Book Review. Nautical Works

Book Review – by Richard Crockett
Nautical Works
by Jacques Devaulx
Published by Taschen

It is not often that when one opens a book one’s breath is taken away! This book is one of those that piques the interest from the outset as it is beautifully packaged, beautifully presented in every way and printed on sumptuous eco-friendly paper too.

It has a WOW factor that simply escalates as one pages through this coffee table tome which is liberally illustrated in glorious full colour pics.

So what is it about?

This is a complete reprint of the exquisite, 16th-century Nautical Works, a fascinating insight into Renaissance seafaring and the ultimate art book for nautical aficionados.

It is a magnificent maritime showpiece, as well as an encyclopaedic reference for sailors at the time, the folios are a repertoire of naval and cosmographic tools and techniques, including astrolabes, nautical charts of the Atlantic Ocean, tabular statements of diurnal tides, astrological charts, and measurements for solar altitude.

The book encapsulates the state of knowledge at a time when sailors pushed the limits of sea exploration and offers a glimpse into the practical daily requirements of seafaring in the 16th century.

It is printed in 3 languages in the same tome, the languages being English, French and German.

Five hundred years after the historic French seaport of Le Havre was established, The publishers, TASCHEN, presents a facsimile reproduction of Les premières œuvres de Jacques Devaulx, pilote en la marine, first published by Le Havre-born “Naval Pilot to the King” Jacques Devaulx in 1583. This extraordinary illuminated manuscript, dedicated to the Duke of Joyeuse, collates nautical, astronomical, and cartographic ideas as well as Devaulx’s own extensive notes, observations, and records as a seafarer, hydrographer, cosmographer, and cartographer.

An encyclopaedic reference for sailors, as well as a magnificent maritime showpiece for his royal employers, the elaborately annotated and decorated folios are a repertoire of naval and cosmographic tools and techniques, including astrolabes, nautical charts of the Atlantic Ocean, tabular statements of diurnal tides, astrological charts, and measurements for solar altitude. They also gather Devaulx’s volvelles, wheel charts made of rotating parts that are today considered an early example of the paper analog computer. Together, the folios encapsulate the state of knowledge at a time when sailors pushed the limits of sea exploration and offer a glimpse into the practical daily requirements of Renaissance seafaring.

This edition of Devaulx’s stunning document, produced in collaboration with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, reproduces each of the 31 folios in all their brilliant art and science, including the original colourful illuminations, in particular the volvelles. The volume features essays by Jean-Yves Sarazin and Gerhard Holzer, as well as commentaries from a team of experts coordinated by Élisabeth Hébert and Véronique Hauguel-Thill, contextualizing Devaulx’s work with fascinating insights into 16th-century seafaring and exploration.

For nautical types with a thirst for the history of navigation, exploration and seafaring in days of yore, this is a volume that will always draw attention – even from those with little interest in the subject – as it is simply a sumptuous and beautifully bound edition.