Notes for Extracts from the Journal of Bernhard Philipp Berckemeyer

(1) December 25 is the "first day of Christmas"; see for instance:

(2) The wages are presumably given in rupees, the currency of India. In British India 1 rupee = 16 annas; see e.g.

(3) The wage for a Consummah published in the India Gazette on Oct. 12, 1782, was 10 rupees; see:

(4) Here "a" may mean "to", which would mean that the pay per month was 20 to 25 rupees. However the meaning is not entirely clear. The German text was transcribed from a hand-written copy of the original journal. A scanned image of this page of the hand-written copy may be viewed here.

(5)  Probably "jemauldar" refers to an upper servant; see:

(6) A "peon" was a messenger or attendant; see:

(7) A "waterman" was presumably a servant who supplies the family with water; see: According to this source, the wage for a waterman ("beasty") published in the India Gazette on Oct. 12, 1782, was 5 rupees.

(8) A "syce" was a groom, i.e. a servant employed to look after horses, drive carriages, etc.; see:

(9) A "burdar" was a servant who carries something; see:

(10)  A "matrany" may have been a female sweeper; see:

(11) The Coromandel Coast is India’s southeastern coast.

(12) Orissa lies between Bengal and the Coromandel Coast. See:

(13) According to: 1 maund = 40 kg.

(14) Perhaps this may refer to a type of "canoe" or small boat.

(15) Batavia was founded in 1619 and renamed Jakarta in 1949. Batavia was the headquarters of the Dutch East India company.

(16) Saltpeter has many uses, for instance it is the chief constituent of gunpowder. See: Dissolving saltpeter in water can produce very low temperatures. This was an early method of refrigeration; see:

(17) Abbé Guillaume Thomas François Raynal (1713-1796).

(18) For a description of how opium was produced from poppies, see:

(19) Distilled spirits; see for instance:

(20) "Tuddy" presumably refers to palm toddy, also called palm wine, which is made from the sap of various species of palm. See:

(21) For a description of how coir is produced from coconuts, see:

(22) Presumably referring to Johann Gerhard Koenig, with whom the author was acquainted. He was a botanist and student of Linnaeus and in 1778 entered the service of the British East India Company.

(23) Probably referring to jute. According to tossa jute = Corchorus olitorius L. and white jute = Corchorus capsularis L.

(24) Crotalaria juncea, or Sunn hemp, is native to India; see: "Crolataria" in the original is presumably a misspelling of "Crotalaria".

(25) Like Crotalaria juncea, the Aeschynomeneae tribe belongs to the Fabaceae (legume) family.

(26) "Setban" and "Sesban" in the text may refer to "Sesbania". Like Aeschyomene, Sesbania is a genus in the legume family.

(27) The Malabar Coast is India’s southwestern coast.

(28) An interesting history of Cossimbazar can be found at:

(29) Also spelled Rungpoor or Rangpur.

(30) Probably Piper longum; see:

(31) Possibly Basora or Basra (Iraq).

(32) According to Boglepore is now Bhagalpur, India.

(33) Presumably referring to "Bhagalpur silk".

(34) The additional phrase in the German original "dienen auch nur zum einlüste" may perhaps be a typing error.

(35) In Burma.

(36) See: Diospyros is a genus of the Ebenaceae (the ebony family).

(37) Hyder Ali (c. 1722-1782) was an Indian ruler and commander; see:

(38) Tippoo Saib or Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) was the son and successor of Hyder Ali. See: for an account of the second Anglo-Mysore war (1780-1784).

(39) "Pisan" may refer to "pisang", meaning "bananas" (

(40) The rose apple (Syzygium jambos) is also known as plum rose or Malabar plum; see:

(41) Polynemus risua. According to: the mango fish of the Ganges River gets its name from the fact that it appears at about the same time as the mango fruit, in April or May.

(42) Lates calcarifer, see: According to this source, the cockup was considered to be "an excellent tablefish" in British India, and sometimes grew to eight feet in length.

(43) Presumably this refers to "cobra de capelo". The use of this term in British India is described in: For modern English names of poisonous snakes of India, see:

(44) Presumably this refers to "cobra manilla". The use of this term in British India is described in:

(45) Here the author uses the German word "Revieren", which means "districts". However since he also uses many English words, from the context it seems likely that he may mean "rivers".

(46) The use of the word "alligator" in British India is described in: In modern English, the creatures living in India are called "crocodiles" and are classed as reptiles rather than amphibians.

(47) The use of the word "cayman" in British India is described in: In modern English the word "caiman" is used to refer to several species of the alligator family which live in Central and South America.

(48) For a history of Chandernagore, see:

(49) explains that Hindus were formerly referred to as "Gentoos" by the Europeans. See also:

(50) The "mile" as a unit of measurement was not standard from country to country. England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Germany and Italy for instance, used "miles" of different lengths.

(51) A short description of Fort William can be found at: According to this source, the fort was rebuilt in 1781 at an expense of 2 million British pounds, and was designed to accommodate 10,000 soldiers.