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Royal Navy Master's logbook recording the tour of HMS Amazon

commanded by Charles Barker, patrolling the Singapore and Malacca Roads, January 1851 to April 1852, with two other voyages aboard HMS Dragon during the Crimean War, December 1853 to November 1854, and HMS Powerful to the West Indies, October 1855 to September 1856.

Stock Code 109300


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Watercolours of Singapore and the West Indies. A richly illustrated record of service in the Royal Navy at the height of British maritime supremacy. Unusually for logbooks of this type, which were often kept by Midshipmen and other junior officers, Benjamin Renaud (d.1906) was the Master of Amazon, Dragon and Powerful, the senior officer aboard the ship responsible for matters pertaining to navigation and sailing.

Renaud's logbook offers a unique visual record of the Far East and West Indies during the last days of the age of sail, depicting in vivid detail the sights and vistas of Singapore, the Strait of Malacca, and port towns across the West Indies through a series of 25 watercolour illustrations. Two particularly striking full-page watercolours show Singapore Harbour at the beginning of its transformation to become what is today one of the largest trading ports in the world.

The account opens in January 1851 aboard HMS Amazon, a converted 26-gun corvette patrolling the south-west coast of British Malaya. Nominally on an anti-piracy mission, Britain was really interested in extending its presence in this spice-rich region, and the logbook records the frequent stops Amazon made to ports across the Straits Settlements and beyond, including a visit to the recently established 'White Raj' of Sarawak controlled by the powerful English-born Brooke family. Further watercolours depict the merchant traffic and junk boats in transit across this busy stretch of water.

Coming to the assistance of The Charles Forbes, a stranded merchant vessel 'on shore with a valuable cargo on the Pyramid Shoal', Amazon was able to rescue '30 chests of opium' — in addition to the sailors — earning the crew a lucrative $5000 in prize money. Later, in October 1851 she received word from the ship Rajah out of Liverpool that a merchant barque had 'run aground on the main land north of Dingding and 2 hours after [was] in flames… we learnt afterwards at Penang that the ill-fated barque was the Fawn, Rogers, Master, crew (Malay) had mutinied, murdered the Captain and officers with Master's wife and another lady, the former lady under circumstances of great atrocity – after firing the vessel they went up the River Perai – the Rajah secured and sent them to Penang, where they were tried – 5 executed and the rest transported'.

Renaud soon set sail again in the six-gun paddle ship HMS Dragon bound for the Baltic theatre of the Crimean War. Here on 22nd May 1854, under orders from Admiral Sir Charles Napier, Dragon participated in the shelling of Fort Gustavsvärn: 'Commenced firing at 2 pm. 1650 yards distant. [Anchored] SSE from the fort. Left off at 4. Recalled by signal, lost one marine killed – and 2 wounded – struck by enemy in 23 places, two of them between wind and water'. The shelling is depicted in a dramatic watercolour showing tongues of flame escaping Dragon.

The last 23pp are given-over to the West Indies, as the ailing 84-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Powerful under Captain Thomas Lecke Massie made its last major voyage across the seas. Watercolours depict the harbour-side towns of Port Royal, Port au Prince, Montego Bay, Havana, St. Georges, and Roseau as Powerful made her way up the Caribbean Sea to Jamaica in the South, and onwards to Cuba and Bermuda deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

Renaud retired from the Royal Navy in 1870 with the rank of Staff Commander, an appointment awarded only to Masters who had shown 'distinguished or highly meritorious service', and a glowing character reference from Captain Massie: 'The most attentive and competent officer I ever met with'.

Illustrated manuscript logbook; folio (33.5 x 21 cm); 74pp. of text in a neat legible hand in pen, recording daily positions, weather conditions, and observations, 25 original watercolours signed 'B.R.', including 11 full-page, scenes include Cape Town, Singapore, Bintang, the Malacca Straights, Bornean blacksmiths, Chinese junk, Ascension, St. Helena, sugar plantation at St. James Montego, King's Square Jamaica, Kingston Jamaica, coffee plantation at St. Andrews, Dragon shelling Fort Gustavsvärn, Magicienne shelling Russian forts in Hanko Bay, Port Royal, Port au Prince, Montego Bay, Havana, St. George's Bermuda, Lethe Bridge Jamaica, Whitney Estate Jamaica, Roseau Dominica, Ladorie St. Lucia; original half roan, marbled boards, minor restoration to spine and corners, small clean slit (3 cm) to upper margin of the view of St. George's, minor damp staining to head margin, otherwise crisp and clean, the watercolours vibrant.


Provenance: from a private collection.


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Royal Navy Master's logbook recording the tour of HMS Amazon

[RENAUD, Benjamin].

Stock code: 109300



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