Friday 11 July 1662

Up by four o’clock, and hard at my multiplicacion-table, which I am now almost master of, and so made me ready and to my office, where by and by comes Mr. Pett, and then a messenger from Mr. Coventry, who stays in his boat at the Tower for us. So we to him, and down to Deptford first, and there viewed some deals lately served in at a low price, which our officers, like knaves, would untruly value in their worth, but we found them good. Then to Woolwich, and viewed well all the houses and stores there, which lie in very great confusion for want of storehouses, and then to Mr. Ackworth’s and Sheldon’s to view their books, which we found not to answer the King’s service and security at all as to the stores. Then to the Ropeyard, and there viewed the hemp, wherein we found great corruption, and then saw a trial between Sir R. Ford’s yarn and our own, and found great odds. So by water back again. About five in the afternoon to Whitehall, and so to St. James’s; and at Mr. Coventry’s chamber, which is very neat and fine, we had a pretty neat dinner, and after dinner fell to discourse of business and regulation, and do think of many things that will put matters into better order, and upon the whole my heart rejoices to see Mr. Coventry so ingenious, and able, and studious to do good, and with much frankness and respect to Mr. Pett and myself particularly. About 9 o’clock we broke up after much discourse and many things agreed on in order to our business of regulation, and so by water (landing Mr. Pett at the Temple) I went home and to bed.

25 Annotations

First Reading

dirk  •  Link

further on multiplication...

The technique of multiplication in the 17th c. is illustrated in the book with the misleading title "Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs", (with a reference to Pepys on the previous page):…
(For copyright reasons, this Google Print link may not be available to all annotators!)

Keep in mind that the above method was used in conjunction with the tables up to 5, which had to be learned by heart.

dirk  •  Link

multiplication cont'd

For those who can't access the Google link:…
(search for "multiplication")

Also have a look at this 17th c. mathematical "aide-memoire" - at a later stage Sam may have used something similar to help him remember his tables...…

A full explanation is provided in the text on the site, but note the right hand side photograph (the backside of the object) with a numerical table for interest calculations...

Xjy  •  Link

Storage, inventory, quality, control
Sam is becoming good at his job. Assembling a good team, knowing what to look for, getting lots done fast. He's way through the paper screen, knows that his business is the reality more than the reflection. But also that a good mirror lets you see things a broken or dirty one conceals - hence the focus on good book-keeping and the figures.

LCrichton  •  Link

A long working day for him...
He gets up at 4am and doesn't go home til 9pm.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Fascinating websites again, dirk! Thank you. I was particularly taken with the mathematical aide-memoire: what a beautiful object and most interesting to read how maths was being placed culturally at this time. I'm sure it is the kind of thing that Sam would have seen as a "bawble", but something he would have found irresitibly attractive!

A. Hamilton  •  Link

17th c. mathematical "aide-memoire"

Thank you, Dirk, for this fascinating item. The author notes that
“The practical mathematical arts had clearly achieved recognition and esteem in the public sphere of later 17th-century England.”

Referring back to your link to “Mathematics in the Time of the Pharoahs, ” Sam may not be able to write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform (see the introduction to the book), but he is becoming a very model of a modern
civil servant.

JWB  •  Link

"...our officers, like knaves, would untruly value in their worth..."
Sam should be held to the same standard. Remember we're reading Sam about Sam.

language hat  •  Link

"Sam should be held to the same standard"

I'm not sure what you mean by this. We're reading and enjoying Sam, not judging him -- or at least I don't see any point in judging him.

dirk: Thanks very much for the links!

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

So this is the time that Sam is starting to prove his worth as the great reformer of the British Navy. He is getting insight into what is needed and how to get things without the wrong people earning too much for delivering inadequate material. He is lucky to have the right men around him. It is interesting to see how things are working for him: the mathematics for instance.

dirk  •  Link

Just some thoughts...

Our occasional comments and hypotheses about Sam's doings remind me of Schopenhauer's ideas on history. It's absolutely impossible to know exactly what happened and why, at any particular point in the past - simply because we can't ever be there to observe anymore. At the very best we have one or several (subjective and therefore at least partially conflicting!) accounts of a past event, but neither of these accounts by individuals will tell us the full and objective truth about it. That's why Schopenhauer thought history was a fruitless exercise.

It's very much like quantum mechanics really: we can sometimes think of various ways something might have happened, and various motivations for it (Sam drilling holes for example), but the only way we could really know would be to have been there, AND at the same time inside Sam's head! It's a little as if all these inferred goings on co-exist in an undecided state, like Schroedinger's cat. Only for Sam, in his 17th c. reality did these possibilities "collapse" into his very own unambiguous reality - which we will never truly know.

In a way what we annotators are doing is quantum state history...

Jeannine  •  Link

Learning Multiplication in today's world...Dirk --thanks for the links. To put it in perspective, my 8 year old is working through the same issues as Sam--part of her take home work this summer is double digit multiplication. In order to make it fun I have motivated her in the a manner that seems to often motivate Sam (making money!)--by telling her to pretend that there is a dollar sign in front of each problem and the resulting money would be hers...... then to make a list of what money she has accumulated with each answer and what she'd spend it summer's end she will no doubt be multiplying 10 digit numbers!

Maurie Beck  •  Link

Just some thoughts--Continued

This problem of uncertainty is at the foundation of science and the philosophy of science, especially historical sciences (cosmology, geology, evolutionary biology). Because we cannot know anything with absolute certainty, scientists pose falsifiable hypotheses. If we are able to disprove a hypothesis, at least we know what isn’t true. In fact, most scientists work with multiple hypotheses, and the hypothesis with the most support is then provisionally accepted until new information either recquires it to be revised or rejected altogether.

I am not a historian, but I’m surprised that history hasn’t taken the same approach with multiple hypotheses (though I know some have proposed it and Jared Diamond in “guns, germs, and steel” did use multiple hypothesis testing). The logical outcome to Schopenhauer would be to throw up our hands in dispair at the knowledge of not being able to know anything. However, various scientific disciplines have dealt with this problem successfully, and there is no reason not to apply it to history as well. Othersise it is pure speculation with little basis for distinguishing one story from another on the one hand or Schopenhauer’s dilemma on the other.

Australian Susan  •  Link

History is a subjective area of study: historians reply on the interpretation of facts. That is why history needs to be rewritten for every generation and old history books are read largely to get an idea of the mores of the time in which it was written or if you are interested in historiography. Historians work from the primary sources: some of these conflict. The historian needs to decide what conclusions to draw from these. Schopenahuer's dilemma is solved, temporarily, every time an historian does this and produced a work of history, but then the next generation again looks at these primary sources and solves Schopenauer's dilemma again - for the time being. At least that has always been my understanding of what is going on. Journalists work the same way, I think, with eyewitness accounts: listen to several people and draw a conclusion. There is a danger, however, in using journalism as a primary source: one example is the original "flying saucer" story. The newspapers reported this as a "flying saucer" which has been repeated ad infinitum. What the man actually said to the journalist (in his notes) was that it was like a "horseshoe", but "saucer" was what the journalist turned this in to and suddenly everyone was seeing flying saucers. Not horseshoes. Sorry, going far too much off topic. See the archives of "The Fortean Times".(

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Notice the many ways Sam uses the experiential = experimental method to establish various truths to his satisfaction in this one entry: he "viewed" (5, including Mr. Coventry's chamber), “saw”(2), “found” (5, including Mr. Coventry's chamber) — “knows that his business is the reality more than the reflection” as Xjy said:

“down to Deptford…and there viewed some deals…we found them good. Then to Woolwich, and viewed well all the houses and stores there,….and then to Mr. Ackworth's and Sheldon's to view their books, which we found not to answer the King's service and security at all as to the stores. Then to the Ropeyard, and there viewed the hemp, wherein we found great corruption, and then saw a trial between Sir R. Ford's yarn and our own, and found great odds….; and at Mr. Coventry's chamber, which is very neat and fine….”

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Sam be the very essence of a person going places, great example to one
who wants to go places. Observe, ask questions, use ones own common sense, ready to go the extra mile, watch pennies, educate oneself in all aspects of the business one has chosen. Keep ones own negative opinions of your coworkers to one self. And above all else make good contacts [networking].
Don't wait for the questions, have the answers ready.
Be organised.

Xjy  •  Link

History and historiography
Historians don't just work from "primary sources". They work from material evidence and before and after context too. We don't just judge a period on the basis of what was known at the time. Sometimes we know much better than those involved what they were actually doing and why.
As for attitudes, Schopenhauer was a reactionary who hated the (democratic) way history was heading, so he had a material interest in obscurantism and resignation.
The best history of the Russian Revolution was written by Trotsky, who was actively and passionately involved in it. He didn't feel threatened by the truth, so employed all the sources and context available. He rarely relied on his own firsthand knowledge -- the input he got from this gave him perspective and trajectory so he could give each fact and action and quotation an adequate setting.
In fact, if you look at other great historians, like Thucydides, Caesar, Tacitus or Marx, they all had a clear big picture, and they were all passionately involved (Caesar as a major actor, too).
Our Sam is becoming passionately involved, and we are watching him develop a (feeble and conditional) understanding of the more general picture. So maybe not a great historian, but a great contributor to history :-)

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"History and Historiography"
Henry Ford said that "History is bunk";
he was right in the sense that we have to read it with "cumgrannisalis";but just think of the great movies we have seen!!!

language hat  •  Link

Excellent comment, Australian Susan!

"The best history of the Russian Revolution was written by Trotsky"
Well, at least we know where you're coming from. It's certainly the best Trotskyist history, at any rate!

Pedro  •  Link

Mathematical and Historical enquiry.

On this day Sam enquires of Mathematics and we enquire of History. A priori, subjective or metaphysical maybe, but surely not bunk! I think we must take Henry Ford's comment with a pinch of salt!

Sjoerd  •  Link

Quantum theory is not like Schopenauer.

Although it starts a very worthwhile discussion, I must disagree with the quantum physics comparison.
The Schroedingers Cat story has a different "pointe" then the one used here, I think.

To know, for instance , what colour of socks Samuel wore today is "unknowable", not because he wore socks of an undeterminable colour, but because he didn't write it down.
The point of the quantum cat story is that the cat IS neither dead or alive until a measurement is made.

Of course we could be both wrong, relatively speaking.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

"Henry Ford said that "History is bunk;” He be rite as it be tought, 1066 and all that, I liked his answer to the question of how many troops be in the Colonies [US of A] and my paraphrase of his answer, be a ‘lot less went home’,straight to the bottom line. Nice understandinfg of dates and names.

Araucaria  •  Link

On multiplication:

Russian peasant multiplication (… ) seems a lot easier to me that that "St. Andrew's Cross" method in the link dirk posted. Double and halve, keep track of remainders.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The arc of today's action

It appears to have been the "ingenious, and able, and studious to do good" William Coventry who organized this morning's bright-and-early surprise lighting-raids -- assisted by Pett and Pepys -- on the Deptford and Woolwich dockyards to assess the facilities, provisions and personnel for their performance with quality and cost (as Xjv noted), compliance and adequacy in mind, sc. "business and regulation, and. ..many things that will put matters into better order."

Methinks the men at the royal dockyards (not just these two) will talk about this day for a long time!

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

As a kid, 60 years ago, I learnt up '12 twelves is 144' by heart and I notice ot this day that I don't know without thinking what, e.g. '13 nines', is but have to think and do mental arithmetic. I would have thought that someone of his quick wits, working all the time with 'farthings' (1/4 d), 'hundredweights (8 stone), 'dozens' (12), 'baker's dozens' (13 - true: I've just checked with OED), 'stones' (= 14 lb), 'ounces' (16 to a lb.), 'scores' (20), 'guineas' (21/-) and 'chains' (22 yards), etc. etc. would have mastered the tables up to 20 twenties = 400.

What do they learn nowadays? I have a quiverful of grand nieces and nephews so I will make enquiries.

eileen d.  •  Link

more thanks to Dirk! and, joy of joys, the link still lives! :)
"Also have a look at this 17th c. mathematical "aide-memoire" - at a later stage Sam may have used something similar to help him remember his tables..."…

the discussion of the interest calculations references our very decade, the 1660's.
"The accountant and mathematical author, John Collins, wrote on simple and compound interest, annuities and related financial matters. In 1664/5 he issued a single folding sheet intended to be inserted in a letter case and to be used as a vade-mecum..."

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