22 Annotations

First Reading

Alan Bedford  •  Link

"The Seaman's Grammar and Dictionary" was written by Captain John Smith, who was one of the founders of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. The two-volume set also contains sections on the duties of naval officers and on the conduct of battles.

A facsimile of a 1691 edition of the Seamans Grammar (in Adobe Reader .pdf format) may be found at: http://www.shipbrook.com/jeff/sea…

kilroy  •  Link

Hope Sam's entries don't go blue from his reading "The Seaman's Grammer and Dictionary"

But seriously; I find his choice interesting. Its like today's manager dealing with a technical person. But instead of asking the seaman to explain everything in "layman's" terms, Sam choose to learn their lingo.

(Also handy if the technical people think you don't understand what they are saying.)

M.Stolzenbach  •  Link


"where they stand till I was weary of their company and so away"

Pretty sure this should be "where they staid" (old spelling for "stayed")

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"The Seaman's Grammar and Dictionary"
Thanks Alan Bedford for the site,interesting that it says "ropes"instead of lines,"hericanes"in the West Indies and the juyce of limmons for you Limes

vincent  •  Link

fantabulous find: for all navel terms like down the hatch[ Scuttle]

tc  •  Link

"The Seaman's Grammar and Dictionary"

It is reassuring to see Sam making an effort to learn more about the details, the nuts and bolts and lingo, of the seafaring traditions of his day. A little background info will surely come in handy when dealing with captains and shipbuilders and provisioners.

Sadly, many officers (then and perhaps even now...?) did not know or learn how to "talk the talk" of the sea, and instead came to their exalted positions through patronage and not experience. As Lord Macaulay (Thomas Babington, 1800-1859) observed:

"There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the Navy of Charles II. But the seamen were not gentlemen, and the gentlemen were not seamen."

Pauline  •  Link

"...to read "The Seaman's Grammar and Dictionary"….”
It puts me in mind of Montagu/Sandwich setting off for his first commission/voyage with a model of a ship to learn from. As a result of this kind of seriousness, Sam goes on to earn an historical reknown in the Navy completely aside from his fame as a diarist.

daniel  •  Link

how i sympathize with this day of Sam's.
All loved ones can become wearisome with time. in the words of Dan Hicks "how can i miss you if you don't go away?"

Hic Retearius  •  Link

Res navis [shippy stuff]

Alan Bedford, many thanks. You have delivered us a treasure; Captain Smith's books are a delight. All here may glean a few words from his book not only to illuminate Sam's text as we go along but confident that they will also serve in common speech to this day! After 300 years, "cradle", "scarf", "limber holes", "treenail", "keelson", "garboard", "orlop", "knees" and so on will not only be understood but be in everyday use by any English speaking shipwright worthy of that title the world over.

It amuses this reader to consider that, beyond pronunciation, the Sam of three centuries ago could step into any wooden vessel shipyard in the English speaking world in 2004 and conduct a detailed technical discussion about hull construction with no major misunderstandings.

Mary  •  Link

The Seaman's Grammar.

A great find, both for Sam and for us. This 'standard text' had considerable longevity; Smith died in 1631, Sam consults it in 1661 and the book is still being printed in 1691. I wonder when the final reprint hit the market?

Emilio  •  Link

Another Seaman's Dictionary

L&M note that Sam could also be looking at Sir Henry Manwayring's Thesea-mans dictionary [spelled thus in L&M], first published in 1644. Both books are in the Pepysian Library bound together in one volume. It's not available online as far as I can tell, but here's a description from the 1911 Encyclopedia:

"Sir Henry Manwayring, whose Seaman's Dictionary appeared in 1644, claimed that it was the first treatise on seamanship ever written. After explaining that a writer who had not acquired the art by practice could not expound it, he goes on: 'And as for the professed Seamen, they either want ability and dexterity to express themselves, or (as they do generally) will, to instruct any Gentleman. If any will tell me why the vulgar sort of Seamen hate landmen so much, either he or I may give the reason why they are so unwilling to instruct them in their, art, whence it is that so many gentlemen go long voyages, and return (in a manner) as ignorant and as unable to do their country service as when they went out.' Though the Seaman's Dictionary did not appear in print till 1644, it is described on the title-page as having been presented to George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, the lord high admiral of Charles I, who was murdered in 1628. Manwayring's book is therefore probably, if not the first treatise on seamanship written in English, at least as old as its only rival the Accidences, or the pathway to experience necessary for all young seamen, published in 1626, by the famous Captain John Smith, of Virginia. On the continent of Europe, as in England, while works on navigation and gunnery were common, treatises on practical seamanship date from the 17th century. The books of Manwayring and Smith are rather glossaries of terms than expositions of principles."

Emilio  •  Link

To M. Stolzenbach

L&M confirm that it is "stayed", which they have spelled exactly as we would.

Laura K  •  Link

"Sadly, many officers (then and perhaps even now?) did not know or learn how to "talk the talk" of the sea, and instead came to their exalted positions through patronage and not experience.”

This is a recurrent issue in present day fire and police departments, where a chief who has never served in uniform will not command the respect of officers as well as one who has risen up through the ranks.

I’m not sure that studying lingo from a book, as Sam is doing, would address the problem for the rank-and-file. We’ve all heard slang spoken by people trying to sound hip, who haven’t got a clue what they’re saying. It generally sounds ridiculous. I hope Sam has more luck!

Pauline  •  Link

"studying lingo from a book, as Sam is doing"
It's not just a way to speak and sound like one of the sailors, it names and explains all the physical things aboard a ship and in its riggings.

From Claire Tomalin's book (p297):
"In December 1677 he put forward the most notable of these [his own ideas for the navy]. It was a proposal that no one should be appoined as lieutenant until he had served for three years, received a certificate from his captain and passed an examination in navigation and seamanship at the Navy Office."

JWB  •  Link

Kudos Mr. Bedford, and Jeff Lee.
re pumps we've discussed before, see pgs 16-17(pdf)loc cit.

Robert McSwain  •  Link

I think it important to differentiate from those who study the lingo to impress and those who study to learn. Judging by how Sam spends his time, with ship captains, talking to the skilled craftsmen in the Navy yard, I believe him to be trying to learn. More important, I believe that is how his Navy contacts see him - from an ex naval officer

Laura K  •  Link

sam talking the talk

I wasn't impugning Sam's motives or his education. (Though it is sweet how annotators rush to Sam's defense.)

I was only pointing out that how sailors might view an officer who had not been a sailor might be very different from how that officer's peers or even history might remember him. The comment above re "seamen were not gentlemen and gentlemen not seamen" would seem to apply to Sam, in my opinion.

tc  •  Link

Talking the talk...

Sam never does acquire the sea experience that one might think would be a useful pre-requisite for a man in his position. We've seen him at sea already, and he did pretty well for a country boy; he didn't spend the whole time down with mal de mer, anyway.

But he wants to learn more, so that he will better understand the job. But one suspects he also feels kind of...lacking in the lingo when he's out feeling pretty merry with a tableful of Captains. Maybe he feels it would be nice to know what they are talking about: all that lee shore stuff, and those damned headwinds...and splice the main brace while we're at it, shall we?

So he hits the books, and good for him for that; a lesser man, given Sam's position in a similar, patronage-influenced way, would not bother. And his studies yield great fruit: his early steps in organizing the Navy are instrumental in leading to the juggernaut it becomes in Nelson's day.

Is Sam a gentleman now? He has been pretty lucky for the son of a tailor (not the son of a sailor), and though he now hangs out with the "In Crowd", would he himself consider himself a gentleman? Maybe...probably, but...it may be a moot point whether Sam is a seaman or a gentlemen. Could it be that, deep down inside, he learns to talk like the former and live like the latter?

Both of which he does very well!

(I keep thinking of Sam, sitting around the Cock and Bull or like pub, with a bunch of salty dog captains, telling and re-telling his few sea stories, felling pretty merry you bet; and all his drinking mates inwardly groaning and thinking to themselves "Oh, God, not that same story about ferrying the King across...")

vincent  •  Link

TC: RE:your last paragraph : I do think Sp is not into telling but questioning and picking brains , and one way to do that is not to make it too obvious that thee is picking brains or pockets always your victim must looking the other way, 'tis the way of all pickers of?.

CGS  •  Link

“The Seaman’s Grammar and Dictionary [ for your HD:
another source for this and English Dictionary of the times:

English Dictionarie, The, Cockeram, Henrie; 1647 (169 pp., 13.7 MB)

also among other items of note.
Varietie of Lute-Lessons, Dowland, Robert; 1610 (71 pp., 9.0 MB)

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

THE S E A M A N S Grammar and Dictionary, Explaining all the difficult T E R M S in N A V I G A T I O N:
A N D T H E P R A C T I C A L Navigator and Gunner: In Two Parts
By Captain J O H N S M I T H, Sometimes Governour of Virginia, and Admiral of New England:


The sea-mans dictionary, or, An exposition and demonstration of all the parts and things belonging to a shippe together with an explanation of all the termes and phrases used in the practique of navigation / composed by Henry Manwaring ..
Early English Books Online
with an alphabetical list of the terms defined

meech  •  Link

A belated hank you, Terry, for updating the link...

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.