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  1. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Basic Books on Ships

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Dracon, Apr 1, 2018.

    Ahoy there!

    I have a few ideas for the novels that I want to write next. Whichever option I choose will likely involve going maritime. However, I have little experience with the ins and outs of ships or the lingo.

    So I was wondering if anybody had any good reference books they could recommend on all things maritime - preferably of the ancient period - either naval or commercial, don't mind. And/or a general idiot's guide would also be helpful for someone who can't tell their aft from starboard. Are there any sources you have found particularly useful on your nautical adventures?

    Thanks, in advance!
     
  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you end up interested in military ships, Jane's Fighting Ships is an excellent reference to the ships of various eras. Not sure how pricey it is, but my dad always kept several editions on hand.
     
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  3. needdabestwritingsoft

    needdabestwritingsoft Banned

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    hey have you checked ships on amazon yet?

    or other book shops? sources for books

    let me know what you find
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  4. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    No. Like many reference books, there are likely a variety on the subject of varying degrees of helpfulness which is why I wanted to ask what other may have found useful to them in the past.
     
  5. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    Best place to start is reading a fiction book set in the same historic period as your planned book. You can easily get the terminology from an reference type book (libraries are wonderful places, you'd be surprised) but you'll also need to learn about what it is to sail a ship and live on one.
     
  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I picked up this book from the local aquarium's gift shop a few years back.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1049954.Ship

    It gives a fairly solid history of ships from ancient times to the present. For the ins and outs of actually running such a craft you might need something more technical, but this was a pretty good read.
     
  7. needdabestwritingsoft

    needdabestwritingsoft Banned

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    that's why there's reviews from a sample size of 50-1000+ reviews you know? many sources for that (at least for books which is what your question is)

    let me know how things progresses
     
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's a very good point. Moby Dick and Two Years Before the Mast are treasure-troves of information on 19th century whaling and sealing ships. There have been books written about the accuracy of Moby Dick; Melville actually served on a whaling cruise.
     
  9. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    How ancient and which culture? Are we talking Classical Mediterranean? The battle of Salamis, galleys and triremes and all that?

    Most of the really complicated stuff didn't exist yet, so you've got that going for you for starters. Osprey's New Vanguard series has a few books on Classical-era warships. Osprey's stuff is always worth a look.
     
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  10. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    That's about the right period and culture for me, yes (and would also be interested in the galleons of the age of gunpowder too, out of interest)

    I knew of Ospreys previously, but hadn't thought to consider them - thanks, I'll take a look at what they have!
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Did that take place during the Mediterranean sausage wars ? If so I fear the wurst ;)
     
  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I have several references, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson, https://www.google.com/search?q=ships+and+seamanship+in+the+ancient+world&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b. Also The Ancient Mariners, same author, and the Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean, by Raoul McLaughlin, very detailed on the economics of that trade, as well as the ships and seaports with interesting little details: Barygaza (Broach) in India was located far upriver with a dangerous tidal bores and frequently shifting sandbars. The town would send oared tugboats down to the sea to bring the waiting ships in safely. At the end of the Indian buying season in September, Roman ships would congregate in a large protected bay near the tip of India to await the fall monsoon to blow them back home.

    Ancient Mariners was the inspiration for E&D, as it describes a Roman mission to China in 166AD on which mine was modeled. Both of Casson's books give details on the interior and manning of triremes, quadriremes, etc. as well as the larger sailing ships of the classical era, the shipboard organization, steering, etc. I will also send you, if you PM me your email, my .PPT presentation at the Historical Writers of America conference in ABQ last Oct, "Roman Maritime Trade in the Indian Ocean" , which covers such things as the Indian ocean trade winds, navigation using the zodiac as a compass, determining latitude out of sight of land, etc. The Roman IO trade figured prominently in my book, the Eagle and the Dragon. Shameless plug, the first half of that book is spent sailing on a three master from the Red Sea to China. The ship has (and uses) period weaponry, encounters an Indian Ocean cyclone, pirates of several varieties, and most importantly, gets where it is going. Feel free to read to get a feel for what it might have been like.

    The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea gives contemporary accounts of the ports , goods and conditions at hundreds of ports in the IO, including Barygaza above, and indicates that they knew they could get to the Atlaantic around the tip of Africa, though the farthest south they traded was Azania opposite Madagascar. Herodotus' Histories describes the circumnavigation of Africa by Phoenicians under contract to Pharaoh Necho in 750BC. Lucian, a contemporary writer, describes a two hundred foot grain freighter in some detail. Do NOT look to get good period depictions of merchant ships. Monuments were for notable events, and notable events for merchantmen usually involved the people; they are depicted wholly out of proportion to the ship, which is just background. They probably made great paintings etc., but they did not survive. Warships, on the other hand, are usually well-depicted on monuments.

    A modern book Havai'ki Rising, describes the construction of an ocean-going Polynesian catamaran, the Hokule'a, which just completed a round the world cruise using traditional navigation. They reconstructed Polynesian navigation with the help of probably the last of the old school navigators, and describes in detail the techniques they used. The crew of the Hokule'a were technical advisors to Disney for the movie Moana, which is spot-on for accuracy... including the girl holding her hand out , thumb parallel to the horizon. The book will tell you how to calibrate your hand for use as a sextant! Although not classical, this book's celestial techniques were probably common world-wide for thousands of years. It was from this that I determined that the zodiac was a compass, as each sign rises and sets on the same compass bearing for a given range of latitudes, year-round. They span the range from 060 to 120 degrees and the reciprocals.
     
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  13. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Fascinating! Thanks @Lew for the references! This is helpful, as I had a feeling that most such books would be more geared towards all things martial.

    I actually already have Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean, and have found it extremely insightful analysis into how the ancient economy works. It also gave some interesting figures on tonnage and bullion and the like, and though I'm not that many chapters in,I've been keeping some notes as I go along. One idea for a novel I have simmering at the moment focuses on a particularly wealthy merchant cartel, and so that is why I'm interested in the commercial aspect as well as the naval warfare side of things.

    That book doesn't go into much detail on mechanics of ship function and classes, and I'll take a look at those books that you mentioned.

    See, things like trade winds and the like are the sorts of things that easily escape attention. Seems straightforward when you think about it, but before then I had been assuming ships sailed wherever they wanted any time of year.
    China and Madagascar! The Romans definitely did get about then.
     
  14. Historical Science

    Historical Science Senior Member

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    I love the setting of a ship for a story. I had bought the Oxford Companion To Ships & The Sea a couple years ago and have read bits here and there for one of my own stories and it has an unbelievable amount of information. Its a 1,000 page encyclopedia of terms, ships, captains, everything. Since my story takes place on a 16th century caravel, I've read Spain's Men of the Sea, Daily Life on the Indies Fleets in the Sixteenth Century by Pablo E Perez-Mallaina which has been a great source but more specific ship knowledge. Also purchased Tracks in the Sea, Matthew Fontaine Maury and the Mapping of the Oceans by Chester G. Hearn but have not read much of it to be honest. But the bits I've read were quite good and I will eventually get to reading it.

    Edit: How could I forget Over the Edge of the World, Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen. It was also a fantastic read.
     
  15. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    That they did. And Roman coins have been found in Okinawa, and two Chinese skeletons buried in Londinium about 150AD. The sequel to the E&D will explain who they are and how they got there, so they could be discovered in Sep 2016 and puzzle the world. I am trying to attach my file to this thread, and I am not sure it is retrieving anything but the cover. Let me know if you get the full slide set. For your convenience, I have a conversion from Roman currency to ours... 1ss=~$3.50 at todays gold rate
     

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  16. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, just the cover, so send me your e-mail. And you will find a lot of mercantile background in E&D, Senator Aulus is a Roman IO shipping magnate. OBTW, the women who loaned him the money for his fleet of ships and built them in their shipyards in Myos Hormos, are actually historical figures who really existed at about that time. Couldn't resist including them.
     
  17. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    McLaughlin is perhaps the only one I have seen who explained how the Roman economy and government functioned fiscally.
     
  18. FifthofAscalante

    FifthofAscalante Member

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    I don’t know where you live, but if you lived in London, I’d suggest going to Waterstones near Piccadilly Circus. It’s a massive bookstore where half of one floor is completely devoted to children’s books, which make fantastic research tools. I mean children’s sailing, maritime, or ocean life encyclopaedias and the like . I know that Sid Meier, the one from the Civilization games series, used to do his research this way and recommend the method. These books are designed to be consumed quickly and go down easily. They teach you all the interesting stuff, and skip technicalities, unless they’re cool. Do not dismiss them as being shallow or not detailed.

    Obviously, you don’t have to be in London, you can hit your local bookstore. Yeah... children’s books.
     

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