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Steel's Rigging & Seamanship (1794)
limited edition of 500 copies only
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The two volumes


The Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship first appeared in 1794, relatively early in Steel's career as a publisher. Its success confirmed Steel's reputation as a publisher of nautical works and spurred him later to produce his other great discourse, The Elements and Practice of Naval Architecture.

Rigging and Seamanship was the first work published in the English language that was really designed as a compendium of the knowledge required by a seaman. As such it was aimed at the ambitious young men wishing to rise in their profession: the Midshipmen and Master's Mates in the Navy; the apprentices and would-be Mates in the merchant fleets. In the event its appeal was much wider. Its success stemmed largely from two factors established by steel himself.

First, it was aimed at those aspiring to succeed in the largest single industry in Britain - and probably the world.
Second, it was essentially a practical man's guide to a practical business. Every skill that was required to be in the head - and hands - of a Master Mariner is dealt with in a logical sequence and in simple language: this is the essence of Steel's style.

This work was the bible for many midshipmen who joined the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary Wars, Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The coverage includes how to make all the sails, the masts, the anchors, how to tie knots, rig the ship, and actually sail the ship. Lastly, how to fight the ship. Where Naval Architecture shows you how to build the hull, Rigging and Seamanship covers everything else which formed part of the ship as well as how to use the ship.

The two volumes Quarto contain nearly 600 pages of which 150 are tables. These provide all the dimensions for Standing and Running Rigging for every type of ship in the Royal Navy in 1794. There are also tables which cover the same information for Masts and Yards, and for each and every Sail used onboard every ship, whether of the line or smaller. There are also 95 plates to illustrate the above and these plates include:


6 plates referring to Mastmaking.

2 plates referring to Ropemaking.

2 plates referring to Anchormaking.

34 plates referring to Sailmaking.

3 plates referring to Blockmaking.

3 plates referring to Knots and Rigging.

4 plates which cover the position of all sails and rigging of a fully rigged ship.

12 plates describing the features of sailing craft from around the world.

2 plates and 2 moveable vovelles describing the sailing of a fully rigged ship.

3 plates referring to the Mooring, the Stowing, and the use of a ship's Anchors.

19 plates referring to Naval Tactics.

2 Miscellaneous plates which refer to Emergency Rudder Repair, and Awnings on the Upper Deck of a Ship.

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Title page
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Sailmaking plate
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Rigging plate

David Steel
First published 1794, reprinted 1978 Sim Comfort Associates

Rigging and Seamanship comprises two volumes Quarto (10.6" x 9.2"/ 270mm x 235mm).
Bound in Blue Buckram with gilt title and devices housed in two green card cases.
Foreword by Dr. Alan McGowan of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Limited edition of 500 copies only
First come, first served!

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To order, call +44 (0)1905 776 073

(All mainland U.K. book orders please add £3.00 p&p, overseas at cost)

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To order, call:
+44 (0)1905 776 073
Or buy online at

To order, call:
+44 (0)1905 776 073
Or buy online at