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The Great Ordnance Survey of 1698: A Facsimile

Introduction by Richard Endsor and Frank Fox

Florence, Oregon: SeaWatchBooks, 2013

8-1/2” x 12”, hardcover, 275 pages. $95.00

ISBN: 9780983753255


            At first glance, this volume seems so esoteric as to appeal to a tiny minority of the maritime community. Closer examination, however, quickly dispels that notion; this facsimile potentially appeals to a very wide audience and, given that it is limited to 199 copies, potential readers probably should not postpone a decision to purchase for too long.


            What, then, makes a facsimile of an inventory so interesting and useful? First, there is the very useful and concise introduction, which explains the background to the survey, its scope and limitations, and the most effective manner in which researchers can exploit it. Although not explained elsewhere, this is where one finds the index, an essential tool for making good use of the survey itself.

            The survey itself is valuable on multiple fronts. Researchers may use it to validate the armament tables for Royal Navy ships of the period. Archaeologists will find it very useful in identifying specific tubes uncovered on underwater or terrestrial sites, and in determining a part of the history of such identified weapons. They also may find it useful to know such inventory numbers exists at all—more than one researcher has spent years puzzling over numbers engraved into gun barrels that do not seem to correlate to the usual meanings (either casting dates or indications of weight).


            Modelers, too, will find this facsimile very useful when constructing projects of the era. The establishment for the galley frigate Charles Galley, for example, indicates its armament as eight 12-pounders, twenty-two 6-pounders, and six 4-pounders. The survey tells us that, in 1698, it actually carried twenty-six 6-pounders and six 3-pounders. Furthermore, the survey also lists the lengths, diameters at the trunnions, and diameters of the trunnions for each gun, opening up the possibility of making very accurate models of each weapon (some of the ship’s 6-pounders were nine feet long, some eight, and some only six and a half!).


            All in all, this is a fascinating document. Any researcher, archaeologist, or modeler dealing with late seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century English ships will find it a valuable resource.


Paul E. Fontenoy

North Carolina Maritime Museum




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