2 Pilot guide / Bourne,W, 1578. / Virtual Rare Book Fair 106


Description: "For the first time in English letters, travel was viewed as a science" (Parker)
Extremely rare printed pilot guide:
BOURNE, William.
A booke called the treasure for traveilers, ...

London, [T. Dawson for] T. Woodcock, 1578. 5 parts in 1 volume. 4to. Late 18th-century half calf, red morocco spine label, marbled sides, red edges (neatly rebacked). Title-page and the 3 part-titles (to parts 3-5) each with a decoration built up from cast fleurons, also used as a tailpiece, with full-page woodcut coat of arms of the dedicatee, full-page woodcut diagrammatic surveying map, 36 woodcuts in the text and woodcut factotums. [11], "29" [= 34]; 25, [1]; 22, [1], [1 blank]; 21, [1]; [2], 5-"16" [=14], [4] ll.

First Edition of the first book in English on practical matters of geography and navigation, intended for pilots, ship's captains, sailors, soldiers, carpenters, surveyors and traders. Grounded in Bourne's own experience and addressed to those unschooled in mathematics, it boasts a string of firsts. It contains the first popular explanation in English of surveying by triangulation and the first illustration of this method applied to an actual location (at a scale of 1:52,800). It is the first English book to describe the volumes, capacities, and proportions of ships' hulls -- for loading and storing commercial merchandise, for getting ships over bars or shoals and for raising sunken vessels for salvage. It is the first book to set out the sizes and weights of cordage and give rules for their computation. And it offers the first explanation of ocean currents in English, including the North and South Atlantic Drift, on which the English relied in their subsequent aggressive expansion to the east and west.
The five parts, separately signed, foliated and indexed (with a drop-title for part 2 and part-titles without imprints for parts 3-5) could have been bound together or separately, so that one part could be taken to sea. They treat, in order, astronomical and geographical mensuration with astrolabe and cross-staff, longitude and latitude including a gazetteer (of England, Europe, Africa, the Far East and the New World), maps and sailing cards, the surface and volume and weight of commercial cargoes (lumber, stone, glass, pavers, etc.), the design and construction of ships' hulls, statics, tides and currents, and topographic features important to seamen. Along with savvy tricks for laying a ship on its side to cross exceptionally shallow passages, Bourne gives notes on distributing goods differently in merchantmen and in Royal Navy vessels (because of the latter's massive brick galleys and ovens). He also discusses the formation and peopling of the Americas.
The treasure also aided spies, brigands, explorers and gentleman tourists. The Preface "advised persons going into strange countries to observe the state of civilization of the region, the nature of the fortifications, access to the sea, the government, laws, buildings, natural enemies and friends among neighbouring states, the major items in trade, commodities produced, customs and tolls, manner of waging war, etc." (Parker). It represents a peculiarly "English" tradition, independent of Continental models, in which the traveller especially values the common weal.

The Macclesfield copy, with his 1860 armorial North Library bookplate. Title-page soiled, marginal worm-holes in first four and last six leaves, affecting text only in the errata (which is very slightly shaved) and 1 shoulder note. Otherwise in very good condition.
Adams & Waters, English maritime books 252; ESTC S104686; Johnson, Astronomical thought in Renaissance England 176 & 310; Kelso, Doctrine of the English gentleman in the 16th century 137; Luborsky & Ingram, A guide to English illustrated books 1536-1603, 3432; Parker, Books to build an empire 92-93 & 248; Sitwell, Four centuries of special geography 117; Stagl, Apodemiken: eine räsonnierte Bib. der reisetheoret. Lit. 22-23 ("sehr interessante…geschätzt"); Taylor, Tudor geography, 1485-1583, 153-161; Waters, The art of navigation in Elizabethan and early Stuart times 147-149; Wright, Middle-class culture in Elizabethan England 158-160 & 601-602.
  • Number: 1060195
  • Dealer: Speculum Orbis Nauticum