Seamans Secrets by John Davis - transcriber's introduction

The Seamans Secrets is a navigation manual, written by English seaman and navigator, John Davis. His letter of dedication to Lord Charles Howard, Baron od Effingham is dated 19 August 1594. One of the tables included in the text is for 1593. (Note for purists .... these dates are old calendar - before England adopted the Gregorian Calendar.) Earlier navigation manuals were available in England, but they were translations of Spanish works. There is some indication that Seamans Secrets was deliberately written differently from the Spanish translations so as not to violate their copyright status in England. There were many editions of the Seamans Secrets over a span of more than 60 years. It is interesting to note that although Copernicus had already written De Revolitionibus, Seamans Secrets still operationally worked under the theory of an Earth centered universe.

This transcription retains the archaic spelling of the original most of the time. The line length of each line is exactly the line length of the original, down to the breaks in words at the ends of the lines. Note that the originals were not paginated. (The pages were not numbered.) The end of each page had the first word on the following page printed at the bottom to aid continuity, and perhaps help the person who was binding the original printed work.

This transcription was done from photo reproductions of two different editions of Seamans Secrets that of the Newly Corrected, and the Eigth time Imprinted edition printed by Gartrude Dawson in 1657 and an earlier edition, also printed by Dawson in 1643. In some places the typography in the 1657 edition was so bad that the same passage had to be read and transcribed from the 1643 edition. For the most part, that which is presented is the 1657 edition. The 1643 edition that we had in hand did not include the second book of the work.

The reason for this transcritpion is that the transcribers acquired the copy and found it unreadable in any normal sense. The typography and lack of quality in the reproduction left one picking out meaning letter by letter rather than getting the sense of whole sentences. The transcription, done in the very early 1990's was done to make it readable. It is shared here for all to enjoy, and to enhance the understanding of marine navigation in the late 1500's and early 1600's.

As it was hand transcribed there some errors may have crept into the text. Spelling, for the most part, was left original... making the effective use of modern spell checkers impossible. When it was transcribed scanning equipment was not available to the transcribers, so some the illustrations were desciribed in their place in the text, and in some circumstances ascii character art was emmployed to enhnace the text. This first html edition has retained the ascii character art as well as included scanned images of the illustrations. The major tables are available as scanned images, with hot buttons from the text.

NOTE - the files are fairly large. Do have patience while they load up.

Click here for the first book of Seamans Secrets