly and virtuous intention in the serious enterprising (for the singular love you bear to your country), a matter which (I hope) will prove profitable for this nation, and honourable to this our land. Which intention of yours we also of the nobility are ready to our power to help and further: neither do we hold anything so dear and precious unto us, which we will not willingly forego, and lay out in so commendable a cause. But principally I rejoice in myself, that I have nourished and maintained that wit which is like by some means and in some measure to profit and stead you in this worthy action. But yet I would not have you ignorant of this one thing, that I do now part with Chanceler not because I make little reckoning of the man, or that his maintenance is burdensome and chargeable unto me, but that you might conceive and understand my goodwill and promptitude for the furtherance of this business, and that the authority and estimation which he deserveth may be given him. You know the man by report, I by experience, you by words, I by deeds, you by speech and company, but I by the daily trial of his life, have a full and perfect knowledge of him. And you are also to remember into how many perils for your sakes, and his country’s love, he is now to run: whereof it is requisite that we be not unmindful, if it please God to send him good success. We commit a little money to the chance and hazard of fortune: he commits his life (a thing to a man of all things most dear) to the raging sea, and the uncertainties of many dangers. We shall here live and rest at home, quietly with our friends and acquaintance; but he in the meantime labouring to keep the ignorant and unruly mariners in good order and obedience, with how many cares shall he trouble and bear himself, with how many troubles shall he break himself, and how many disquietings shall he be forced to sustain: we shall keep our own coasts and country, he shall seek strange and unknown kingdoms. He shall commit his safety to barbarous and cruel people, and shall hazard his life amongst the monstrous and terrible beasts of the sea. Wherefore in respect of the greatness of the dangers, and the excellency of his charge, you are to favour and love the man thus departing from us, and if it falls so happily out that he return again, it is your part and duty also liberally to reward him.”

After that this noble young gentleman had delivered this or some such like speech, much more eloquently than I can possibly report it, the company then present began one to look upon another, one to question and confer with one another; and some (to whom the virtue and sufficiency of the man was known) began secretly to rejoice with themselves and to conceive a special hope, that the man would prove in time very rare and excellent, and that his virtues already appearing and shining to the world would grow to the great honour and advancement of this kingdom.

After all this, the company growing to some silence, it seemed good to them that were of greatest gravity amongst them to inquire, search, and seek what might be learned and known concerning the easterly part or tract of the world. For which cause two Tartars (Tartarians) which were then of the king’s stable were sent for, and an interpreter was gotten to be present, by whom they were demanded touching their country, and the manners of their nation. But they were able to answer nothing to the purpose: being indeed more acquainted (as one there merrily and openly said) to toss pots than to learn the states and dispositions of people. But after much ado and many things passed about this matter, they grew at last to this issue, to set down and appoint a time for the departure of the ships: because divers were of opinion that a great part of the best time of the year was already spent, and if the delay grew longer the way would be stopped and hard by the frost of the ice, and the cold climate; and therefore it was thought best by the opinion of them all that by the 20th day of May the captains and mariners should take shipping and depart from Ratcliffe upon the ebb, if it so pleased God. They having saluted their acquaintance, one his wife, another his children, another his kinsfolks, and another his friends dearer than his kinsfolks, were present and ready at the day appointed, and having weighed anchor, they departed with the turning of the water, and sailing easily, came first to Greenwich. The greater ships were towed down with boats and oars, and the mariners being all apparelled in watchet or sky-coloured cloth, rowed amain, and made way with diligence. And being come near to Greenwich (where the court then lay), presently upon the news thereof the courtiers came running out, and the common people flocked together, standing very thick upon the shore: the Privy Council they looked out at the windows of the court, and the rest ran by to the tops of the towers: the ships hereupon discharge their ordnance and shoot off their pieces after the manner of war and of the sea, insomuch that the tops of the hills sounded therewith, the valleys and the waters gave an echo, and the mariners they shouted in such sort that the sky rang again with the noise thereof. One stood in the poop of the ship, and by his gesture bids farewell to his friends in the best manner he could. Another walks upon the hatches, another climbs the shrouds, another stands upon the main yard, and another in the top of the ship. To be short, it was a very triumph (after a sort) in all respects to the beholders. But, alas, the good King Edward (in respect of whom principally all this was prepared) he only by reason of his sickness was absent from this show, and not long after the departure of these ships, the lamentable and most sorrowful accident of his death followed.

But to proceed in the matter. The ships going down with the tide, came at last to Woolwich where they stayed and cast anchor, with purpose to depart therehence again, as soon as the turning of the water and a better wind should draw them to set sail. After this they departed and came to Harwich, in which port they stayed long, not without great loss and consuming of time; yet at the last with a good wind they hoisted up sail, and committed themselves to the sea, giving their last adieu to their native country, which they knew not whether they should ever return to see again or not. Many of them looked oftentimes back, and could not refrain from tears, considering into what hazards they were to fall, and what uncertainties of the sea they were to make trial of.

Amongst the rest Richard Chanceler, the captain of the Edward Bonaventure, was not a little grieved with the fear of wanting victuals, part whereof was found to be corrupt and putrified at Harwich, and the hogsheads of wine also leaked, and were not staunch; his natural and fatherly affection also somewhat troubled him, for he left behind him his two little sons, which were in the case of orphans if he sped not well; the estate also of his company moved him to care, being in the former respects after a sort unhappy, and were to abide with himself every good or bad accident; but in the meantime while his mind was thus tormented with the multiplicity of sorrows and cares, after many days’ sailing they kenned land afar off whereunto the pilots directed the ships; and being come to it they land, and find it to be Rose Island, where they stayed certain days, and afterwards set sail again, and, proceeding towards the north, they espied certain other islands which were called the Cross of Islands. From which places when they were a little departed Master Willoughbie the General, a man of good foresight and providence in all his actions, erected and set out his flag, by which he called together the chiefest men of the other ships, that by the help and assistance of their councils the order of the government and conduction of the ships in the whole voyage might be the better: who being come together accordingly, they conclude and agree that if any great tempest should arise at any time, and happen to disperse and scatter them, every ship should endeavour his best to go to Wardhouse, a haven or castle of some name in the kingdom of Norway, and that they that arrived there first in safety should stay and expect the coming of the rest.

The very same day in the afternoon, about four of the clock, so great a tempest suddenly arose, and the seas were so outrageous, that the ships could not keep their intended course, but some were perforce driven one way and some another way, to their great peril and hazard. The General, with his loudest voice, cried out to Richard Chanceler and earnestly requested him not to go far from him; but he neither would nor could keep company with him if he sailed still so fast, for the Admiral was of better sail than his ship. But the said Admiral (I know not by what means), bearing all his sails, was carried away with so great force and swiftness, that not long after he was quite out of sight, and the third ship also, with the same storm and like rage, was dispersed and lost us.

The ship-boat of the Admiral, striking against the ship, was overwhelmed in the sight and view of the mariners of the Bonaventure; and as for them that are already returned and arrived, they know nothing of the rest of the ships what was become of them.

But if it be so that any miserable mishap have overtaken them, if the rage and fury of the sea have devoured those good men, or if as yet they live, and wander up and down in strange countries, I must needs say they were men worthy of better fortune; and if they be living, let us wish them safety and a good return, but if the cruelty of death hath taken hold of them, God send them a Christian grave and sepulchre.

Now, Richard Chanceler with his ship and company being thus left alone, and become very pensive, heavy, and sorrowful by this dispersion of the fleet, he (according to the order before taken) shapeth his course for Wardhouse, in Norway, there to expect and abide the arrival of the rest of the ships. And being come thither, and having stayed there the space of seven days, and looked in vain for their coming, he determined at length to proceed alone in the purposed voyage; and as he was preparing himself to the part, it happened that he fell in company and speech with certain Scottish men, who having understanding of his intention, and wishing well to his actions, began earnestly to dissuade him from the further prosecution of the discovery by amplifying the dangers which he was to fall into, and omitted no reason that might serve to that purpose.

But he holding nothing so ignominious and reproachful as inconstancy and levity of mind, and persuading himself that a man of valour could not commit a more dishonourable part than for fear of danger to avoid and shun great attempts, was nothing at all changed or discouraged with the speeches and words of the Scots, remaining steadfast and immutable in his first resolution; determining either to bring that to pass which was intended or else to die the death.

And as for them which were with Master Chanceler in his ship, although they had great cause of discomfort by the loss of their company (whom the aforesaid tempest had separated from them), and were not a little troubled with cogitations and perturbations of mind in respect of their doubtful course, yet, notwithstanding, they were of such content and agreement of mind with Master Chanceler, that they were resolute and prepared under his direction and government to make proof and trial of all adventures without all fear or mistrust of future dangers. Which constancy of mind in all the company did exceedingly increase their captain’s carefulness; for he being swallowed up with like goodwill and love towards them, feared lest, through any error of his, the safety of the company should be endangered. To conclude, when they saw their desire and hope of the arrival of the rest of the ships to be every day more and more frustrated, they provided to sea again, and Master Chanceler held on his course towards that unknown part of the world, and sailed so far that he came at last to the place where he found no night at all, but a continual light and brightness of the sun shining clearly upon the huge and mighty sea. And having the benefit of this perpetual light for certain days, at length it pleased God to bring them into a certain great bay, which was of one hundred miles or thereabout over. Whereinto they entered and somewhat far within it cast anchor, and looking every way about them, it happened that they espied afar off a certain fisher boat, which Master Chanceler, accompanied with a few of his men, went towards to commune with the fishermen that were in it, and to know of them what country it was, and what people, and of what manner of living they were. But they being amazed with the strange greatness of his ship (for in those parts before that time they had never seen the like), began presently to avoid and to flee. But he still following them, at last overtook them, and being come to them, they (being in great fear as men half dead) prostrated themselves before him, offering to kiss his feet; but he (according to his great and singular courtesy) looked pleasantly upon them, comforting them by signs and gestures, refusing those duties and reverences of theirs, and taking them up in all loving sort from the ground. And it is strange to consider how much they were afterwards in that place this humanity of his did purchase to himself. For they being dismissed, spread by-and-by a report abroad of the arrival of a strange nation of a singular gentleness and courtesy, whereupon the common people came together offering to those new-come guests victuals freely, and not refusing to traffic with them, except they had been bound by a certain religious use and custom not to buy any foreign commodities without the knowledge and consent of the king.

By this time our men had learned that this country was called Russia or Muscovy, and that Ivan Vasilivich (which was at that time their king’s name) ruled and governed far and wide in those places. And the barbarous Russians asked likewise of our men whence they were and what they came for. Whereunto answer was made that they were Englishmen sent into those coasts from the most excellent King Edward VI., having from him in commandment certain things to deliver to their king, and seeking nothing else but his amity and friendship and traffic with his people, whereby they doubted not but that great commodity and profit would grow to the subjects of both kingdoms. The barbarians heard these things very gladly, and promised their aid and furtherance to acquaint their king out of hand with so honest and reasonable a request.

In the meantime Master Chanceler entreated victuals for his money of the governor of that place, who, together with others, came aboard him, and required hostages of them likewise for the more assurance of safety to himself and his company. To whom the governors answered that they knew not in that case the will of their king, and yet were willing in such things as they might lawfully do to pleasure him, which was as then to afford him the benefit of victuals. Now whilst these things were a-doing, they secretly sent a messenger unto the Emperor to certify him of the arrival of a strange nation, and withal to know his pleasure concerning them. Which message was very welcome unto him, insomuch that voluntarily he invited them to come to his court. But if by reason of the tediousness of so long a journey they thought it not best so to do, then he granted liberty to his subjects to bargain and to traffic with them. And further promised that if it would please them to come to him, he himself would bear the whole charges of post-horses. In the meantime the governors of the place deferred the matter from day to day, pretending divers excuses, and saying one while that the consent of all the governors, and another while that the great and weighty affairs of the kingdom compelled them to defer their answer. And this they did of purpose, so long to protract the time until the messenger (sent before to the king) did return with relation of his will and pleasure.

But Master Chanceler (seeing himself held in this suspense with long and vain expectation and thinking that of intention to delude him, they posted the matter off so often) was very instant with them to perform their promise, which if they would not do he told them that he would depart and proceed in his voyage. So that the Muscovites (although as yet they knew not the mind of their king) yet fearing the departure indeed of our men, who had such wares and commodities as they greatly desired, they at last resolved to furnish our people with all things necessary, and to conduct them by land to the presence of their king. And so Master Chanceler began his journey, which was very long and most troublesome, wherein he had the use of certain sledges which in that country are very common, for they are carried themselves upon sledges, and all their carriages are in the same sort, the people almost not knowing any other manner of carriage, the cause whereof is the exceeding hardness of the ground, congealed in the winter time by the force of the cold, which in those places is very extreme and horrible, whereof hereafter we will say something. But now, they having passed the greater part of their journey, met at last with the sledgeman (of whom I spake before) sent to the king secretly from the justices or governors, who by some ill-hap had lost his way, and had gone to the seaside which is near to the country of the Tartars, thinking there to have found our ship. But having long erred and wandered out of his way, at the last in his direct return, he met, as he was coming, our Captain on the way. To whom he by-and-by delivered the Emperor’s letters, which were written to him with all courtesy, and in the most loving manner that could be: wherein express commandment was given that post horses should be gotten for him and the rest of his company without any money. Which thing was of all the Russians in the rest of their journey so willingly done, that they began to quarrel, yea, and to fight also in striving and contending which of them should put their post-horses to the sled: so that after much ado, and great pains taken in this long and weary journey (for they had travelled very near fifteen hundred miles), Master Chanceler came at last to Moscow, the chief city of the kingdom, and the seat of the king, of which city, and of the Emperor himself, and of the principal cities of Muscovy, we will speak immediately more at large in this discourse.


Muscovy, which hath the name also of Russia the White, is a very large and spacious country, every way bounded with divers nations. Towards the south and east it is compassed with Tartaria, the northern side of it stretcheth to the Scythian Ocean; upon the west part border the Lappians, a rude and savage nation, living in woods, whose language is not known to any other people; next unto these, more towards the south, is Swecia, then Finlandia, then Livonia, and last of all Lithuania. This country of Muscovy hath also very many and great rivers in it, and is marsh ground in many places; and as for the rivers, the greatest and most famous amongst all the rest is that which the Russians in their own tongue call Volga, but others know it by the name of Rha. Next unto it in fame is Tanais, which they call Don, and the third Boristhenes, which at this day they call Dnieper. Two of these–to wit, Rha and Boristhenes–issuing both out of one fountain, run very far through the land: Rha receiving many other pleasant rivers into it, and running from the very head or spring of it towards the east, after many crooked turnings and windings, dischargeth itself and all the other waters and rivers that fall into it, by divers passages into the Caspian Sea. Tanais, springing from a fountain of great name in those parts, growing great near to his head, spreads itself at length very largely and makes a great lake; and then growing narrow again, doth so run for certain miles until it fall into another lake, which they call Ivan: and there hence, fetching a very crooked course, comes very near to the river Volga; but disdaining, as it were, the company of any other river, doth there turn itself again from Volga, and runs towards the south, and falls at last into the Lake of Moeotis. Boristhenes, which comes from the same head that Rha doth (as we said before), carrieth both itself, and other waters that are near unto it, towards the south, not refusing the mixture of other small rivers; and, running by many great and large countries, falls at last into Pontus Euxinus. Besides these rivers are also in Muscovy certain lakes and pools–the lakes breed fish by the celestial influence, and amongst them all the chiefest and most principal is called Belij Jesera, which is very famous by reason of a very strong tower built in it, wherein the kings of Muscovy reserve and repose their treasure in all time of war and danger.

Touching the Riphean Mountains, whereupon the snow lieth continually, and where hence in times past it was thought that Tanais the river did spring, and that the rest of the wonders of Nature which the Grecians feigned and invented of old were there to be seen, our men which lately came from thence neither saw them, nor yet have brought home any perfect relation of them, although they remained there for the space of three months, and had gotten in that time some intelligence of the language of Muscovy. The whole country is plain and champaign, and few hills in it; and towards the north it hath very large and spacious woods, wherein is great store of fir-trees–a wood very necessary and fit for the building of houses. There are also wild beasts bred in those woods, as buffes, bears, and black wolves, and another kind of beast unknown to us, but called by them “roffomakka;” and the nature of the same is very rare and wonderful, for when it is great with young, and ready to bring forth, it seeketh out some narrow place between two stakes, and so going through them, presseth itself, and by that means is eased of her burden, which otherwise could not be done. They hunt their buffes for the most part a-horseback, but their bears afoot, with wooden forks. The north parts of the country are reported to be so cold, that the very ice or water which distilleth out of the moist wood which they lay upon the fire is presently congealed and frozen, the diversity growing suddenly to be so great, that in one and the selfsame firebrand a man shall see both fire and ice. When the winter doth once begin there it doth still more and more increase by a perpetuity of cold; neither doth that cold slake until the force of the sunbeams doth dissolve the cold and make glad the earth, returning to it again. Our mariners which we left in the ship in the meantime to keep it, in their going up only from their cabins to the hatches, had their breath oftentimes so suddenly taken away, that they eftsoons fell down as men very near dead, so great is the sharpness of that cold climate; but as for the south parts of the country, they are somewhat more temperate.


It remaineth that a large discourse be made of Moscow, the principal city of that country, and of the prince also, as before we have promised. The empire and government of the king is very large, and his wealth at this time exceeding great. And because the city of Moscow is the chiefest of all the rest, it seemeth of itself to challenge the first place in this discourse. Our men say, that in bigness it is as great as the city of London, with the suburbs thereof. There are many and great buildings in it, but, for beauty and fairness, nothing comparable to ours. There are many towns and villages also, but built out of order and with no handsomeness; their streets and ways are not paved with stone as ours are; the walls of their houses are of wood; the roofs, for the most part, are covered with shingle boards. There is hard by the city a very fair castle, strong, and furnished with artillery, whereunto the city is joined directly towards the north with a brick wall; the walls also of the castle are built with brick, and are in breadth or thickness eighteen feet. This castle hath on the one side a dry ditch, and on the other side the river Volga, whereby it is made almost impregnable. The same Volga, trending towards the east, doth admit into it the company of the River Occa.

In the castle aforesaid there are in number nine churches or chapels, not altogether unhandsome, which are used and kept by certain religious men, over whom there is, after a sort, a patriarch or governor, and with him other reverend fathers, all which for the greater part dwell within the castle. As for the king’s court and palace, it is not of the neatest, only in form it is four-square and of low building, much surpassed and excelled by the beauty and elegancy of the houses of the kings of England. The windows are very narrowly built, and some of them by glass, some other by lattices admit the light; and whereas the palaces of our princes are decked and adorned with hangings of cloth of gold, there is none such there; they build and join to all their walls benches, and that not only in the court of the emperor, but in all private men’s houses.

Now after that they had remained about twelve days in the city, there was then a messenger sent unto them to bring them to the king’s house, and they being after a sort wearied with their long stay, were very ready and willing so to do; and, being entered within the gates of the court, there sat a very honourable company of courtiers, to the number of one hundred, all apparelled in cloth of gold down to their ankles, and therehence being conducted into the chamber of presence, our men began to wonder at the majesty of the Emperor. His seat was aloft in a very royal throne, having on his head a diadem or crown of gold, apparelled with a robe all of goldsmith’s work, and in his hand he held a sceptre garnished and beset with precious stones; and, besides all other notes and appearances of honour, there was a majesty in his countenance proportionable with the excellency of his estate. On the one side of him stood his Chief Secretary, and on the other side the Great Commander of Silence, both of them arrayed also in cloth of gold; and then there sat the Council, of one hundred and fifty in number, all in like sort arrayed, and of great state. This so honourable an assembly, so great a majesty of the Emperor and of the place, might very well have amazed our men, and have dashed them out of countenance; but, notwithstanding, Master Chanceler, being therewithal nothing dismayed, saluted and did his duty to the Emperor after the manner of England, and withal delivered unto him the letters of their King Edward VI. The Emperor having taken and read the letters, began a little to question with them, and to ask them of the welfare of our king, whereunto our men answered him directly and in few words. Hereupon our men presented something to the Emperor by the Chief Secretary, which at the delivery of it put off his hat, being before all the time covered; and so the Emperor having invited them to dinner, dismissed them from his presence; and going into the chamber of him that was Master of the Requests to the Emperor, and having stayed there the space of two hours, at the last the messenger cometh, and calleth them to dinner. They go, and being conducted into the Golden Court (for so they call it, although not very fair), they find the Emperor sitting upon a high and stately seat, apparelled with a robe of silver, and with another diadem on his head; our men, being placed over against him, sit down. In the midst of the room stood a mighty cupboard upon a square foot, whereupon stood also a round board, in manner of a diamond, broad beneath, and towards the top narrow, and every step rose up more narrow than the other. Upon this cupboard was placed the Emperor’s plate, which was so much that the very cupboard itself was scant able to sustain the weight of it. The better part of all the vessels and goblets was made of very fine gold; and, amongst the rest, there were four pots of very large bigness, which did adorn the rest of the plate in great measure, for they were so high, that they thought them at the least five feet long. There were also upon this cupboard certain silver casks, not much differing from the quantity of our firkins, wherein was reserved the Emperor’s drink. On each side of the hall stood four tables, each of them laid and covered with very clean table-cloths, whereunto the company ascended by three steps or degrees, all which were filled with the assembly present. The guests were all apparelled with linen without, and with rich skins within, and so did notably set out this royal feast. The Emperor, when he takes any bread or knife into his hand, doth first of all cross himself upon his forehead. They that are in special favour with the Emperor sit upon the same bench with him, but somewhat far from him; and before the coming in of the meat the Emperor himself, according to an ancient custom of the Kings of Muscovy, doth first bestow a piece of bread upon every one of his guests, with a loud pronunciation of his title and honour in this manner, “The Great Duke of Muscovy and Chief Emperor of Russia, John Basiliwich (and then the officer nameth the guest), doth give thee bread,” whereupon all the guests rise up and by-and-by sit down again. This done, the Gentleman Usher of the hall comes in with a notable company of servants carrying the dishes, and having done his reverence to the Emperor, puts a young swan in a golden platter upon the table, and immediately takes it thence again, delivering it to the carver and seven other of his fellows to be cut up, which being performed, the meat is then distributed to the guests with the like pomp and ceremonies. In the meantime, the Gentleman Usher receives his bread and talketh to the Emperor, and afterward, having done his reverence, he departeth. Touching the rest of the dishes, because they were brought in out of order, our men can report no certainty; but this is true, that all the furniture of dishes and drinking vessels, which were then for the use of a hundred guests, was all of pure gold, and the tables were so laden with vessels of gold, that there was no room for some to stand upon them.

We may not forget that there were one hundred and forty servitors arrayed in cloth of gold, that in the dinner-time changed thrice their habit and apparel, which servitors are in like sort served with bread from the Emperor as the rest of the guests. Last of all, dinner being ended, and candles brought in (for by this time night was come), the Emperor calleth all his guests and noblemen by their names, in such sort that it seems miraculous that a prince, otherwise occupied in great matters of estate, should so well remember so many and sundry particular names. The Russians told our men that the reason thereof, as also of the bestowing of bread in like manner, was to the end that the Emperor might keep the knowledge of his own household, and withal, that such as are under his displeasure might by this means be known.


Whensoever the injuries of their neighbours do call the king forth to battle, he never armeth a less number against the enemy than three hundred thousand soldiers, one hundred thousand whereof he carrieth into the field with him, and leaveth the rest in garrison in some fit places for the better safety of his empire. He presseth no husbandmen nor merchant; for the country is so populous that these being left at home the youth of the realm is sufficient for all his wars. As many as go out to warfare do provide all things of their own cost; they fight not on foot, but altogether on horseback: their armour is a coat of mail, and a helmet; the coat of mail without is gilded, or else adorned with silk, although it pertain to a common soldier; they have a great pride in showing their wealth; they use bows and arrows as the Turks do; they carry lances also into the field. They ride with a short stirrup after the manner of the Turks; they are a kind of people most sparing in diet, and most patient in extremity of cold above all others. For when the ground is covered with snow, and is grown terrible and hard with the frost, this Russian hangs up his mantle or soldier’s coat against that part from whence the wind and snow drives, and so making a little fire, lieth down with his back towards the weather; this mantle of his serves him for his bed, wall, house and all; his drink is the cold water of the river, mingled with oatmeal, and this is all his good cheer, and he thinketh himself well and daintily fed therewith, and so sitteth down by his fire, and upon the hard ground, roasteth, as it were, his weary sides thus daintily stuffed; the hard ground is his feather bed, and some block or stone his pillow; and as for his horse, he is, as it were, a chamber-fellow with his master, faring both alike. How justly may this barbarous and rude Russian condemn the daintiness and niceness of our captains, who, living in a soil and air much more temperate, yet commonly use fur boots and cloaks! but thus much of the furniture of their common soldiers. But those that are of higher degrees come into the field a little better provided. As for the furniture of the Emperor himself, it is then above all other times most notable. The coverings of his tent for the most part are all of gold, adorned with stones of great price, and with the curious workmanship of plumasiers; as often as they are to skirmish with the enemy, they go forth without any order at all; they make no wings, nor military divisions of their men, as we do, but lying for the most part in ambush, do suddenly set upon the enemy. Their horses can well abstain two whole days from any meat. They feed upon the barks of trees and the most tender branches in all the time of war. And this scant and miserable manner of living both the horse and his master can well endure, sometimes for the space of two months lusty and in good state of body. If any man behave himself valiantly in the field to the contentation of the Emperor, he bestoweth upon him in recompense of his service some farm or so much ground as he and his may live upon, which, notwithstanding, after his death returneth again to the Emperor if he die without a male issue. For although his daughters be never so many, yet no part of that inheritance comes to them, except, peradventure, the Emperor of his goodness give some portion of the land amongst them to bestow them withal. As for the man, whosoever he be, that is in this sort rewarded by the Emperor’s liberality, he is bound in a great sum to maintain so many soldiers for the war, when need shall require, as that land in the opinion of the Emperor is able to maintain. And all those to whom any land falls by inheritance are in no better condition, for if they die without any male issue, all their lands fall into the hands of the Emperor; as, moreover, if there be any rich man amongst them, who in his own person is unfit for the wars, and yet hath such wealth, that thereby many noblemen and warriors might be maintained, if any of the courtries present his name to the Emperor, the unhappy man is by- and-by sent for, and in that instant deprived of all his riches, which with great pains and travail all his lifetime he had gotten together, except perhaps some small portion thereof be left him to maintain his wife, children, and family. But all this is done of all people so willingly at the Emperor’s commandment, that a man would think they would rather make restitution of other men’s goods than give that which is their own to other men. Now the Emperor having taken these goods into his hands, bestoweth them among his courtiers according to their deserts, and the oftener that a man is sent to the wars, the more favour he thinketh is borne to him by the Emperor, although he go upon his own charge, as I said before. So great is the obedience of all men generally to their prince.


The Muscovite, with no less pomp and magnificence than that which we have spoken of, sends his ambassadors to foreign princes in the affairs of estate. For while our men were abiding in the city of Moscow, there were two ambassadors sent to the King of Poland, accompanied with 500 notable horse; and the greater part of the men were arrayed in cloth of gold and of silk, and the worst apparel was of garments of a blue colour, to speak nothing of the trappings of the horses, which were adorned with gold and silver, and very curiously embroidered; they had also with them one hundred white and fair spare horses, to use them at such times as any weariness came upon them. But now the time requireth me to speak briefly of other cities of the Muscovites, and of the wares and commodities that the country yieldeth.


Next unto Moscow, the city of Novogorode is reputed the chiefest of Russia; for although it be in majesty inferior to it, yet in greatness it goeth beyond it. It is the chiefest and greatest mart town of all Muscovy; and albeit the Emperor’s seat is not there, but at Moscow, yet the commodiousness of the river falling into the gulf which is called Sinus Finnicus, whereby it is well frequented by merchants, makes it more famous than Moscow itself. This town excels all the rest in the commodities of flax and hemp; it yields also hides, honey, and wax. The Flemings there sometimes had a house of merchandise, but by reason that they used the like ill- dealing there which they did with us they lost their privileges–a restitution whereof they earnestly sued for at the time that our men were there. But those Flemings, hearing of the arrival of our men in those parts, wrote their letters to the Emperor against them, accusing them for pirates and rovers, wishing them to detain and imprison them; which things, when they were known of our men, they conceived fear that they should never have returned home. But the Emperor, believing rather the king’s letters which our men brought than the lying and false suggestions of the Flemings, used no ill treaty towards them.


Yeraslave also is a town of some good fame for the commodities of hides, tallow, and corn, which it yields in great abundance. Cakes of wax are there also to be sold, although other places have greater store; this Yeraslave is distant from Moscow about two hundred miles, and betwixt them are many populous villages. Their fields yield such store of corn, that in conveying it towards Moscow, sometimes in a forenoon, a man shall see seven hundred or eight hundred sleds going and coming, laden with corn and salt fish; the people come a thousand miles to Moscow to buy that corn, and then carry it away upon sleds; and these are those people that dwell in the north parts, where the cold is so terrible that no corn doth grow there, or, if it spring up, it never comes to ripeness. The commodities that they bring with them are salt fish, skins, and hides.


Vologda being from Moscow five hundred and fifty miles, yields the commodities of hemp and flax, although the greatest store of flax is sold at Novogorode.


The town of Plesco is frequented of merchants for the good store of honey and wax that it yieldeth.


The north parts of Russia yield very rare and precious skins; and amongst the rest those principally which we call sables, worn about the necks of our noblewomen and ladies. It hath also martens’ skins, white, black, and red fox skins, skins of hares and ermines and others, which they call and term barbarously as beavers, minxes, and minevers. The sea adjoining breeds a certain beast which they call mors, which seeketh his food upon the rocks, climbing up with the help of his teeth. The Russians used to take them for the great virtue that is in their teeth, whereof they make as great account as we do of the elephant’s tooth. These commodities they carry upon deers’ backs to the town of Lampas; and from thence to Colmagro, and there in the winter time are kept great fairs for the sale of them. This city of Colmagro serves all the country about with salt and salt fish. The Russians also of the north parts send thither oil which they call train, which they make in a river called “Vna,” although it be also made elsewhere; and here they used to boil the water of the sea, whereof they make very great store of salt.


Having hitherto spoken so much of the chiefest cities of Russia as the matter required, it remaineth that we speak somewhat of the laws that the Muscovites do use, as far forth as the same are come to our knowledge. If any controversy arise among them they first make their landlords judges in the matter, and if they cannot end it, then they prefer it to the magistrate. The plaintiff craveth of the said magistrate that he may have leave to enter law against his adversary, and having obtained it, the officer fetcheth the defendant and beateth him on the legs till he bring forth a surety for him; and if he be not of such credit as to procure a surety, then are his hands by an officer tied to his neck, and he is beaten all the way till he come before the judge. The judge then asketh him (as, for example, in the matter of debt) whether he oweth anything to the plaintiff. If he denies it, then saith the judge, “How canst thou deny it?” The defendant answereth by an oath; thereupon the officer is commanded to cease from beating of him until the matter be further tried. They have no lawyers, but every man is his own advocate; and both the complaint of the accuser and the answer of the defendant are in manner of petition delivered to the Emperor, entreating justice at his hands. The Emperor himself heareth every great controversy, and, upon the hearing of it, giveth judgment, and that with great equity, which I take to be a thing worthy of special commendation in the majesty of a prince. But although he do this with a good purpose of mind, yet the corrupt magistrates do wonderfully pervert the same; but if the Emperor take them in any fault, he doth punish them most severely. Now at the last, when each party hath defended his cause with his best reasons, the judge demandeth of the accuser whether he hath any more to say for himself. He answereth that he will try the matter in fight by his champion, or else entreateth that in fight betwixt themselves the matter may be ended, which being granted, they both fight it out; or if both of them, or either of them, seem unfit for that kind of trial, then they have public champions to be hired which live by ending of quarrels. These champions are armed with iron axes and spears, and fight on foot; and he whose champion is overcome is by- and-by taken and imprisoned and terribly handled, until he agree with his adversary. But if either of them be of any good calling and degree, and do challenge one another to fight, the judge granteth it; in which case they may not use public champions. And he that is of any good birth doth contemn the other if he be basely born, and will not fight with him. If a poor man happen to grow in debt, his creditor takes him, and maketh him pay the debt in working either to himself or to some other man whose wages he taketh up. And there are some among them that used willingly to make themselves, their wives, and children bondslaves unto rich men–to have a little money at the first into their hands, and so for ever after content themselves with meat and drink, so little account do they make of liberty.


If any man be taken upon committing of theft, he is imprisoned, and often beaten, but not hanged for the first offence, as the manner is with us; and this they call the law of mercy. He that offendeth the second time hath his nose cut off, and is burnt in the forehead with a hot iron. The third time he is hanged. There are many cut-purses among them, and if the rigour of the prince did not cut them off, they could not be avoided.


They maintain the opinions of the Greek Church; they suffer no graven images of saints in their churches, but their pictures painted in tables they have in great abundance, which they do adore, and offer unto and burn wax candles before them, and cast holy water upon them, without other honour. They say that our images, which are set up in churches, and carved, have no divinity in them. In their private houses they have images for their household saints, and, for the most part, they are put in the darkest place of the house; he that comes into his neighbour’s house doth first salute his saints, although he see them not. If any form or stool stand in his way, he oftentimes beateth his brow upon the same, and often, ducking down with his head and body, worshippeth the chief image. The habit and attire of the priests and of the laymen doth nothing at all differ; as for marriage, it is forbidden to no man: only this is received, and held amongst them for a rule and custom, that if a priest’s wife do die, he may not marry again nor take a second wife; and, therefore, they of secular priests, as they call them, are made monks, to whom then chastity for ever is commanded. Their divine service is all done and said in their own language, that every man may understand it; they receive the Lord’s Supper with leavened bread, and after the consecration they carry it about the church in a saucer, and prohibit no man from receiving and taking of it that is willing so to do. They use both the Old and the New Testament, and read both in their own language, but so confusedly that they themselves that do read understand not what they themselves do say; and while any part of either Testament is read there is liberty given by custom to prattle, talk, and make a noise; but in the time of the rest of the service they use very great silence and reverence, and behave themselves very modestly and in good sort. As touching the Lord’s Prayer, the tenth man amongst them knows it not; and for the Articles of our Faith and the Ten Commandments, no man, or, at the least, very few of them, do either know them or can say them: their opinion is that such secret and holy things as they are should not rashly and imprudently be communicated with the common people. They hold for a maxim amongst them that the old Law, and the Commandments also, are all abolished by the death and blood of Christ; all studies and letters of humanity they utterly refuse; concerning the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues, they are altogether ignorant in them.

Every year they celebrate four several fasts, which they call according to the names of the saints: the first begins with them at the time that our Lent begins; the second is called amongst them the Fast of St. Peter; the third is taken from the Day of the Virgin Mary; and the fourth, and last, begins upon St. Philip’s Day. But as we begin our Lent upon Wednesday, so they begin theirs upon the Sunday. Upon the Saturday they eat flesh. Whensoever any of those fasting feasts do draw near, look what week doth immediately go before them; the same week they live altogether upon white meats, and in their common language they call those weeks the fast of butter.

In the time of their fasts the neighbours everywhere go from one to another, and visit one another, and kiss one another with kisses of peace, in token of their mutual love and Christian concord; and then also they do more often than at any other time go to the Holy Communion. When seven days are past, from the beginning of the fast, then they often do either go to their churches or keep themselves at home and use often prayer; and for that seven nights they eat nothing but herbs; but after that seven night fast is once past, then they return to their old intemperance of drinking, for they are notable toss-pots. As for the keeping of their fasting days, they do it very straitly, neither do they eat anything besides herbs and salt fish as long as those fasting days do endure; but upon every Wednesday and Friday, in every week throughout the year, they fast.

There are very many monasteries of the order of Saint Benedict amongst them, to which many great livings, for their maintenance, do belong; for the friars and the monks do at the least possess the third part of the livings throughout the whole Muscovite Empire. To those monks that are of this order there is amongst them a perpetual prohibition that they may eat no flesh; and, therefore, their meat is only salt fish, milk, and butter; neither is it permitted them by the laws and customs of their religion to eat any fresh fish at all, and at those four fasting times whereof we spake before they eat no fish at all: only they live with herbs, and cucumbers, which they do continually for that purpose cause, and take order, to grow and spring for their use and diet.

As for their drink, it is very weak and small. For the discharge of their office they do every day say service, and that early in the mornings, before day; and they do in such sort and with such observation begin their service, that they will be sure to make an end of it before day; and about nine of the clock in the morning they celebrate the Communion. When they have so done they go to dinner, and after dinner they go again to service, and the like also after supper; and in the meantime, while they are at dinner, there is some exposition or interpretation of the Gospel used.

Whensoever any abbot of any monastery dieth, the Emperor taketh all his household stuff, beasts, flocks of sheep, gold, silver, and all that he hath, or else he that is to succeed him in his place and dignity doth redeem all those things, and buyeth them of the Emperor for money.

Their churches are built of timber, and the towers of their churches for the most part are covered with shingle boards. At the doors of their churches they usually build some entrance or porch, as we do, and in their churchyards they erect a certain house of wood, wherein they set up their bells–wherein sometimes they have but one, in some two, and in some also three.

There is one use and custom amongst them which is strange and rare, yet it is very ridiculous, and that is this: when any man dieth amongst them they take the dead body and put it in a coffin or chest, and in the hand of the corpse they put a little scroll, and in the same there are these words written, that the same man died a Russian of Russia, having received the faith and died in the same. This writing or letter they say they send to St. Peter, who, receiving it (as they affirm), reads it, and by-and-by admits him into heaven, and that his glory and place is higher and greater than the glory of the Christians of the Latin Church, reputing themselves to be followers of a more sincere faith and religion than they; they hold opinion that we are but half Christians, and themselves only to be the true and perfect Church–these are the foolish and childish dotages of such ignorant barbarians.


There is a certain part of Muscovy, bordering upon the countries of the Tartars, wherein those Muscovites that dwell are very great idolaters; they have one famous idol amongst them, which they call the Golden Old Wife, and they have a custom that whensoever any plague or any calamity doth afflict the country, as hunger, war, or such like, then they go by-and-by to consult with their idol, which they do after this manner: they fall down prostrate before the idol, and pray unto it, and put in the presence of the same a cymbal, and about the same certain persons stand, which are chosen amongst them by lot: upon their cymbal they place a silver toad, and sound the cymbal, and to whomsoever of those lotted persons that toad goeth he is taken, and by-and-by slain; and immediately, I know not by what illusions of the devil or idol, he is again restored to life, and then doth reveal and deliver the causes of the present calamity. And by this means knowing how to pacify the idol, they are delivered from the imminent danger.


The common houses of the country are everywhere built of beams of fir-trees; the lower beams do so receive the round hollowness of the uppermost, that by the means of the building thereupon they resist and expel all winds that blow, and where the timber is joined together, there they stop the chinks with moss. The form and fashion of their houses in all places is four-square, with straight and narrow windows, whereby with a transparent easement made or covered with skin like to parchment they receive the light. The roofs of their houses are made of boards covered without with the bark of trees: within their houses they have benches or grieves hard by their walls, which commonly they sleep upon, for the common people know not the use of beds: they have stoves wherein in the morning they make a fire, and the same fire doth either moderately warm or make very hot the whole house.

The apparel of the people for the most part is made of wool, their caps are picked like unto a rike or diamond, broad beneath, and sharp upward. In the manner of making whereof there is a sign and representation of nobility; for the loftier or higher their caps are, the greater is their birth supposed to be, and the greater reverence is given them by the common people.


These are the things, most excellent Queen, which your subjects newly returned from Russia have brought home concerning the state of that country: wherefore if your Majesty shall be favourable, and grant a continuance of the travel, there is no doubt but that the honour and renown of your name will be spread amongst those nations, whereunto three only noble personages from the very creation have had access, to whom no man hath been comparable.


“The almighty power of God, and the incomprehensible Holy Trinity, rightful Christian belief, etc. We, great Duke Ivan Vasilivich, by the grace of God Emperor of all Russia, and great Duke of Vladermerskij, Moskowskij, Novogrodskij, Cazanskii, Pskanskii, Smolenskii, Tuerskij, Hugorskij, Permskii, Veatskii, Bolgarskii, with divers other lands, Emperor also and great Duke of Novogoroda, and in the low countries of Chernigouskii, Rezanskii, Volotskii, Refskii, Belskii, Rostouskii, Yaroslavskii; Belocherskii, Oodorskii, Obdorskii, Codinskii, and many other countries, lord over all the north coast, greeting.

“Before all right great and worthy of honour Edward, King of England, &c., according to our most hearty and good zeal, with good intent and friendly desire, and according to our holy Christian Faith and great governance, and being in the light of great understanding, our answer by this our honourable writing unto your kingly governance, at the request of your faithful servant Richard Chanceler, with his company, as they shall let you wisely know, is thus. In the strength of the twentieth year of our governance, be it known, that at our sea coasts arrived a ship, with one Richard and his company, and said, that he was desirous to come into our dominions, and according to his request hath seen our Majesty and our eyes; and hath declared unto us your Majesty’s desire as that we should grant unto your subjects, to go and come, and in our dominions, and among our subjects to frequent free marts, with all sorts of merchandises, and upon the same to have wares for their return. And they have also delivered us your letters which declare the same request. And hereupon we have given order, that wheresoever your faithful servant Hugh Willoughbie land or touch in our dominions, to be well entertained, who as yet is not arrived, as your servant Richard can declare.

“And we, with Christian belief and faithfulness, and according to your honourable request and my honourable commandment will not leave it undone, and are furthermore willing that you send unto us your ships and vessels, when, and as often as they may have passage, with good assurance on our part to see them harmless. And if you send one of your Majesty’s council to treat with us, whereby your country merchants may with all kinds of wares, and where they will, make their market in our dominions, they shall have their free mart with all free liberties through my whole dominions with all kinds of wares, to come and go at their pleasure, without any let, damage, or impediment, according to this our letter, our word, and our seal, which we have commanded to be under-sealed. Written in our dominion in our town and in our palace in the Castle of Moscow, in the year seven thousand and sixty, the second month of February.”

This letter was written in the Muscovian tongue, in letters much like to the Greek letters, very fair written on paper with a broad seal hanging at the same, sealed in paper upon wax. This seal was much like the broad seal of England, having on the one side the image of a man on horseback in complete harness fighting with a dragon.

Under this letter was another paper written in the Dutch tongue, which was the interpretation of the other written in the Muscovian letters. These letters were sent the next year after the date of King Edward’s letters, 1554.


Forasmuch as it is most necessary for all merchants which seek to have traffic in any strange regions, first to acquaint themselves with the coins of those lands with which they do intend to join in traffic, and how they are called from the valuation of the highest piece to the lowest, and in what sort they make their payments, as also what their common weights and measures be. For these causes I have thought good to write something thereof, according to mine own knowledge and experience, to the end that the merchants of that new adventure may the better understand how the wealth of that new frequented trade will arise.

First, it is to be noted that the Emperor of Russia hath no other coins than silver in all his land which goeth for payment amongst merchants; yet, notwithstanding, there is a coin of copper, which serveth for the relief of the poor in Moscow, and nowhere else, and that is but only for quas, water, and fruit–as nuts, apples, and such like. The name of which money is called pole or poles, of which poles there go to the least of the silver coins eighteen. But I will not stand upon this, because it is no current money amongst merchants.

Of silver coins there be these sorts of pieces: the least is a poledenga; the second, a denga; the third, nowgrote, which is as much to say in English, as halfpenny, penny, and twopence; and for other valued money than this there is none. There are oftentimes there coins of gold, but they come out of foreign countries; whereof there is no ordinary valuation, but they pass according to the agreement of merchants.

Their order in summing of money is this: as we say in England, halfpenny, penny, shilling, and pound, so say they, poledenga, denga, altine, and rubble (rouble). There goeth two poledengas to a denga, six dengaes to an altine, and twenty-three altines and two dengaes to a rubble.

Concerning the weights of Russia, they are these. There are two sorts of pounds in use amongst them–the one great, the other small. The great pound is just two small pounds; they call the great weight by the name of beasemar, and the small they call the skallawaight. With this small weight they weigh their silver coins, of which the Emperor hath commanded to put to every small pound three rubbles of silver; and with the same weight they weigh all grocery wares, and almost all other wares, which come into the land, except those which they weigh by the pode, as hops, salt, iron, lead, tin, and batrie, with divers others. Notwithstanding, they used to weigh batrie more often by the small weight than by the great.

Whensoever you find the prices of your wares rated by the pode, consider that to be the great weight, and the pound to be small. Also they divide the small pound into forty-eight parts, and they call the eight-and-fortieth part a slotnike, by the which slotnike the retailers sell their wares out of their shops, as goldsmiths, grocers, silk-sellers, and such other, like as we do use to retail by the ounce. And as for their great weight, which they call the beasemar, they sell by pode or ship pound. The pode doth contain of the great weight, forty pounds; and of the small, eighty. There go ten podes to a ship pound.

Yet you must consider that their great weight is not full with ours; for I take not their great pound to be full thirteen ounces, but above twelve I think it be. But for your just proof, weigh six rubbles of Russian money with our pound weight, and then shall you see what it lacketh; for six rubbles of Russia is, by the Emperor’s standard, the great pound. So that I think it the next way to know the just weight as well of the great pound as of the small.

There is another weight needful to be known, which is the weight of Wardhouse; for so much as they weigh all their dry fish by weight, which weight is the basemere as they of Russia do use, notwithstanding there is another sort in it. The names of those weights are these: the marke pound, the great pound, the wee and the ship pound. The marke pound is to be understood as our pound, and their great is twenty-four of their marke pound; the wee is three great pound; and eight wee is a ship pound.

Now, concerning their measures. As they have two sorts of weights, so they have also two sorts of measures, wherewith they measure cloth, both linen and woollen. They call the one an areshine, and the other a locut. The areshine I take to be as much as the Flanders ell, and their locut half an English yard. With their areshine they may mete all such sorts of cloths as cometh into the land, and with the locut all such cloth, both linen and woollen, as they make themselves. And whereas we used to give yard and inch, or yard and handfull, they do give nothing but bare measure.

They have also a measure wherewith they do mete their corn, which they call a set-forth, and the half of that an osmine. This set- forth I take to be three bushels of London measure. And as for their drink measure, they call it a spanne, which is much like a bucket; and of that I never saw any true rate, but that some was greater than other some. And as for the measures of Wardhouse, wherewith they mete their cloth, there is no difference between that and the measure of danske, which in half an English ell.

Concerning the tolls and customs of Russia, it was reported to me in Muscovy that the Turks and Armenians pay the tenth penny custom of all the wares they bring into the Emperor’s land, and above that they pay for all such goods as they weigh at the Emperor’s beam two pence of the rouble, which the buyer or seller must make report of to the master of the beam. They also pay a certain horse toll, which is in divers places of his realm four pence of a horse.

The Dutch nation are free of this; notwithstanding for certain offences, they had lost their privileges, which they have recovered this summer, to their great charge. It was reported to me by a justice of that country, that they paid for it thirty thousand roubles, and also that Rye, Dorpt, and Revel, have yielded themselves under the government of the Emperor of Russia; whether this was a brag of the Russians or not, I know not, but thus he said, and, indeed, while we were there, there came a great ambassador out of Liffeland for the assurance of their privileges.

To speak somewhat of the commodities of this country, it is to be understood that there is a certain place fourscore miles from the sea called Colmogro; to which place there resort all the sorts of wares that are in the north parts–as oils, salt, stock-fish, salmon, feathers, and furs; their salt they make of salt water by the seaside; their oils they make of seals, whereof they have great store, which is brought out of the bay where our ships came in; they make it in the spring of the year, and bring it to Colmogro to sell, and the merchants there carry it to Novogrod, and so sell it to the Dutch nation. Their stock-fish and salmon cometh from a place called Mallums, not far from Wardhouse; their salmon and their salt they carry to Moscow, and their dried fish they carry to Novogrod, and sell it there to the Leeflanders.

The furs and feathers which come to Colmogro, as sables, beavers, minks, ermine lettis, graies, wolverins, and white foxes, with deer- skins, they are brought thither by the men of Penninge, Lampne, and Powstezer, which fetch them from the Samoydes that are counted savage people, and the merchants that bring these furs do use to truck with the merchants of Colmogro for cloth, tin, batrie, and such other like, and the merchants of Colmogro, carry them to Novogrod, Vologda, or Moscow, and sell them there. The feathers which come from Penning they do little esteem.

If our merchants do desire to know the meetest place of Russia for their standing house; in mine opinion I take it to be Vologda, which is a great town standing in the heart of Russia with many great and good towns about it. There is great plenty of corn, victuals, and of all such wares as are raised in Russland (Russia), but specially flax, hemp, tallow, and bacon; there is also great store of wax, but it cometh from Moscow.

The town of Vologda is meetest for our merchants, because it lieth amongst all the best towns of Russia, and there is no town in Russia but trades with it; also the water is a great commodity to it. If they plant themselves in Moscow or Novogrod their charge will be great and wonderful, but not so in Vologda, for all things will there be had better cheap by the one-half; and for their vent, I know no place so meet; it is likely that some will think the Moscow to be the meetest by the reason of the court, but by that reason I take it to be worse; for the charge there would be so great by cravers and expenses that the moiety of the profit would be wholly consumed, which in the other place will be saved. And yet, notwithstanding, our merchants may be there in the winter to serve the Emperor and his Court. The Emperor is a great merchant himself of wax and sables, which with good foresight may be procured to their hands; as for other commodities there are little or none in Muscovy besides those above rehearsed; if there be other it is brought thither by the Turks, who will be dainty to buy our cloths considering the charges of carriages overland.

Our merchants may do well to provide for the Russians such wares as the Dutch nation doth serve them of, as Flanders and Holland cloths, which I believe they shall serve better with less charge than they of Rye or Dorpt, or Revel; for it is no small adventure to bring their cloths out of Flanders to either of these places, and their charge not little to carry them overland to Novogrod which is from Rye nine hundred Russian miles.

This Novogrod is a place well furnished with flax, wax, hides, tallow, and many other things; the best flax in Russia is brought thither, and there sold by the hundred bundles, which is done also at Vologda, and they that bring the flax to Novogrod dwell as near Vologda as Novogrod, and when they hear of the utterance which they may have with our nation, they will as willingly come to them as go to the other.

They have in Russia two sorts of flax, the one is called great flax, and the other small; that which they call great flax is better by four roubles in a hundred bundles than the small. It is much longer than the other, and cleaner, without wood; and whereas of the small flax there go twenty-seven or twenty-eight bundles to a ship pound; there goeth not of the greater sort above twenty-two or twenty-four at the most. There are many other trifles in Russia, as soap, mats, &c., but I think there will be no great account made of them.

Articles conceived and determined for the Commission of the Merchants of this Company resiant (resident) in Russia, and at the Wardhouse, for the second voyage, 1555, the first of May, as followeth.

First the governor, consuls, assistants, and whole company assembled this day in open Court committeth and authoriseth Richard Gray and George Killingworth jointly and severally to be agents, factors, and attorneys, general and special, for the whole body of this company; to buy, sell, truck, change, and permute, all and every kind and kinds of wares, merchandises, and goods, to the said company appertaining, now laden and shipped in the good ship called the Edward Bonaventure, appointed for Russia, the same to utter and sell to the most commodity, profit, and advantage of the said corporation, be it for ready money, wares, and merchandises, or truck, presently, or for time, as occasion and benefit of the company shall require, and all such wares as they or either of them shall buy, truck, or provide, or cause to be bought for the company to lade them homeward in good order and condition, as by prudent course of merchandises shall, and ought to appertain, which article extendeth also to John Brooke for the Wardhouse, as in the seventeenth and eighteenth articles of this commission appeareth.

2. Item, it is also committed, as above, to the said agents, to bind and charge the said company by debt for wares upon credit, as good opportunity and occasion shall serve, with power to charge and bind the said company and their successors for the payments of such things as shall be taken up for credit, and the said agents to be relieved, ab opere satis dandi.

3. Item, full authority and power is committed to the said first- named factors, together with Richard Chanceler, grand pilot of this fleet, to repair to the Emperor’s court, there to present the King and Queen’s Majesty’s letters, written in Greek, Polish, and Italian, and to give and exhibit the merchants’ presents at such time and place as shall be thought most expedient; they, or one of them, to demand, and humbly desire of the Emperor, such further grants and privileges to be made to this company as may be beneficial for the same, to continue in traffic with his subjects, according to such instructions as be in this behalf devised and delivered to the agents whereunto relation is to be had, and some one of these persons to attend upon the court for the obtaining of the same, as to their discretions shall be thought good.

4. Item, that all the said agents do well consider, ponder, and weigh such articles as be delivered to them, to know the natures, dispositions, laws, customs, manners, and behaviours of the people of the countries where they shall traffic, as well of the nobility as of the lawyers, merchants, mariners, and common people, and to note diligently the subtleties of their bargaining, buying and selling, making as few debts as possibly may be; and to be circumspect, that no law, neither of religion nor positive, be broken or transgressed by them, or any minister under them, nor yet by any mariner or other person of our nation; and to foresee that all tolls, customs, and such other rights, be so duly paid, that no forfeiture or confiscation may ensue to our goods either outward or inward; and that all things pass with quiet, without breach of the public peace or common tranquillity of any of the places where they shall arrive or traffic.

5. Item, that provision be made in Moscow or elsewhere, in one or more good towns, where good trade shall be found for a house or houses for the agents and company to inhabit and dwell at your accustomed diets, with warehouses, cellars, and other houses of offices requisite; and that none of the inferior ministers, of what place or vocation soever he be, do lie out of the house of the agents without license to be given; and that every inferior officer shall be obedient to the orders, rules, and governments of the said agents; and in case any disobedient person shall be found among any of them, then such person to be punished for his misbehaviour at the discretion of the said agents, or of one of them in the absence of the other.

6. Item, if any person of the said ministers shall be of such pride or obstinacy, that after one or two honest admonitions he will not be reformed nor reconciled from his faults, then the said agents to displace every such person from the place or room to him here committed, and some other discreet person to occupy the same, as to the said agents by their discretions shall seem meet.

7. Item, if any person shall be found so arrogant, that he will not be ordered nor reformed by the said agents, or by one of them in the absence of the other, then the said person to be delivered to the justice of the country, to receive such punishment as the laws of the country do require.

8. Item, that the said agents and factors shall daily one hour in the morning confer and consult together what shall be most convenient and beneficial for the company; and such orders as they shall determine, to be written by the secretary of the company, in a book to be provided for that purpose; and no inferior person to infringe or break any such order or device, but to observe the same exactly, upon such reasonable pain as the agents shall put him to by discretion.

9. Item, that the said agents shall in the end of every week, or oftener, as occasion shall require, peruse, see, and try, not only the cashier’s books, reckonings, and accounts, firming the same with their hands, but also shall receive and take weekly the account of every other officer, as well of the vendes, as of the empteous, and also of the state of the household expenses, making thereof a perfect declaration as shall appertain; the same accounts also to be firmed by the said agents’ hands.

10. Item, that no inferior minister shall take upon him to make any bargain or sale of any wares, merchandises, or goods, but by the commission and warranties of the said agents under their hands; and he not to transgress his commission by any way, pretence, or colour.

11. Item, that every inferior minister–that is to understand, all clerks and young merchants being at the order of the said agents– shall ride, go, sail, and travel to all such place and places as they or he shall be, appointed unto by the said agents, and effectually to follow and do that which to him or them shall be committed, well and truly to the most benefit of the company, according to the charge to him or them committed, even as by their oaths, duties, and bonds of their masters they be bounden and charged to do.

12. Item, that at every month’s end all accounts and reckonings shall be brought into perfect order into the ledger or memorial; and the decrees, orders, and rules of the agents, together with the privileges and copies of letters, may and shall be well and truly written by the secretary, in such form as shall be appointed for it, and that the copies of all their doings may be sent home with the said ship at her return.

13. Item, that all the agents do diligently learn and observe all kinds of wares, as well naturals as foreign, that be beneficial for this realm, to be sold for the benefit of the company; and what kind of our commodities and other things of these west parts be most vendable in those realms with profit, giving a perfect advice of all such things requisite.

14. Item, if the Emperor will enter into bargain with you for the whole mass of your stock, and will have the trade of it to utter to his own subjects, then debating the matter prudently among yourselves, set such high prices of your commodities as you may assure yourselves to be gainers in your own wares, and yet–to buy theirs at such base prices as you may here also make a commodity and gain at home, having in your minds the notable charges that the company have defrayed in advancing this voyage; and the great charges that they sustain daily in wages, victuals, and other things, all which must be requited by the wise handling of this voyage, which, being the first precedent shall be a perpetual precedent for ever; and therefore all circumspection is to be used; and foreseeing in this first enterprise, which God bless and prosper under you to His glory and the public wealth of this realm, whereof the Queen’s majesty and the Lords of the Council have conceived great hope, whose expectations are not to be frustrated.

15. Item, it is to be had in mind that you use all ways and means possible to learn how men may pass from Russia, either by land or by sea, to Cathaia, and what may be heard of our other ships, and to what knowledge you may come, by conferring with the learned or well- travelled persons, either natural or foreign, such as have travelled from the north to the south.

16. Item, it is committed to the said agents that, if they shall be certified credibly that any of our said first ships be arrived in any place whereunto passage is to be had by water or by land, that then certain of the company, at the discretion of the agents, shall be appointed to be sent to them to learn their estate and condition, to visit, refresh, relieve, and furnish them with all necessaries and requisites at the common charges of the company, and to embrace, accept, and entreat them as our dear and well-beloved brethren of this our society to their rejoicing and comfort, advertising Sir Hugh Willoughbie and others of our carefulness of them and their long absence, with our desire to hear of them, with all other things done in their absence for their commodity, no less than if they had been present.

17. Item, it is decreed that, when the ships shall arrive at this going forth at the Wardhouse, that their agents–with Master Chanceler, grand pilot; John Brooke, merchant, deputed for the Wardhouse, with John Backhand, master of the Edward; John Howlet, master, and John Robbins, pilot, of the Philip and Mary–shall confer and consult together that is most profitable to be done therefore for the benefit of the company, and to consider whether they may bargain with the captain of the Castle, and the inhabitants in that place, or along the coast for a large quantity of fish–dry or wet–killed by the naturals, or to be taken by our men at a price reasonable for truck of cloth, meal, salt, or beer, and what train- oil or other commodity is to be had there at this time, or any other season of the year; and whether there will be had or found sufficient lading for both the said ships to be bought there, and how they may confer with the naturals for a continuance in haunting the place, if profit will so arise to the company; and to consider whether the Edward in her return may receive at the Wardhouse any kind of lading homeward, and what it may amount unto, and whether it shall be expedient for the Philip to abide at Wardhouse the return of the Edward out of Russia, or getting that she may return with the first good wind to England without abiding for the Edward; and so to conclude and accord certainly among themselves upon their arrival that the certainty may (upon good deliberation) be so ordered and determined between both ships that the one may be assured of the other; and their determinations to be put in writing duplicate to remain with each ship, according to such order as shall be taken between them.

18. Item, that John Brooke, our merchant for the Wardhouse, take good advice of the rest of our agents how to use himself in all affairs while the ship shall be at the Wardhouse; he to see good order to be kept, and make bargains advisedly, not crediting the people until their natures, dispositions, and fidelities shall be well tried; make no debts, but to take ware for ware in hand, and rather be trusted than to trust. Note diligently what be the best wares for those parts, and how the fish falleth on the coast, and by what means it is to be bought at the most advantage, what kinds and diversities of sorts in fishes be, and whether it will keep better in bulk piled or in cask.

19. Item, he to have a diligent eye and circumspection to the beer, salt, and other liquid wares, and not to suffer any waste to be made by the company; and he in all contracts to require advice, counsel, and consent of the master and pilot; the merchant to be our housewife, as our special trust is in him. He to tender that no laws nor customs of the country be broken by any of the company, and to render to the prince and other officers all that which to them doth appertain–the company to be quiet, void of all quarrelling, fighting, or vexation; abstain from all excess of drinking as much as may be, and in all to use and behave themselves as to quiet merchants doth and ought to appertain.

20. Item, it is decreed by the company that the Edward shall return home this year with as much wares as may be conveniently and profitably provided, bought and laden in Russia, and the rest to be taken in at the Wardhouse as by the agents shall be accorded. But by all means it is to be foreseen and noted that the Edward return home, and not to winter in any foreign place, but to come home, and bring with her all the whole advertisements of the merchants, with such further advices for the next year’s provisions as they shall give.

21. Item, it is further decreed and ordained inviolably to be observed, that when the good ships, or either of them (by God’s grace) shall return home to the coast of England, that neither of them shall stay or touch in any haven or port of England, otherwise than wind and weather shall serve, but shall directly sail and come to the port of the city of London, the place of their right discharge; and that no bulk be broken, hatches open, chest, fardell, truss, barrell, fat, or whatsoever thing it shall be, be brought out of the ship, until the company shall give order for the same, and appoint such persons of the company as shall be thought meet for that purpose, to take view and consider the ship and her lading, and shall give order for the breaking up of the said bulk, or give license by discretion, for things to be brought to land. And that every officer shall show the invoice of his charge to him first committed, and to examine the wastes and losses, and to deliver the remainder to the use and benefit of the company, according to such order as shall be appointed in that behalf.

22. Item, the company exhorteth, willeth, requireth, not only all the said agents, pilots, masters, merchants, clerks, boatswains, stewards, skafemasters, and all other officers and ministers of this present voyage, being put in charge and trust daily to peruse, read, and study, such instructions as be made, given, and delivered to them for perfect knowledge of the people of Russia, Muscovy, Wardhouse, and other places; their dispositions, laws, manners, customs, uses, tolls, carriages, coins, weights, numbers, measures, wares, merchandises, commodities and incommodities, the one to be accepted and embraced, the other to be rejected and utterly abandoned, to the intent that every man taking charge, may be so well taught, perfected, and readily instructed, in all the premises, that, by ignorance, no loss or prejudice may grow or chance to the company, assuring themselves, that forasmuch as the company hath travailed and laboured so in these their instructions to them given, that every man may be perfect, and fully learned to eschew all losses, hurts, and damages, that may ensue by pretence or colour of none knowledge, the company extendeth not to allow, or accept ignorance for any lawful or just cause of excuse, in that which shall be misordered by negligence, the burthen whereof shall light upon the negligent offending person, especially upon such as of their own heads, or temerity, will take upon him or them to do or to attempt anything, whereby prejudice may arise, without the commission of the agents as above is mentioned, whereunto relation be had.

23. Forasmuch as it is not possible to write and indite such prescribed orders, rules, and commissions to you the agents and factors, but that occasion, time, and place, and the pleasures of the princes, together with the operation or success of fortune, shall change or shift the same, although not in the whole, yet in part, therefore the said company do commit to you their dear and entire beloved agents and factors, to do in this behalf for the commodity and wealth of this company, as by your discretions, upon good advised deliberations, shall be thought good and beneficial. Provided always that the honour, good-name, fame, credit, and estimation of the same company be conserved and preserved; which to confirm we beseech the living Lord to his glory, the public benefit of this realm, our common profit, and your praises.

Finally, for the service and due accomplishment of all the premises, every agent and minister of, and for, this voyage hath not only given a corporal oath upon the Evangelists to observe, and cause to be observed, this commission, and every part, clause, and sentence of the same, as much as in him lieth, as well for his own part as for any other person, but also have bound themselves and their friends to the company in several sums of money, expressed in the acts and records of this society, for the truth and fidelities of them for the better, and also manifester testification of the truth, and of their oaths, promises, and bands aforesaid, they have to this commission subscribed particularly their several hands, and the company also in confirmation of the same, have set their seal. Given the day, month, and years first above mentioned.


Ye swear by the holy contents of that book, that ye shall well, faithfully, and truly and uprightly, and with all your endeavour, serve this right worshipful company in that order, which by this fellowship’s agent or agents in the dominions of the Emperor of Russia, &c., shall be unto you committed, by commission, commandment, or other his direction. And that you shall be obedient and faithful to the same, our agent or agents, and that well and truly and uprightly, according to the commission, charge, commandment, or other direction of the said agent or agents to you from time to time given and to be given, you shall prosecute and do all that which in you lieth for the good renown, commodity, benefit, and profit of the said fellowship; and you shall not, directly or indirectly, openly or covertly, do, exercise, or use any hide or feat of merchandises for your own private account, commodity, gain, or profit, or for the account of or for any other person or persons without consent or license of this said fellowship first obtained in writing. And if you shall know or understand any other person or persons to use, exercise, or do any trade, traffic, or feat of merchandise to or for his or their own account or accounts, at any time or times hereafter, that then ye shall truly and plainly disclose, open, utter, and reveal, and show the same unto the said fellowship, without fraud, colour, covin, or delay: So help you God, &c.

Touching their entertainment in their second voyage. Anno 1555, the 27th of November, in Moscow.

Right worshipful, my duty considered, &c.–It may please your worship to understand that at the making hereof we all be in good health, thanks be to God, save only William, our cook, as we came from Colmogro fell into the river out of the boat and was drowned. And the 11th day of September we came to Vologda, and there we laid all our wares up, and sold very little; but one merchant would have given us twelve roubles for a broadcloth (and he said he would have had them all) and four altines for a pound of sugar, but we did refuse it because he was the first, and the merchants were not come thither, nor would not come before winter, trusting to have more; but I fear it will not be much better; yet, notwithstanding, we did for the best. And the house that our wares lie in cost from that day until Easter ten roubles. And the 28th day of September we did determine with ourselves that it was good for Masters Gray, Arthur Edwards, Thomas Hattery, Christopher Hudson, John Sedgewicke, Richard Johnson, and Richard Good, to tarry at Vologda, and Masters Chanceler, Henry Lane, Edward Prise, Robert Best, and I, should go to Moscow. And we did lade the Emperor’s sugar, with part of all sorts of wares to have had to the Moscow with us, and the way was so deep that we were fain to turn back and leave it still at Vologda till the frost. And we went forth with post-horse, and the charge of every horse, being still ten in number, comes to 10s. 7.5d., besides the guides; and we came to the Moscow the fourth day of October, and were lodged that night in a simple house; but the next day we were sent for to the Emperor his secretary, and he bade us welcome with a cheerful countenance and cheerful words, and we showed him that we had a letter from our Queen’s grace to the Emperor his grace, and then he desired to see them all (and that they might remain with him, to have them perfect, that the true meaning might be declared to the Emperor), and so we did; and then we were appointed to a better house; and the seventh day the secretary sent for us again, and then he showed us that we should have a better house, for it was the Emperor his will that we should have all things that we did lack, and did send us mead of two sorts, and two hens, our house free, and every two days to receive eight hens, seven altines, and twopence in money and medow and a certain poor fellow to make clean our house and to do that whereunto we should set him; and we had given many rewards before, which you shall perceive by other, and so we gave the messengers a reward with thanks; and the ninth day we were sent to make us ready to speak with the Emperor on the morrow. And the letters were sent us that we might deliver them ourselves, and we came before him the tenth day; and before we came to his presence we went through a great chamber, where stood many small tons, pails, bowls, and pots of silver (I mean like washing-bowls), all parcel gilt; and within that another chamber, wherein sat (I think) near a hundred in cloth of gold, and then into the chamber where his grace sat, and there, I think, were more than in the other chamber, also in cloth of gold; and we did our duty, and showed his grace our Queen’s grace’s letters, with a note of your present which was left in Vologda, and then his grace did ask how our Queen’s grace did, calling her cousin, saying that he was glad that we were come in health into his realm, and we went one by one unto him and took him by the hand, and then his grace did bid us go in health, and come to dinner again; and we dined in his presence, and were set with our faces towards his grace, and none in the chamber sat with their backs towards him, being, I think, near a hundred at dinner then, and all served with gold as platters, chargers, pots, cups, and all not slender, but very massive, and yet a great number of platters of gold, standing still on the cupboard, not moved. And divers times in the dinner- time his grace sent us meat and drink from his own table; and when we had dined we went up to his grace and received a cup with drink at his own hand, and the same night his grace sent certain gentlemen to us with divers sorts of wine and medow, to whom we gave a reward. And afterwards we were by divers Italians counselled to take heed whom we did trust to make the copy of the privileges that we would desire to have for fear it should not be written in the Russian tongue, as we did mean. So first, a Russian did write for us a breviate to the Emperor, the tenour whereof was, that we did desire a stronger privilege. And when the secretary saw it he did deliver it to his grace; and when we came again his grace willed us to write our minds, and he would see it, and so we did. And his grace is so troubled with preparations to wars that as yet we have no answer. But we have been required of his secretary, and of the under- chancellor, to know what wares we have brought into the realm, and what wares we do intend to have that are or may be had in this realm. And we showed them; that they showed the Emperor thereof. And then they said his grace’s pleasure was that his best merchants of the Moscow should be spoken to to meet and talk with us. And so a day was appointed, and we met in the secretary his office, and there was the under-chancellor, who was not past two years since the Emperor’s merchant, and not his chancellor. And then the conclusion of our talk was that the chancellor willed us to bethink us where we would desire to have a house or houses, that we might come to them as to our own house, and for merchandise to be made preparation for us, and they would know our prices of our wares and frise. And we answered, that for our prices they must see the wares before we could make any price thereof, for the like in goodness had not been brought into the realm, and we did look for an example of all sorts of our wares to come from Vologda with the first sled way, and then they should see them, and then we would show them the prices of them. And likewise we could not tell them what we would give them justly till we did know as well their just weight as their measures (for in all places where we did come all weights and measures did vary). Then the secretary (who had made promise unto us before) said that we should have all the just measures under seal, and he that was found faulty in the contrary to buy or sell–with any other measure than that, the law, was that he should be punished. He said, moreover, that if it so happen that any of our merchants do promise by covenant at any time to deliver you any certain sum of wares in such a place, and of such like goodness, at such a day, for such a certain price, that then because of variance we should cause it to be written, according as the bargain is, before a justice or the next ruler to the place. If he did not keep covenant and promise in all points, according to his covenant, that then look what loss or hindrance we could justly prove that we have thereby, he should make it good if he be worth so much. And in like case we must do to them; and to that we did agree, save only if it were to come over the sea, then if any such fortune should be (as God forbid) that the ship should mischance or be robbed, and the proof to be made that such kind of wares were laden, the English merchants to bear no loss to the other merchant. Then the chancellor said, “Methinks you shall do best to have your house at Colmogro, which is but one hundred miles from the right discharge of the ships; and yet I trust the ships shall come nearer hereafter, because the ships may not tarry long for their lading, which is one thousand miles from Vologda by water, and all our merchants shall bring all our merchandise to Colmogro to you, and so shall our merchants neither go empty nor come empty. For if that they lack lading homeward, there is salt, which is good ware here, that they may come laden again.” So we were very glad to hear that, and did agree to his saying. For we shall, nevertheless, if we list, have a house at Vologda and at the Moscow, yea, and at Novogrod, or where we will in Russland. But the three-and-twentieth of this present we were with the secretary, and then among other talk we moved, that if we should tarry at Colmogro with our wares, and should not come to Vologda, or, further, to seek our market, but tarry still at Colmogro, and then the merchants of the Moscow and others should not come and bring their wares, and so the ships should come, and not have their lading ready, that then it were a great loss and hindrance for us. Then said he again to us, that the merchants had been again together with him, and had put the like doubt that if they should come and bring their wares to Colmogro, and that they should not find wares there sufficient to serve them, that then they should be at great loss and hindrance, they leaving their other trades to fall to that. And to that we did answer, that after the time that we do appoint with them to bring their wares to Colmogro, God willing, they should never come thither but at the beginning of the year, they should find that our merchants would have at the least for a thousand roubles, although the ships were not come. So that he said, that then we must talk further with the merchants. So that as yet I know not but that we shall have need of one house at Colmogro and another at Vologda, and if that they bring not their wares to Colmogro, then we shall be sure to buy some at Vologda, and to be out of bondage.

And thus may we continue three or four years, and in this space we shall know the country and the merchants, and which way to save ourselves best, and where to plant our houses, and where to seek for wares. For the Moscow is not best for any kind of wares for us to buy, save only wax, which we cannot have under sevenpence the Russian pound, and it lacks two ounces of our pound; neither will it be much better cheap, for I have bidden sixpence for a pound. And I have bought more–five hundred weight of yarn–which stands me in eightpence farthing the Russian pound, one with another. And if we had received any store of money, and were dispatched here of that we tarry for, as I doubt not but we shall be shortly (you know what I mean), then as soon as we have made sail, I do intend to go to Novogrod and to Pletsco, whence all the great number of the best tow flax cometh, and such wares as are there I trust to buy part. And fear you not, we will do that may be done, if God send us health; desiring you to prepare fully for one ship to be ready in the beginning of April to depart off the coast of England.

Concerning all those things which we have done in the wares you shall receive a perfect note by the next bearer (God willing), for he that carrieth these from us is a merchant of Turwell, and he was caused to carry these by the commandment of the Emperor, his secretary, whose name is Evan Mecallawiche Weskawate, whom we take to be our very friend. And if it please you to send any letters to Dantiske, to Robert Elson, or to William Watson’s servant, Dunstan Walton to be conveyed to us, it may please you to enclose ours in a letter sent from you to him, written in Polish, Dutch, Latin, or Italian; so enclosed coming to the Moscow to his hands, he will convey our letters to us wheresoever we be. And I have written to Dantiske already to them for the conveyance of letters from thence.

And to certify you of the weather here, men say, that these three hundred years was never so warm weather in this country at this time of the year. But as yesternight we received a letter from Christopher Hudson from a city called Yereslave, who is coming hither with certain of our wares, but the winter did deceive him, so that he was fain to tarry by the way; and he wrote that the Emperor’s present was delivered to a gentleman at Vologda, and the sled did overthrow, and the butte of Hollocke was lost, which made us all very sorry.

I pray you be not offended with these my rude letters, for lack of time; but as soon as sales be made I will find the means to convey you a letter with speed; for the way is made so doubtful, that the right messenger is so much in doubt, that he would not have any letters of any effect sent by any man if he might, for he knows not of these; and to say the truth, the way is not for him to crawl in. But I will make another shift beside, which I trust shall serve the turn till he come, if sales be made before he be ready, which is and shall be as pleaseth God; Who ever preserve your worship, and send us good sales. Written in haste,

By yours to command,


Certain Instructions delivered in the Third Voyage, Anno 1556, for Russia, to every Purser and the rest of the Servants, taken for the Voyage, which may serve as good and necessary Directions to all other like Adventurers.

1. First, you shall, before the ship doth begin to lade, go aboard, and shall there take and write one inventory by the advice of the master, or of some other principal officer, there aboard, of all the tackle, apparel, cables, anchors, ordnance, chambers, shot, powder, artillery, and of all other necessaries whatsoever doth belong to the said ship; and the same justly taken you shall write in a book, making the said master, or such officer, privy of that which you have so written, so that the same may not be denied when they shall call account thereof. That done, you shall write a copy of the same with your own hand, which you shall deliver before the ship shall depart for the voyage, to the company’s bookkeeper, here to be kept to their behalf, to the end that they may be justly answered the same when time shall require; and this order to be seen and kept every voyage orderly, by the pursers of the company’s own ship in any wise.

2. Also, when the ship beginneth to lade, you shall be ready aboard with your book to enter such goods as shall be brought aboard to be laden for the company, packed or unpacked, taking the marks and numbers of every pack, fardell, truss, or packet, coronoya, chest, vat, butt, pipe, puncheon, whole barrel, half barrel, firkin, or other cask, maunde, or basket, or any other thing which may or shall be packed by any other manner of way or device. And first, all such packs or trusses, etc., as shall be brought aboard to be laden not marked by the company’s mark, you shall do the best to let that the same be not laden, and to inquire diligently to know the owners thereof, if you can, and what commodity the same is that is so brought aboard to be laden; if you cannot know the owners of such goods learn what you can thereof, as well making a note in your book, as also to send or bring word thereof to the agent, and to some one of the four merchants with him adjoined so speedily as you can, if it be here laden, or to be laden in this river, being not marked with the company’s mark, as is aforesaid; and when the said ship hath received in all that the company’s agent will have laden, you shall make a just copy of that which is laden, reciting the parcels, the marks and numbers of everything plainly, which you shall likewise deliver to the said bookkeeper to the use aforesaid.

3. Also, when the ship is ready to depart, you shall come for your cockets and letters to the agent, and shall show him all such letters as you have received of any person or persons privately or openly, to be delivered to any person or persons in Russia or elsewhere, and also to declare if you know any other that shall pass in the ship either master or mariner that hath received any letters to be privily delivered to any there, directed from any person or persons, other than from the agent here to the agent there; which letters so by you received, you shall not carry with you, without you be licensed so to do by the agent here, and some of the four merchants as is aforesaid; and such others as do pass, having received any privy letters to be delivered, you shall all that in you lieth let the delivery of them at your arriving in Russia; and also if you have, or do receive, or shall know any other that doth or hath received any goods of ready money to be employed in Russia, or to be delivered there to any person or persons from any person or persons other than such as be the company’s goods, and that under their mark, you shall, before the ship cloth depart, declare the same truly to the said agent, and to some of the other merchants to him adjoined, as it is before declared.

4. Also, when the ship is ready to depart, and hath the master and the whole company aboard, you shall diligently foresee and take heed, that there pass not any privy person or persons, other than such as be authorised to pass in the said ship, without the licence and warrant of one of the governors and of the assistants, for the same his passage, to be first shown. And if there be any such person or persons that is to pass and will pass without showing the same warrant, you shall let the passage of any such to the uttermost of your power; and for that there may no such privy person pass under the cloak and colour of some mariner, you shall upon the weighing of your ship’s anchor call the master and the mariners