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Historical & Reference Works

Index History Design Practical Stories

The American Fishing Schooners - 1825-1935 Howard Chapelle

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You have to wonder if Howard Chapelle had a day job - or how he found the time to write such good, well-researched, intelligent books.

The Earliest Ships : The Evolution of Boats into Ships (Ed) Gardiner

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Fascinating and thorough - this book takes you from animal skins, dugouts and reed rafts to about 1000 AD.

The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War: 1625-1860 James Lees

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A very detailed treatise, making the interesting point that riggers almost deliberately made their work complex just to show off. Oh yes, also note that the Royal Navy gave up deadeyes just as soon as they could get their hands on rigging screws - about 1850.

Colin Mudie: Sailing Ships Colin Mudie

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Perhaps the pre-eminent designer of historical replicas, and modern sailing ships. And such a bright man, too.

Sutton Hoo Charles Green

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Included here not merely because I can see the site across the river from my window - and it is well worth a visit - but because it is a rare window into Saxon technology.

Inshore Craft of Britain Edgar March

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First published in 1970, it has been criticised for inaccuracies (not surprising in a work of this scope) and for being perhaps a little mean with the attribution of credit for some of the information. Nonetheless as a record of the boats and, just as importantly, the men in them, it easily stands the test of time. Id get it while you can

Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (ed) Mariner's Museum

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From aak to zumbra with 4,600 stops on the way. Whether it is comprehensive or accurate I am not competent to judge, but there is more in it than I have ever heard of. Again a dip-into book. It probably has a secondary use for Scrabble - for example qyax (a variant of kayak) would be a real killer on a treble word score.

The Gaff Rig Handbook John Leather

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Not quite as the title suggests in the sense it is not a handbook as such. But it is a very good treatment of the historical development and use of the rig.

The Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft Julian Mannering (ed)

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Complements McKee, and the earlier works of Edgar March - now out of print. This is a fascinating work of reference.

Working Boats of Britain Eric McKee

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This is a great book at the same time as being a nonsense. The great bit is the painstaking collection of data on the types of traditional craft around Britain, which is a stupendous achievement. The less great bit is to try and shoe-horn these into an overweening taxonomy to try and explain why they were like they were. That bit - an attempt to make the book academic? - doesn't work. Thankfully the good outweighs the less good by a wide margin.

Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland Mike Smylie

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Not in the same academic league as McKee or Mannering, but some fascinating information here on the use of fishing craft.

Seamanship in the Age of Sail John Harland, Mark Myers

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Handy if you are about to embark on a tall ship?

Cogs, Caravels and Galleons Richard W. Unger

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Probably not essential - but these ships embodied the technology leading to European hegemony of the world. And boy, were they small by today's standards.

The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor : Or a Key to the Leading of Rigging and to Practical Seamanship Darcy Lever

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Nobody needs this book, but everyone should have a copy for its mixture of esoterica, drawings and advice on how to handle a square rigger.

The Art of Rigging Capt George Biddlecombe

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..before it became a science.

The Rigging of Ships in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast 1600-1720 R.C Anderson

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Again hardly essential reading, but good fun.

Sailing Ships of War 1400-1860 Frank Howard

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About to be re-published, but I have ordered one!

The Seaman's Friend : Containing a Treatise on Practical Seamanship Richard Henry Dana

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Again, handy for sailing your square rigger, or if you are building a model thereof. Some of the employment practices are a bit outdated.