[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
[De la navigation]
Strengthening French Commercial Influence in the New World & Asia
Extensively Illustrated Navigational Manuscript from 1670s France
Related to Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s Reforms in Maritime Pedagogy
Likely from the Ambit of the Newly Founded Hydrographical Schools of Le Havre
[Manuscript] / [Navigation] / [France]..
France [Le Havre?], s.n., [c. 1671].

[De la navigation].

4to [22.7 x 17.0 cm], 192 ff., with some 200 illustrations, diagrams, charts, and ‘paper instruments,’ 8 of which include volvelles (all intact), 6 of which are folding, and several of which are in color. Bound in contemporary vellum painted brown, red sprinkled edges. Rubbing and edge wear to spine and boards, still structurally very sound. Occasional nonobtrusive staining, a few contemporary annotations and corrections, a few mends on verso to folds of plates & tables and minor areas of ink burn, colors still fresh and vibrant, neatly written and perfectly legible throughout.

Extensively illustrated, visually appealing unpublished French navigational manuscript dating from the early 1670s, making it an important early witness to the maritime pedagogical reforms instituted by Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) during his effort to strengthen the French navy, create a favorable balance of trade for the nation, increase France’s colonial holdings, and ensure that the newly founded French East India and West India Companies (1664) had uninterrupted access to foreign markets for coffee, cotton, pepper, sugar, dyewoods, furs, and the like. As Secretary of the Navy (from 1669) and founder of the French merchant marines, Colbert recognized that keeping pace with Spanish, Dutch, and English maritime powers would require a centralized campaign to expand French fleets and educate thousands of new sailors for open-water sailing according to the newest navigational techniques (for this history see Anthiaume, vol. 1, pp. 111 ff.). The present manuscript, which mentions locales from the Moluccas to Brazil to Newfoundland (Terre Neuve), was designed to introduce the aspiring navigator to both fundamental and cutting-edge techniques for wayfinding on the high seas: Although lavishly decorated, the work ignores much of the casual lore often found in such manuals in favor of focused mathematical lessons intended for use by professionals-in-training.

The volume opens with a definition of navigation (safely “to discover new worlds and carry back goods from them and from other foreign lands”), calendrical and astronomical information (moon phases, golden numbers, epacts, using the ‘rule of thumb,’ tides, dominical letters, movable feasts, etc.), and an introduction to the ‘sphere’ (celestial globes, terrestrial globes and armillary spheres, longitude, latitude, zodiacal signs, poles, etc.). Calendrical tables begin with the year 1672, which suggests a creation date for the manuscript of about 1671. Extensive illustrations and ‘paper instruments,’ several of which include volvelles, are provided to introduce navigators to these concepts. There follow longer sections on finding latitude at sea, solar parallax, solar and stellar refraction (with tables derived from Philippe van Lansberge and Tycho Brahe), navigation with the compass, magnetic variation, etc. Of special note are the manuscript’s extensive instructions on navigation using trigonometric and sinical methods, a focus of Colbert’s modernization of maritime education at the hydrographical schools of Dieppe, Honfleur, Rouen, and Le Havre. (M. Schotte’s recent Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 [2019] examines the mathematical navigation books written in this period by the Dieppe professor Guillaume Denys.)

The present, anonymously authored, manuscript should perhaps be associated with the hydrographical culture of Le Havre: The volume’s sections on logarithmic/sinical navigation are clearly related the Le Havre nobleman Guillaume Blondel Saint-Aubin’s Le veritable art de naviger par le quartier de reduction (1671), although the passages of the manuscript and printed book differ considerably in orthography, extent and arrangement. The manuscript is unfinished in places, was written out by several hands, and shows here and there that the scribe misunderstood certain technical terms. It is possible that the volume was a prospectus for an (unrealized) comprehensive navigational treatise by Blondel, whose Trésor de la navigation (1673), Les principes de la navigation (1675) and L’arsenal des tems (1693) would later touch on several of the fundamental navigational concepts included at the start of the manuscript (for Blondel see Anthiaume, vol. 1, pp. 248-59). Blondel’s books were published in Le Havre by the imprimeur-libraire Jacques Gruchet, a specialist in maritime publishing who also worked with the town’s official professeur d’hydrographie, Georges Boissaye du Bocage, a Colbert appointee (Gruchet published, for example, Boissaye du Bocage’s 1678 map of Newfoundland; note that, in its discussion of marine cartography, the present manuscript includes a map of Newfoundland [f. 100]).

If not a prospectus for an unrealized treatise, then the manuscript is perhaps a rather sophisticated student work from the pedagogical ambit of Boissaye du Bocage, who certainly knew Blondel personally and could have drawn on his unpublished or newly published texts (for Boissaye du Bocage’s pedagogy and his relation to Colbert’s reforms see Anthiaume, vol. 1, pp. 236-53). The high level of (often whimsical) decoration in the manuscript perhaps suggests an owner of rather elevated status (note for example the grotesque combatants copied from Jacques Callot’s etched Gobbi suite [1616], ff. 19 and 20r.). An ‘AB’ monogram placed at the foot of each of the tables of solar declination (ff. 68-74) might warrant further investigation to establish the manuscript’s author/owner and their place in development of French navigational culture under the leadership of Colbert.

* A. Anthiaume, Evolution et enseignement de la science nautique en France, 2 vols.; M. E. Schotte, Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800.

 

Price: $24,500.00

See all items in Rare Books