Treatises on Shipbuilding

Introduction

We are trying to make available a number of technical texts on shipbuilding and maritime history that are not readily available worldwide.

c. 1450 Amat, Gracia Calavera de Gracia Amat Spain / Catalonia
c. 1570 Oliveira, Fernando Ars nautica Portugal
1575 Mendoza, Jhoan de Escalante de Itinerario de Navegacion de los Mares y Tierras Occidentales Spain
1575-1625 Anonymous Livro náutico Portugal
c. 1580 Oliveira, Fernando Livro da fabrica das naus Portugal
1587 Palacio, Diego Garcia de Intrvcion navthica para el bven vso, y regimiento de las Naos, su traça, y gouierno conforme à la altura de Mexico Spain
1588-1633 Ataíde, D. António de Harvard Codices Portugal
1598 Sebastião Themudo Traça de uma não da India ordenada por Sebastião Themudo Portugal
1598 Roiz, Gonçalo Traça de uma não para a India ordenada por Gonçalo Roiz conforme a não Conceição Portugal
c. 1600 Lavanha, João Baptista Livro primeiro de arquitectura naval Portugal
1607 Anonymous Ordenanzas Spain
1611 Cano, Tomé Arte para fabricar, fortificar y aparejar naos Spain
1613 Anonymous Ordenanzas Spain
1616 Fernandez, Manoel Livro de traças de carpintaria Portugal
1618 Anonymous Ordenanzas Spain
c. 1630 Sousa, Gonçalo de Coriosidades de Gonçalo de Sousa Portugal
1640-1641 Aguilar, Marcos Cerveira de Advertências de navegantes Portugal
c. 1630 Anonymous Memorial das varias coisas importantes Portugal
1631-1632 Soto, Pedro Lopez de ? The Dialogos entre un vizcaino y un montañez Spain / Basque Country
1688 Gaztañeta, José Antonio de Arte de fabricar Reales Spain / Basque Country
1691 António Garrote Fabrica de Baseles Spain
1719-1756 Marquez de la Victoria Album Spain
1720 Gaztañeta, José Antonio de Proporciones de las medidas mas essempciales Spain / Basque Country

FRANCE


Des Bois Propres Au Service des Arsenaux (1813)

Des bois propres au service des arsenaux, de la marine et de la guerre ou développement et rapprochement des lois, règlemens et instructions concernant la recherche, le martelage et l’exploitation des arbres propres aux constructions navales, de l’artillerie, etc. : accompagné de 40 planches gravées et enluminées, représentant des arbres qui fournissent les diverses pièces de construction : à l’usage de MM. les agens forestiers, de la marine, de l’artillerie et des équipages militaires, ainsi que des adjudicataires et propriétaires de bois, et des fournisseurs des arsenaux » ; Paris, L’Huillier , 1813. 1 vol in-8° de XXIII, (1), 304, (6) pp. et 40 planches h.-t. Première édition. De l’exploitation des bois pour la marine et de la législation sur ce sujet. Illustré par 32 planches en couleurs montrant les arbres et les diverses pièces de construction qu’ils fournissent, 7 schémas de pièces ou de bateaux et 1 grande planche dépliante imprimée sur les deux faces

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ITALY


Nautica Mediterranea (1601)

The Nautica Mediterranea is a book by Bartolomeo Crescenzio Romano, printed in Rome in 1601 by Bartolomeo Bonfadino. It is a treatise whose first chapter is dedicated to the construction of galleys and contains a clear description of the methods in use to pre-design the frames that were to be pre-erected over the keel, showing the narrowing and rising of the bottom marked on the turn of the bilge, in the Mediterranean tradition.

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NETHERLANDS


De Nederlandsche Scheeps-bouw-konst Open Gestelt (1691)

Cornelis van IJk published this work in 1697 (26 years after Witsen’s manuscript). The first edition was printed by Andries Voorstad in Delft. As a shipwright from Delfthaven, Cornelis van IJk did not descend from an upper social class. He was a descendant of a family of shipwrights. As a son and grandson of ship carpenters, he became an apprentice on a shipyard at the age of 12. He must have been making drawings at an early age and after his uncle, also a shipwright, left him a thick pile of shipbuilding notes, he probably decided to write his book. In his book, van IJk discusses, a variety of topics: the history of shipbuilding, galley construction, English and French shipbuilding, timber and timber prices, sailing and outfitting ships, and so on. He also provides a table with overall measurements of different sizes of Dutch ships. Although van IJk writes from the standpoint of his experience as a shipwright and obviously knows very well what he is talking about, Witsen’s work is much more detailed.
Like Nicolaes Witsen in his book Architectura navalis et regimen nauticum, Cornelis describes the design and construction of a complete vessel from step one, but focuses more on practical than on theoretical matters. Unlike Witsen, he is obviously referring to a frame-based construction method used in Dutch shipbuilding during the 17th century, which probably made its way in to the Lowlands in the second half of the 17th century. It seems that the new shipbuilding technique was first introduced to the southern parts of the Netherlands and eventually made its way up north. The works of Witsen and Van IJk form the theoretical foundation of Dutch naval architecture in the 17th century, and also represent a change in construction method used in shipbuilding.

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PORTUGAL


Historia Trágico Marítima – Tomo Primeiro (1552)

The História Trágico-Marítima was first published in 1735/1736 by Bernardo Gomes de Brito, and consisted of two volumes with twelve narratives of shipwrecks and other maritime disasters. Mostly reprints of sixteenth and seventeenth century pamphlets, these narratives were an immediate success and triggered the edition of a third volume with another six accounts, clandestinely published by an anonymous printer that has never been identified.

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Historia Trágico Marítima – Tomo Segundo (1565)

The História Trágico-Marítima was first published in 1735/1736 by Bernardo Gomes de Brito, and consisted of two volumes with twelve narratives of shipwrecks and other maritime disasters. Mostly reprints of sixteenth and seventeenth century pamphlets, these narratives were an immediate success and triggered the edition of a third volume with another six accounts, clandestinely published by an anonymous printer that has never been identified.

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Liuro da Fabrica das Naus (c. 1580)

The Liuro da Fabrica das Naus has been dated to 1580 and is the earliest surviving treatise on shipbuilding in Portuguese. It’s author, father Fernando Oliveira had written a previous treatise in Latin, titled Ars Nautica. The Liuro is the theoretical work of a scholar and not the practical work of a shipwright. It is comprised of a clear text, with few illustrations, and is, unfortunately, incomplete. As it survived, it is divided into nine chapters. Father Oliveira defines the dimensions of the primary structural components of a ship – stem, stern post, midship and tail frames – as simple proportions of the length of the keel. He then describes the use of algorithms similar to the ones described by Timbotta – such as the mezzaluna or the incremental triangle – to calculate the narrowing and rising of the floor timbers in the central portion of the hull, between tail frames (almogamas), the first and the last of the pre-designed frames of a vessel.

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Livro Primeiro de Arquitectura Naval (c. 1600)

The Livro Primeiro de Arquitectura Naval has been dated between 1608 and 1615, and is generally considered to have been written around 1600 by João Baptista Lavanha, the Chief Engineer and Chief Cosmographer of the kingdom of Portugal at that time. It is the theoretical work of a scholar, and not a practical text of a shipwright. It deals only with one type of vessel: the four decked nau for the India Route. It is clearly more modern than Oliveira’s Liuro da Fabrica das Naus, basing the construction of hulls on paper drawings. Nevertheless, Lavanha calls for the need to pre-design a central portion of the hull, although only for five frames forward and abaft the midship section. The importance of this treatise lies in its accurate description of construction techniques, and in its detailed illustrations. It is incomplete, ending abruptly in the beginning of a description of the drawing of plans.

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Livro de Traças de Carpintaria (1616)

The Livro de Traças de Carpintaria is signed by a Manoel Fernandez, shipwright, and dated to 1616. We do not know with certainty who this shipwright named Fernandez was, although there are a few possible candidates, none of whom were ever entrusted with high ranking responsibilities either in Lisbon or in India. The Livro de Traças describes a variety of vessels, from caravels to India naus, and is divided into two main sections. The first section has lists of dimensions of the primary structural components of a ship such as stem, stern post, midship and tail frames. The second contains an impressive collection of drawings, mainly intended as descriptions of the structural components of the ships, and less concerned with the conceptual aspect of the shipbuilding process.

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Livro Náutico (1575-1625)

The Livro náutico is a collection of manuscripts bound in two volumes, with 86 and 144 folios respectively, and dating between 1575 and 1625. It is presently located in the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon. It contains important data pertaining to the organization of the part of the Spanish Armada of 1588 that was fitted in Lisbon, as well as several lists containing armament and victuals for India naus.

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Memorial das Várias Cousas Importantes (1575-1625)

Memorial das várias cousas importantes, Codex 637 in the Secçáo de Reservados of the Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, is part of a larger codex that included most if not all of the folios now binded in the Livro Náutico. It is also a collection of late 16th and early 17th century documents related to the management of the kingdom of Portual, and contains important data related to the organization and manning of the crown’s fleets.

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Coriosodades de Gonçallo de Sousa (c. 1630)

Coriosodades de Gonçallo de Sousa is a manuscript dating to around 1630 and containing some very interesting lists with shipbuilding information. When analysed together with the one of the Livro de Traças de Carpintaria, it becomes clear that these two texts are copies of the same original. It is currently at Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra with the reference Ms. 3074. It is not yet published.

Advertências de Navegantes (1640)

Advertências de Navegantes, authored by Marcos Cerveira de Aguilar, is a codex dated to 1640 and presently located in the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon. On folio two its author mentions “the 1st of December of this year of 1640,” which is the date of the rebellion that made Portugal independent from the Spanish crown. It is a rather complete overview of the Portuguese navy, from the construction of ships, rigging and fitting, launching, and manning to a collection of chapters with general rules and knowledge useful to every navy officer.

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