17 June 2008
BOWDITCH, Nathaniel (1773-1838). The New American Practical Navigator. Newburyport, (Mass.): Edmund M. Blunt, 1802.
8o (216 x 140 mm). Folding engraved frontispiece map, 7 engraved plates, woodcut diagrams in text (frontispiece linen-backed, with tear along fold and some loss at edges, some browning to text and plates). Contemporary calf (rebacked preserving original spine); quarter morocco folding case. Provenance: William Nelson (signature on page v); J.L. Corish (signature on pastedowns); William M. Fitzhugh (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS ON PRACTICAL NAVIGATION. On his voyage in 1800, skilled navigator and mathematical prodigy Nathaniel Bowditch discovered numerous errors in the existing navigational literature at the time. He realized that the English Navigators had been calculated on the erroneous assumption that 1800 was a leap year, causing his ship to go 23 miles off its course. Upon further study of the material, Bowditch found over 8,000 additional errors and decided to write a new book of his own on the subject. "The result was this, the best book of its kind in English... [it] was the first complete epitome of practical navigation for the common man, and was at once acclaimed by the maritime world... Often termed the greatest book in all the history of navigation, this intellectual achievement of our early culture was indispensable to the maritime and commercial expansion of the nineteenth century" (Grolier). Dibner Heralds of Science 15; Grolier/American 25; Howes B-657; Norman 292; Shaw & Shoemaker 1938; Streeter sale VII:3967.
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