Saturday 7 May 1664

Betimes at my office with the joyners, and giving order for other things about it. By and by we sat all the morning. At noon to dinner, and after dinner comes Deane of Woolwich, and I spent, as I had appointed, all the afternoon with him about instructions which he gives me to understand the building of a ship, and I think I shall soon understand it. In the evening a little to my office to see how the work goes forward there, and then home and spent the evening also with Mr. Deane, and had a good supper, and then to bed, he lying at my house.

23 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"all the afternoon with [Deane of Woolwich] about instructions which he gives me to understand the building of a ship, and I think I shall soon understand it."

"17th century shipbuilders did not produce construction drawings or calculations of stability. The art of shipbuilding was more like a well-kept secret."…

That from a web-page devoted to the wreck of the 17th century ship Vasa, which sank in the middle of Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage in 1628: And: "The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck [1690] has several characteristics of tremendous historical and archaeological importance. In addition to being the oldest wreck in Québec, it is a source of extremely valuable data on 17th-century shipbuilding in America."…

I bet Pepys is the only Navy Office officer who has had such conversations.

cape henry  •  Link

"I bet Pepys is the only Navy Office officer who has had such conversations." Permit me to second TF on this idea and add that although Pepys - to my memory - has never openly mentioned it in the diary, he must realize that it is the steady and accurate accumulation of such detailed knowledge that protects him to some degree from the calculations of the titled ones in his office. This is not to suggest that he is not naturally so inclined to his efforts and talented, just that he must also be observant enough to realize the multifaceted benefits of his studies.

cape henry  •  Link

"The art of shipbuilding was more like a well-kept secret." Absolutely. The development of ships was that era's space race and every technological edge would have been guarded for as long as it could be protected. Drawings, which could be copied, could be stolen. For this type of material there was an internet, it just wasn't electronic or digital. (Again with thanks to TF for his research.)

Terry F  •  Link

"The development of ships was that era's space race and every technological edge would have been guarded for as long as it could be protected."

Well said, cape henry. This search for a technological edge also extended to navigational aids, esp. the search for a device to calculate longitude reliably.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Wonder how Bess felt about having a man of limited acquaintance staying over...

Possible responses...

"You're having who stay what without telling me?!!"

"Oh? Mr. Deane..." eyes a smiling Deane. " staying over? That sounds...Nice." (Be still my wildly amorous if so long repressed half French heart).


"I don't want a strange man in the house, Sam'l. He keeps looking at me."

"He'd 'strange' if he didn't, dear."


"Oh, Mr. Deane? You dropped this letter in Dutch addressed to an Admiral DeRuyter? And this map thing?" Bess offers papers to a blinking Deane.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Pepys with Deane's help has just uncovered a staggering truth...

"I can't believe it. The Dutch planted an agent in my very own home?" Sam stares, dumbfounded.

"Several, in fact...My father needing access to English data to complete his work on longitude." a cornered-by-Deane-with-the-data-goods but hardly subdued Bess eyes him archly.

"Don't look like that Sam'l. I certainly put up with my share from you. And we had some nice times, didn't we?. After all..." a cool smile... " know men will kill for the secret of Longitude. Men like you...And..."

"Oh, my...God..." Sam gasps, staggering...

A sort of ironic humor to this...Hewer helping Deane to restrain 'Bess'...Now minus 'her' wig for the first time in nine years...Can't help noting even as he too chokes a bit.

I mean what with Mr. Pepys' always having admired fellows like Ned Kynaston so...

...Though how the devil 'she' ever managed?...He caught Deane's eye. Two minds clearly on the same track.

"Sam'l?" 'Bess' called to the fainting Sam...

"What?" 'she' stared back at Deane and Hewer... "Doesn't mean I don't care, you know."

Deane eyeing Hewer...Hewer, Deane...


Michael Robinson  •  Link

English Shipwrights and Plans On Paper
Initial use 1580's; standard practice by 1630's

"In some respects English ships may have been technically in advance of their time, for we have some reason to believe that by the 1580's English shipwrights were developing techniques of design on paper. This was a development pregnant with consequences for the future. It made it possible for a shipwright to design a ship without being present to build her himself. The private warship Galleon Leicester, similar if not identical to the queen's Revenge, was built in 1578 on the Hamble to plans provided by the queen's leading shipwright Matthew Baker; 'the galleon was molded by M. Baker and framed by John Ady.' She may have been the first large ship ever built in this way. Paper designs also made possible the idea of ships being built in a class, all to the same plans. Most importantly, it made progressive improvements in design possible, a designer could learn from the work of their colleagues and predecessors. We know that Baker was studying and developing the hull form of the Tiger in the 1590's, forty five years after she had been built. The English may have been ahead of other nations in these skills, or at least ahead of all but the Portuguese, though it is hard to be sure when shipwrights kept such essential skills secret. Those in a position to judge were certainly proud of their work, and Baker (who "for his skill and surpassing grounded knowledge for the building of ships of all purpose, hath not in any nation his equal") was compared in his day to Vitruvius and Durer."

Rodger, Safeguard of the Sea, (1997/8) p. 219

Pepys describes borrowing what in fact is Baker's design manuscript on April 1st "This day Mrs. Turner did lend me, as a rarity, a manuscript of one Mr. Wells, writ long ago, teaching the method of building a ship, which pleases me mightily. I was at it to-night, but durst not stay long at it .."…

The manuscript is now at Magdalene:-
Matthew Baker (1530-1613) Fragments of Ancient English Shipwrightry,(Ms) Pepysian Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge, PL 2820. (miscellaneous notes and incomplete plans of ships started by Matthew Baker in the 1570s, and continued with notes from one of his apprentices, John Wells, and annotations on mathematics.)

For a discussion of the significance of its mathematical content, the role of the master shipwright, his design techniques etc. see:-
Mathew Barker and the Art of the Shipwright
chapter 3 (pp. 107-165) of Stephen Johnston, 'Making mathematical practice: gentlemen, practitioners and artisans in Elizabethan England'…

Rodger discussing the period circa 1633

"... the Techniques of naval architecture continued to advance rapidly. Plans on paper were now standard: Coke instructed the master shipwrights that 'before any ships be newly built they are to be given unto the Officers a plot of the ship, containing the length, breadth and depth of the ship which is to be delivered unto the Lord Admiral by the Principal Offices. Dockyard officers were involved in developing new logarithms which allowed mathematical techniques to save the errors (and waste of timber) consequent on geometrical scaling up from small plans. It was now possible though not at all common to calculate
displacement ..."

Rodger, Safeguard of the Sea,(1997/8) pp. 387-8

Mary  •  Link

"and giving order for other things about it"

Ah, that well-known request heard too often by the workman. "While you're here, would you just .....?" A heart-sink moment for all builders, plumbers, decorators, electricians etc. with full order-books. Pepys wanted a door repositioning, but since Sympson is on the spot, would he just.....?

GrahamT  •  Link

"This day Mrs. Turner did lend me, as a rarity, a manuscript of one Mr. Wells...", but it is now in the Magdalene Pepys collection, so he never returned it; a very long "lend".

rob van hugte  •  Link

There was another method available for "research and development" in 17th century shipbuilding. In the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are several large models of ships that were actually built. In this case the model was made before the life size ship was built. This enabled apprentices to study the ship from different angles and point out details to the craftsmen. By the same token it gave the VIPs a good idea what they were spending their money on.

Mary  •  Link

ship models

It was just such models as these that Commissioner Pett of Chatham was to be accused of having wasted time to rescue when the Dutch sailed up the Medway.

Terry F  •  Link

Ship models and Pepys's study of them

October 4, 1660:
"Lieut. Lambert and I did look upon my Lord's model, and he told me many things in a ship that I desired to understand."…

July 30. 1662-Aug 12
Richard Cooper, the one-eyed sailing-master, comes to Pepys's office and begins to instruct him about ships from Lord Sandwich's model of the Royal James housed there pro tem.…

29 Septenber 1962
"Mr. Deane, of Woolwich, hath sent me the modell he had promised me; but it so far exceeds my expectations, that I am sorry almost he should make such a present to no greater a person; but I am exceeding glad of it, and shall study to do him a courtesy for it."

For a model ship worth studying see the one GrahamT photographed at the Pepys Exhibition. London Museum May 2003 and posted for the rest of us:…

Terry F  •  Link

Can we know what Deane is teaching Pepys and how?

Thanks to Michael Robinson for sharpening this question.

If what we know about shipbuilding of the time is well-served by archaeological finds and the study of wrecks, there is more to the matter than what can be known by examining the models and drawings of ships and remains of shipyards that are available. And methinks the more is what Deane is providing.

24 December, 1663, finds Christopher Pett, because of Pepys's kindness to Deane, "offering to do [Pepys] all the service, either by draughts or modells that I should desire." But not instruction in his own methods -- the "more.".

Does Deane use a model like Cooper did, or drawings like Baker's that Pepys glimpsed? Are drawings better than models? Does he use algorithms? (If this last, I'd think Pepys would mention it.)

cape henry's sage observation surely holds. "The development of ships was that era's space race and every technological edge would have been guarded for as long as it could be protected." Only *after* Medway "The works of Nicholaes Witsen (1671) and Cornelius van IJk (1697) are essential sources for the study of 17th-century Dutch shipbuilding. Their works are the earliest and only two Dutch manuscripts on shipbuilding from the 17th century. Nicolaes Witsen's book Architectura navalis et regimen nauticum was first published in Amsterdam in 1671."…

Can we know what Deane is teaching Pepys and how? Perhaps not.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Can we know what Deane is teaching Pepys and how?

I think a read of Stephen Johnston's article, 'Mathew Baker and the Art of the Shipwright'…
provides some of the answers, specifically where he discusses Baker and the various methods used to retransmit knowledge to pupils and indicates the large number and the broad extent of the technical and intellectual questions involved. Clearly a working knowledge of a large number of C17th. practices and intellectual disciplines appears to be required to be able even to begin to frame relevant questions.

Terry F  •  Link

Michael, the Johnson book is indeed revealing. We learn that Phineas Pett, after "cyphering, drawing and practising to attain the knowledge of my profession, and I then found Mr Baker sometime forward to give me instructions, from whose help I must acknowledge I received my greatest lights." Is it clear how we are to understand "instructions"? (correction-plus?!)

Perhaps this? "Pett's casual comment that Baker's instruction was given in the evenings also suggests a deeper point. Shipwrights traditionally learnt their trade by the observation and imitation of a master out in the shipyard. The art was passed on during the hours of the working day and the process did not demand literacy or formal numeracy. But Baker was sponsoring an alternative approach to teaching, carried out when work was over. Facility in calculation and draughting techniques was developed and literacy probably assumed. Baker was promoting a form of training separate from the exercise of the craft at the workplace."

If this is what Deane was stressing, I am surprised Pepys is not more expliciy about the mathematics, a hobby-horse of his in which he has taken pride.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"I bet Pepys is the only Navy Office officer who has had such conversations."

Very likely, but among the Navy Office personnel the Sirs William have held command at sea, having no doubt risen through the ranks, and probably knew all there was to know about their ships from long service on them.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Ship models and Pepys's study of them

" ... and then to Commissioner Pett's and had a good sullybub and other good things, and merry. Commissioner Pett showed me alone his bodys as a secrett, which I found afterwards by discourse with Sir J. Minnes that he had shown them him, wherein he seems to suppose great mystery in the nature of Lynes to be hid, but I do not understand it at all. ..."…

john  •  Link

Michael Robinson wrote:
"English Shipwrights and Plans On Paper
Initial use 1580's; standard practice by 1630's"

It is not clear to me that the methods and techniques of ship-building were documented. Those not skilled in the art may be hard pressed to fulfill such plans.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

documentation - methods and techniques of ship-building

John: Rodger is writing of the English naval yards in particular. If you wish to explore further, N. A. M. Rodger's book, 'Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Great Britain 660 - 1649' 1997/8 is extensively footnoted and has a full bibliography. There is much more in his main text of dockyard organization and changes in construction practices over time, I selected only two directly relevant brief passages.

The second third of Stephen Johnston's article, 'Mathew Baker and the Art of the Shipwright' (link above) gives some detail of dockyard practices, sufficient I think to provide a general idea of the various ways that paper plans by Master shipwrights might have been translated and used by working craftsmen, he also provides his sources in the footnotes. One of Johnson's major points is the way literacy and the use of plans, calculation, geometry etc. changed the role and status of the 'master shipwrights' from senior artisans into managerial 'learned practitioners.'

Michael Robinson  •  Link

documentation - methods and techniques of ship-building

The Framing of Seventeenth-Century Men-of-War in England and Other Northern European Countries, Kroum N. Batchvarov, Thesis: May 2002 Nautical Archaeology Program

"Nautical archaeology has enormously enriched our knowledge of ship construction, but so far most attention seems to have been lavished on ancient shipwrecks. The seventeenth century has attracted the least attention. No detailed studies of the construction of ships of this era have been published. When the subject is mentioned at all, it is a cursory overview, quite often inaccurate, always lacking depth. Extensive documentation, however, still survives in the form of shipbuilding treatises, contracts, correspondance, models, paintings and engravings, draughts, and last - but not least - archaeological remains.

Full text available, in PDF, via:-…

Second Reading

James Morgan  •  Link

108 ship models are on display at the Rogers Ship Model Collection in the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. The earliest is from 1650, and over 50 of them are dockyard models built at the same time as the ship they represent. This short video of a tour of the exhibition gives some of the flavor of the models:…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: yachts JM above:

‘yacht, n. < early modern Dutch . .
A light fast-sailing ship, in early use esp. for the conveyance of royal or other important persons; later, a vessel, usually light and comparatively small, propelled by motive power other than oars, and used for pleasure excursions, cruising, etc., and now esp. one built and rigged for racing.
. . a1684 J. Evelyn Diary anno 1661 (1955) III. 296, I sailed this morning with his Majestie one of his Yaachts (or Pleasure boates) Vessells newly known amongst us, til the Duth E. India Comp. presented that curious piece to the King.
. . 1710 J. Harris Lexicon Technicum II Yatches, are Vessels with one Deck carrying from 4 to 12 Guns, with from 20 to 40 Men; and are of Burden from 30 to 160 Tun . . ‘ (OED)

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