Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comore, Meroni

Bellin, Jacques Nicholas

Carte De L'Isle D' Anjouan (Comoros)

Paris: Chez Didot, 1784; from A.F. Prevost's Histoire Generale Des Voyages, Tome V, No. 13.


Thought I'd share what I found today. I will add some commentary soon.


  1. If someone could find a reference to Moroni and the Comoros in a pirate novel published prior to 1830, I might buy that there's a connection. (Joseph is said by Pomeroy Tucker to have read such novels about Captain Kidd.) I've had trouble finding many such novels, though. I doubt that Smith could have accessed maps like the one above.

  2. If a connection can be made, one would have all the reason in the world to believe that Joseph "borrowed" from the map to produce place names and characters in the Book of Mormon. However, even in light of higher criticism it would be interesting to see if a contemporary connection (as Chris Smith hinted at) can be made.

    Of course, I've recently felt that the "first person" narrative of Tobit in the Apocrypha (RSV) sounds a lot like reading 1 and 2 Nephi.

  3. I've been skeptical about the theory myself. But having come across this map after a mere few hours of research today, I can't help but wonder, "What else can I find, if only I invested the time/effort to search for it."

  4. I think that Ron Huggins's paper about Captain Kidd's treasure ghost began as an attempt to track down a contemporary connection for this borrowing, but he doesn't seem to have succeeded. My own search for pirate novels dating to the period wasn't terribly extensive, but there didn't seem to be much to find. Not saying you should give up, though.

    I did do a little poking around, and found that the "Meroni" on your map is not the same as the famous "Moroni," capital city of the present-day Comoros. Moroni is on a different island, in fact. The root "Mer" in your Meroni refers to the sea-- apparently an anchorage?

  5. Chris wrote: I did do a little poking around, and found that the "Meroni" on your map is not the same as the famous "Moroni," capital city of the present-day Comoros. Moroni is on a different island, in fact. The root "Mer" in your Meroni refers to the sea-- apparently an anchorage?"

    Me: Right. It is not the same as the capital city of the present-day Comoros, and the name may indeed mark the anchorate location. But why does that matter? If the possibility is granted that Joseph Smith could have lifted the names from sources like these, why would Joseph Smith care about the distinction you make? And would he have even been *aware* of such a distinction?

  6. Hey Mike - That is a really interesting find.

  7. "After three months of constant pain, Joseph Jr. passed the crisis... Convalescence dragged on for three years. To speed his recovery, die family sent him to Salem, on the Massachusetts coast, with his uncle Jesse to enjoy the sea breezes."
    "Salem was a vital part of British colonial trade as early as the mid-17th century. ...After the Revolutionary War, merchant ships from Salem reached nearly every port in the world. Almost fifty wharves lined Salem Harbor, each covered with warehouses filled with exotic and valuable cargoes. ."

    "the East India Marine Hall was a by-product of the East India Marine Society, which was organized in 1799 and incorporated early in the following year. Membership was limited to ships' masters or supercargos who had sailed around either Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.

    The purposes ..."to form a Museum of natural and artificial curiosities, particularly such as are to be found beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn."

    Construction of the 100-by-45-foot granite building was completed by October of 1825."

    "Q. Dr. Vanita Shastri, Congratulations on the book release. What prompted you to write a book about maritime trade between Salem, MA and India in the years 1788-1845?

    ... This process led me to discover several interesting facts about the trade between India and Salem MA during 1788-1845.

    Some of these were that during this period, a large number of sailors from Salem routinely went to trade with India. They took mostly hard currency to India to buy goods there. ...

    Q. Please describe how you pursued researching on the topic and what resources you used to unravel the facts and details of what appears to have been a flourishing trade in the18th century?

    I read every published book about this trade in various libraries, did research in Salem, MA at the Phyllis Library at the Peabody Essex Museum and the National Archives in Waltham.

    An interesting fact ... *every sailor going out on these ships was given a journal in which they were asked to write about the shoreline, giving directions to others following them. Once they began writing, the sailors also wrote of their experiences in India*. These original, handwritten journals and letters are available in libraries at Harvard and in Salem ... the National Archives has original documents from these ships."

  8. Might I recomend reading Washington Irving. His writings some of the most widely read in America including along the Erie Cannal book trade at just the right time, and Irving covers interesting topics such as Money Diggers and Captain Kidd at that time. We know Joseph liked Kidd, we know Kidd spent time in the Comoros Islands. Researchers have not yet been able to make the two actually touch in Palmyra. Yet ...

  9. Great suggestion, book1830. I've read his Money Diggers already, but don't remember anything about the Comoro islands. I'll have to check again, and look more into his other literature. Thanks.

    Tom Revere,
    Thanks for providing those quotes. Very very interesting possibilities.

    Thanks George Miller.

  10. Tyler Anderson writes: I've recently felt that the "first person" narrative of Tobit in the Apocrypha (RSV) sounds a lot like reading 1 and 2 Nephi.

    Me: I've felt much the same way. And as you may know, the Tobit was fairly well known among treasure-seekers, as its passages were read (Tobit 6:7,16,17; 8:3) for protection from the danger of the evil spirits that might be guarding the treasures. Rick Grunder's Mormon Parallels (entry 53) has some great material comparing the two narratives. The book (on CD) is over 2000 pages long. And no... I didn't accidentally add an extra zero. :) It is HUGE!

  11. FWIW... The Map above was catalogued in the New York State Library as early as 1856.

  12. Hi Mike,
    I liked your article. It is an intriguing idea that it could have been some influence to JS. I emailed Murray Hubbard, a map expert and he replied that this map probably had very limited access in the US around 1800-1830 but if it did it would have been specifically in the New Orleans area,therefore I cannot see a connection. Keep up the good work

  13. Thanks for your comments, Anijen. Did you happen to mention that the question pertains to Joseph Smith and his associates specifically? Did you mention that Joseph may have had an interest in the Comoros island through his and his associates' fascination with Captain Kidd? Supply/Demand has a funny way of effecting probability levels of access. Anyway... I'd like to read Murray Hubbard's comments myself (as well as your question to him), if you wouldn't mind. Could you either post those comments here, or forward me his contact info or email. Thanks.

  14. This map is actually from 1748, not 1784, as shown in the source you provided.

  15. Before I give my response, French is my language so be tolerent to me!

    All what is expressed here is far from reality. The word "Moroni" is typically comorian trasformed by the French, the former colonial authority. The original word has two meanings: " Mdroni" => mdro=fire or river and ni=> inside. So "mdroni" means => inside fire or inside river. There's another meaning version: "undroni" ; undro=> happiness and ni=>inside. I always heared my grandmother said: " I'm going to Undroni." In these two words there's a words game: pejorativelly Mdroni, in fire and Undroni, in happiness.

    About the name of Comores (Anjouan, Grande-Comore, Mayotte and Moheli) the original word is arabic. Kamar=>moon. Plural=>kumr, komr, komor. The islands were called by Arabs who came in the XIth century before Portugese, English and Dutch. Island in arabic=>jazeera, plural=> juzr. All that gives juzr al kamar or juzr el kumr, el komr=> moon islands that became commonlly "Kumr", komr, komor and Comores by the French. Portugese called it=>K'm'r
    Beside Captain Kidd, in 1720, july 25 took place near Anjouan, "Le combat d'Anjouan= the battle of Anjouan" between pirates' vessel (Edward England) and British East Indian's vessel. Also in 1851, August 6, "Sloop of War USS Dale" participated in an anti slavery mission in Anjouan. So Americans were in Comores in the same period when Joseph Smith began his religious adveture. Coïncidences may exist between names or words in several cultures but Moroni our capital and Mormon's "faith" is a crazy one!? I do respect LDS faith but JS was so clever than anyone else in his era. I met some LDS here in France and we had discussion on that, but their response was so laconic. And as we say in French "je suis resté sur ma faim".
    A très bientôt

    1. thanks for your response, Assoumani. I am not sure that what you offer contradicts my post (proving it to be "far from reality"). I've not asserted that the islands' capital is the inspired Moroni of the Book of Mormon. My focus is on Anjouan. BTW... you speak great English!