Monthly Archives: November 2016

Of Tartary

The Universal Pocket Companion (3rd edition, 1760), mostly comprises ready-reckoner type tables as well as information on weights, measures, and currencies, and a lengthy listing of London merchants.  All good practical information.


The book also includes brief summaries of history and geography. Here we see what those who were commoditizing information felt should be part of the mental furniture of the mildly-educated mid-eighteenth century Londoner.  From the geography section, here is the one-paragraph summary of Tartary.

OF TARTARY—The Air of this Country is very different by Reason of its vast Extent from North to South: The most Southern Parts having the same Latitude with the middle Provinces of Spain and the most Northern reaching beyond the arctick polar Circle. The longest Day in the North is about two Months, and the shortest in the South nine Hours and three Quarters.  The Manners of the People are very rude and barbarous; their ordinary Food is Horse-Flesh, and they live in Tents and open Fields. The Religion is Paganism in the North and towards the South Mahometism prevails.  The Great Cham of Tartar is an absolute Monarch, and assumes such a proud Superiority over his Subjects as never to be spoke to but upon their Knee with their Faces towards the Ground. His Subjects stile him the Shadow of God; he looks upon himself as the Monarch of the whole World; and every Day after he has dined, he causes the Trumpets to sound, thereby giving Leave to all the Kings and Princes of the Earth to go to Dinner. The chief Commodities of this Country are Sable, Martins, Silk, Camblets, Flax, Musk, Cinnamon, and great Quantities of Rhubarb.

Now you know all that it was deemed necessary for you to know about Tartary.

Back in the day, this book would have set you back three shillings.  If you missed your chance at the time, you can now get a look at it free with an internet connection through the magic of Google Books.