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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: Master
        Shipwright's Secrets
The Master Shipwright’s Secrets: How Charles II Built the Restoration Navy
By Richard Endsor
Osprey, 2020, ISBN 978-1-52673-836-3, UK £65 / US $85 / CAN $115


Contemporary records don’t always answer our more puzzling questions. We might grasp the broad picture, but the specifics are murkier. After a decade of research, Richard Endsor uncloaks and enlightens us on how a master shipwright took an idea and from that designed and built ships for King Charles II’s navy. To fully grasp what this involved, Endsor focuses on one particular vessel, the Tyger. Along the way, he also shares both the historical evolution and technological developments of seventeenth-century warships, spicing this with information about the men who played key roles in their design. More importantly, he discusses and shares snippets from a theoretical treatise written by the master shipwright who built Tyger, John Shish.

Within the pages of this volume, the Tyger is reconstructed and a host of beautiful artwork, including several multi-page spreads, shows fascinating details on all aspects of the design and building process. Originally built in 1681, she was of keen interest to not only Shish but also the king, who played an active role in her construction. He even personally chose the man to first command her: Charles Berkeley, who was nineteen years old and the second Baron Berkeley of Stratton at the time.

The book is comprised of ten chapters and two appendices.
1. The Master Shipwright’s Considerations
2. Inventions and Innovations
3. No Such Thing as the Tyger
4. Planning a New Tyger
5. John Shish’s Account of the Dimensions of a Ship
6. The Draught of the New Tyger
7. Building the New Tyger
8. The New Tyger Commissioned
9. The Tyger’s Guns
10. Contemporary Shipbuilding Contracts Unveiled

Appendix 1: The Medway Warrant
Appendix 2: The Mordaunt Survey
In addition to the full-color design artwork, the pages are populated with paintings, portraits, period letters, drawings, drafts, diagrams, timelines, tables, and maps. Some artwork is contemporary, but most is from the author himself. A number of illustrations incorporate scale by showing people next to or on the various facets of the ship. Endnotes and an index are also included.

Master Shipwright’s Secrets is far more than just a book on ship construction. Endsor masterfully demonstrates how Shish made calculations in a time when computers did not exist and yet managed to do so without making proportional errors commonly encountered when taking a design idea and turning it into a reality. Along the way, the author discusses Shish’s contemporaries, a monarch who was well versed in all facets of ships, the duties and responsibilities of a master shipwright, and all the steps taken to turn an idea into a finished product. 

Handsomely designed, this book is packed with so many awesome revelations in just over 300 pages that it requires two hands to hold. It is a readable and easy-to-understand study of a late seventeenth-century fourth-rate navy ship, although a bit of the technical and mathematical details may elude some readers. It is an invaluable resource on the Restoration Navy.
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Review Copyrighted ©2020 Cindy Vallar

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