Age of Invention: An Absent Atlantic

I’ve become engrossed this week by a book written in 1638, by the merchant Lewes Roberts — The Marchant’s Mappe of Commerce. It is, in effect, a guide to how to be a merchant, and an extremely comprehensive one too. For every trading centre he could gather information about, Roberts noted the moneys that were current, the weights and measures in use, and even their rates of exchange. He set down the various customs duties, down to the precise bribes you’d be expected to pay to various officials. In Smyrna, for example, Roberts recommended you offer the local

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