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The Visual Encyclopedia of Nautical Terms Under Sail

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I'm sure this book is a fairly common part of most MSW member's libraries but I didn't find a review or mention of it here. Anyway, I've found it to be a good reference plus being fun just to look through.


The Visual Encyclopedia of Nautical Terms Under Sail

Basil W. Bathe, George P. B. Naish, Alan Villiers, et al

Crown Publishers, 1978 - 352 pages




This book is an excellent source for terminology dealing with seafaring for both the neophyte and the old salt alike. It is divided into a number of chapters according to the types of words being dealt with. Each word is defined clearly and concisely. Where necessary, clear line drawings illustrate terms that are difficult to completely explain in words. Also there are some comical illustrations for some of the more humorous items of sailor's slang. It also has sections relating to ship types and construction, sailing, sailors' customs, flags, calls and commands, navigation, weather, pilotage, tides and currents, fishing, and mooring and has a comprehensive index.


The book is readily available on both ebay and Amazon used for as little as $10 USD.

"It ain't gonna be no masterpiece so get on with it." ~ DeAnne Malpas, Professor of British History




Current build: La Belle Poule 1932 - Dusek 1:50

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't want to be a kill-joy, but because this book tried hard to be all things to all men when it came to the technology of sail, covering such a long time period with all the inherent complexities of such a development, much had to be omitted in order to arrive at a book that was saleable and useable! The resulting compromise made for a book that has little relevance or use to the serious student of sail but does have an appeal for the more general reader!


Basil Bathe, Alan Villiers and George Naish 'lent' their names to this publication as a means to improve sales and give greater credibility to the contents (I'm not suggesting that the contents are inaccurate or misleading, quite the opposite). All three were experts in their respective fields; Basil Bathe was the curator of the watercraft collection at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London (until the NMM opened this was one of the finest ship model collections in the world); George Naish was an expert on sailing warships and a long-standing member of the curatorial staff of the NMM (under both Frank Carr and Basil Greenhill); whilst Alan Villiers was an expert on the last days of merchant sail - he was also a qualified master and former owner of such ships.


The 'problem' with such books is that in trying to cover such a vast canvas they become tertiary reference sources, if indeed they reach such heights! I have a copy but doubt I've referred to it once since I bought it new many years ago! There are far more comprehensive and individual studies for most of the periods touched upon in this book that makes it superfluous - hence me not having used it since new!

member of
United States Naval Institute

Royal United Services Institute

Society for Nautical Research
Navy Records Society
author of
The Art of Nautical lllustration - A Visual Tribute to the Classic Marine Painters, 1991, 2001 & 2002
United States Coast Guard barque Eagle, 2013 (Blurb Photobook)
former assistant editor of the quarterly journal and annual 
Model Shipwright and Shipwright 2010

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I also have had this book for a number of years and whilst interesting, I have to agree with Michael, when he says that it tries to be all things to all men. Attempting to condense the whole period of sail, which covers many different changes in practice and technology, into one volume would be difficult in the best of circumstances, and impossible at worst. This book seems to fall somewhere in between. I suppose what it boils down to is: what do you put in such a book, and what do you leave out? I also tend not to use this book that often.


As a dictionary, I believe the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (the older version) is superior. However, a more in-depth practical book is 'Seamanship in the Age of Sail' by John Harland, which largely confines itself to the eighteenth century (which I guess for most of us is 'our' period) and also illustrates the practices of other nations.


Btw, Michael, nice to have you back!



Current builds: Sherbourne (Caldercraft) scale – 1/64th;


Statsraad Lehmkuhl (half model) 1/8th" – 1'.


Victory Bow Section (Panart/Mantua) scale – 1/78th  (on hold).


Previous build: Bluenose ll (Billings) scale – 1/100th.

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I looked this book over and decided that Mondfeld covered the information better.  Not as a detailed work, but only as a general reference.  I still use it for guidance (such as terminology) to dig deeper. 

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans                             Triton Cross-Section   

                                                                                                                       USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War  _(Gallery) Build Log

                                                                                Wasa (Gallery)

                                                                                                                        HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               


Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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