Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

The Mariners' Magazine - By Captain Samuel Sturmy (1633-1669)

This 1679 publication is a comprehensive text covering all aspects of navigation. Included are logarithmic tables, instructions in astronomy, geometry, trigonometry, latitude and longitude as well as "fireworks" and fortifications.

It also includes a number of unusual rotating circular paper calculators - forerunners of the circular slide rule.

It is one of the oldest books in the Treasures collection.

Mariners Magazine 02

Published in 1679, toward the end of the so-called Age of Discovery or Exploration, the Mariners' Magazine would have been used for the instruction of, and as a reference book for, seafarers in the merchant marine and the Royal Navy. It includes instructions in the art of navigation including related geometry, trigonometry, latitude and longitude and astronomical tables. This was essential information for seafarers of the day.

At the time of publication of the Mariners' Magazine the accurate establishment of longitude at sea was still a long way off and it was not achieved until John Harrison invented the marine chronometer in 1759. Up until then the time-consuming and inexact methods set out in the Mariners' Magazine using mathematical calculations and astronomical observations were used

The book has a hand written worksheet dated 1747 with a “ Table of equations showing the true length of every day of the seconds of time that the integral days are either longer or shorter than 24 hours.” This variation of time was calculated manually 273 years ago!

The Mariners' Magazine is written in an engaging and entertaining manner exemplified by the following transcribed extract;

"To the Courteous reader - To that purpose, we have at first laid down such Propositions, as all young Seamen are or should be perfect in, concerning the Compass, and the Moon's Motion, Instrumentally and Arithmetically; and by it, in the same manner, how to know the Rules of the Ebbing and Flowing of the Sea, with the Rules of Time of Flood and High-water in any Port in the World; with a Discourse of the Practick Part of Navigation, in working of a Ship in all Cases and Conditions of Weather at Sea, to the best of my Experience."

RGSSA rgsp 527 S936.2 c 1679 - boxed and located in the large exhibition bookcase

The 17th century was a time of great expansion of British sea power and trade. An example is the establishment of the British East India Company formed in 1600 and given its monopoly by the East India Act 1697. The extensive trade between Britain and India, which grew from this depended on accurate navigation being used, by trading vessels plying between the two countries. The information in the Mariners' Magazine would have been a vital part of the success of this trade and the growth of the British Empire.

Sometimes called the Scientific Renaissance, this was a time of significant growth of interest and progress in science. The Royal Society was formed in 1600 and in 1663 the Greenwich Observatory was established. In 1687 Isaac Newton published his Principia establishing the laws of motion and of universal gravitation, which revolutionized the philosophy of science.

From Columbia University Libraries "Political Ecologies in the Renaissance" * 

Samuel Sturmy (1633–1669) began his career as a sail maker, went on to command ships to Virginia and the West Indies, served as a customs official, became involved with the Royal Society, and ended his career by producing a hugely successful and authoritative navigational manual. The Mariners Magazine (1679), first printed in 1669, remained an important resource into the 18th century and was reprinted three times in 1679, 1684, and 1700. It offers detailed instruction in all aspects of a seaman's responsibilities, covering an encyclopedic range of topics including instrument-making, operating a ship, nautical slang, navigation, astronomy, customs, surveying, and gunnery. The Mariners Magazine even contains a guide to fortification by the mathematician Philip Staynred, engravings for readers to cut out and use in the making of their own wooden instruments, and advice on where to have these instruments made (in London, by Walter Hayes).

The Mariners Magazine participates in the larger project of applying, packaging, and disseminating new scientific knowledge for use by popular, artisanal, or working audiences. Sturmy's engaging prose explains the complexities of navigation and practical astronomy to the novice seaman, assuming only a basic knowledge of arithmetic, but the volume's beautiful engravings, rubrication, and detailed descriptions of sailing make it not only useful but also aesthetically pleasing and interesting for a more general readership.


Mariners' Magazine page 74