Guide to the Research Collections



The collection of 29,200 volumes and numerous manuscripts relating to naval art and history is stronger in certain areas than that relating to military science. Naval history has been given particular consideration; as a result of the James Owen Proudfit Fund, many important and valuable works have been secured. Most areas in naval art and history are collected comprehensively, with the exception of government reports and publications and works on naval artillery and ordnance, torpedos, submarine vessels, and submarine warfare, where the coverage is representative. Naval log books and journals for vessels of the American, English, and French navies from the late seventeenth century to the modern period are in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, as are more than seventy letters, documents, and drawings of Robert Fulton relating to the submarine, the explosive mine, and the steam vessel as instruments of war.

The growth of the collections is indicated by the following table of estimated strength:

19218,400 volumes

Periodical holdings are outstanding. There are excellent representations from many maritime nations, generally with complete files of important titles. These include not only journals, but the publications of societies and institutions, navy registers, and other materials. Among titles currently received are the United States Naval Institute Proceedings (1874-), Revista general de marina (1877-), and Naval Research Logistics Quarterly (1954-), as well as other more specialized periodicals. Official publications (reports, navigation directions, navy lists, and the like) are held in strength for many nations. Particularly noteworthy are the American and British navy lists; eighty volumes of the latter once belonged to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV of England, whose annotations are present in some cases.5

A significant part of the holdings consists of personal accounts of the sea and sea voyages, shipwrecks, lifesaving and similar subjects. Included in the extensive collection of materials on pirates and piracy are two classics in the field: Exquemelin's De Americaensche Zee-roovers (1678), along with its 1684 English translation, Bucaniers of America, and Captain Charles Johnson's General History of the ... Pyrates (1724).

There are approximately 110 books on navigation published before 1800, including noted rarities such as Pedro de Medina's Arte de navegar (1545), with sixteenth-century translations of the work into Italian, French, Dutch, and other languages; and Martín Cortés's Breve compendio de la sphera y de la arte de navegar (1551) with 6 editions of the Richard Eden translation of the work into English dating from 1561 to 1615. These and similar works of the period gain added importance from their relation to the holdings for the Age of Discovery in the Americas, an

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outstanding strength of the Research Libraries. The Rare Book Division has a first edition of Nathaniel Bowditch's The New American Practical Navigator (1802); most later editions of this work, which has been continually republished, are in the general collections. Approximately 1,400 entries in the Public Catalog are found under the heading of navigation, with many references referring to more specialized aspects of the subject. The collection of navigational tables dates from 1559.

Shipbuilding and marine engineering, fields administered by the Science and Technology Research Center, are well covered both in current and historical works and in periodicals. The Ships Index File, now inactive, locates printed information on individual ships and on some ships' captains. A 33-volume scrapbook series of clippings contains pictures of ships of all ages, harbors and ports, and related topics.

Naval history, a strong subject for all countries, includes additional material on individual naval battles or engagements. Particular interest attaches to the battle of Lepanto: in 1958 the library purchased the Sir William Stirling-Max-well collection of 59 contemporaneous pamphlets and books celebrating this victory by the Italian and Spanish fleets over the Turks. The Rare Book Division seeks actively to augment the holdings, which now number about 70 pieces. A group of items on naval prizes includes material from England, France, and the Netherlands from the seventeenth and later centuries, including laws, ordinances, diplomatic correspondence, and the like, and material for the United States and Prussia dating from the eighteenth century. Naval biography is outstanding for all countries.

Many other areas of the library's collections enrich the resources in naval art and history. Classes of importance are history, geography, costume, and law (with strength in international law, although the library does not collect treatises on the subject). The public documents holdings of the Economic and Public Affairs Division provide a wealth of source material.


Ships' logs, journals, official reports, proceedings of courts of enquiry, correspondence, and other items in the Manuscripts and Archives Division form a considerable body of source material. The larger part of this archive deals with American vessels and personnel, but there are many items relating to the English navy, and some to the French and Dutch navies. The Proudfit Fund has been used to purchase official naval manuscripts such as log books and flag or signal books.

The earliest American item is a letter book of the Navy Board of the Eastern Department of Boston for the period from October 24, 1778 to October 29, 1779, containing copies of some 249 letters. The journal of James Inderwick, surgeon on the brig Argus, chronicles events during the War of 1812.6 The library also has the log book of the Argus during part of the year 1813 and another journal kept by William Clarke, surgeon's mate on the vessel during 1812 and 1813. Other logs dating from 1815 to 1919 include those of the USS Independence, Boxer, Lynx, Prometheus, Macedonian, .7  Guerriere, Boston, Potomac, Lexington, Congress, Kansas, and the prize schooner Patuxent.

For the Civil War period are the day books of all articles ordered and supplied at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington from July 18, 1861, to November 30, 1868, the papers of Gideon Welles for the period 1825 to 1885, and similar materials. The letters of Percival Drayton, most of these written on shipboard during the period 1861-65, deal with the naval operations of the war.8 Among the papers of naval officers are those of Louis M. Goldsborough (1821-73), John Adolph Dahlgren (1829-67), David Conner (1842-47), and Thomas Turner (1868-70). The papers of Homer C. Blake (1840-69) and George C. Foulk (1884-87) contain not only material of United States naval interest but dispatches, letters, and reports of naval actions concerning Korea in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The manuscripts of William C. Church relate to his work during 1863-64 as founder, editor, and proprietor of The United States Army and Navy Journal. Narratives of voyages include that of Paul F. Taylor, on the USS Quincy, which carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Crimean Conference in 1945.

Early English naval documents in the Manuscripts and Archives Division include the log book (1691-93) of the Royal Sovereign under Vice Admiral Ralph Delavall, operating against the French. There are also the logs of HMS Temeraire (1762-63), Glory (1794), Isis (1805), and others spanning a period from 1805 to 1900. Supplementing these materials are treatises, statistics, and receipts of payment from the seventeenth century; and receipts of payment, journals, diaries, rosters, and orderly books from the eighteenth century. The division has the memoirs of Gordon Gallie Macdonald, a lieutenant in the British Navy, for the period 1745 to 1831; the records of cases in the New York Vice Admiralty Courts for the period 1753 to 1770; and letter books of Sir Herbert Sawyer (1810-15), Francis Stanfell (1812-31), and James Creighton (1813-19), among others.

French naval manuscripts include a journal kept aboard Le Jazon (1745-46) and log books of armed vessels engaged in the transportation of troops to the French colonies in the West Indies and French Guiana during the period 1761 to 1776. A bound manuscript volume in French describes French naval participation in the American Revolution and other matters.

Two manuscript volumes in Dutch refer to signal flags of the Netherlands navy during the eighteenth century; they are illustrated with colored drawings.

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