on February 1, 2004
If you're a fan of nautical adventure, this is definitely a book you want to own. Lavery, a greatly respected naval historian, has written several earlier volumes on the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic period (including the highly regarded _Nelson's Navy_), and he was also one of the principal technical advisors on Peter Weir's film, MASTER AND COMMANDER. (Weir, in fact, provides a glowing Foreword.) This heavily illustrated volume tries to cover all the bases, organizing its topics into chapters like "The World of the Seaman," "The Ships," "Officers," "The Lower Deck," "Techniques," and so on. Technical information is provided but is kept under control so as not to frighten the novice, and he quotes heavily from early Victorian memoires, biographies, and histories -- and also from the works of Marryat, Forester, O'Brian, and even Jane Austen's _Persuasion_. On the other hand, Lavery, unfortunately, was not well served by his editor, copyeditor, or proofreader. (Having worked for them myself in the past, as a freelance editor, I know Naval Institute Press is capable of far better support work.) There often are several typos, omitted words, and confusing references on a single page. There also are a number of incorrect or incomplete source citations and at least one mislabeled diagram (on page 104). Lavery also is prone to frequent and unnecessary repetition in his discourse, especially in explaining points of shiphandling and other technical matters. Finally, the index and the bibliography are rather amateurishly organized. But on the *other* other hand, I finally understand catharpins!