Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age by A. J. Hoving

By A. J. Hoving

In 1671, Dutch diplomat and scientist Nicolaes Witsen released a booklet that served, between different issues, as an encyclopedia for the “shell-first” approach to send building. within the centuries when you consider that, Witsen’s particularly convoluted textual content has additionally develop into a worthwhile resource for insights into historic shipbuilding tools and philosophies through the “Golden Age” of Dutch maritime exchange. despite the fact that, as André Wegener Sleeswyk’s foreword notes, Witsen’s paintings is tough to entry not just for its seventeenth-century Dutch language but additionally for the vagaries of its author’s presentation.

Fortunately for students and scholars of nautical archaeology and shipbuilding, this significant yet chaotic paintings has now been reorganized and elucidated by way of A. J. Hoving and translated into English via Alan Lemmers. In Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding within the Dutch Golden Age, Hoving, grasp version builder for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, varieties out the stairs in Witsen’s approach for construction a seventeenth-century pinas by following them and development a version of the vessel. Experimenting with options and fabrics, accomplishing learn in different guides of the time, and rewriting as had to make clear and proper a few very important omissions within the series, Hoving makes Witsen’s paintings more uncomplicated to exploit and understand.

Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding within the Dutch Golden Age is an integral advisor to Witsen’s paintings and the area of his subject: the virtually forgotten fundamentals of a craftsmanship that has been credited with the flourishing of the Dutch Republic within the 17th century.

To view a pattern of Ab Hoving’s send version drawings, please stopover at:

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Sample text

45). A lever (16) was also used for this. Treenails were h ammered into the pl anks with a wooden mallet (10), as an iron h ammer would dam age the nails. The bevel (13) was used to c opy angles. Plumb bobs and levels (18, 19) were used to check the symmetry of the ship at various building stages. The familiar crowbar (20) was used to pry things apart, as it is today. Ringbolts (21) were not tools, strictly speaking, but were drilled through the hul l and anchored with a wedge or forelock. Thus the bolt could always be u ndone.

He also knew pretty well how f ar he h ad to dev iate from the st andard rules to obtain a bulky carrier or a sh arp frigate. This freedom to deviate from the rules was gained solely through ex perience, either person al or th at of others, in c onstructing successful ships (or f ailures). There is no ev idence whatsoever that shipbuilders were capable of calculating a ship’s performance beforehand. Even the dr aft of the vessel could be on ly estimated,21 which Witsen’s following remark so plainly demonstrates: Today ships are smeared with a mixture of resin and tallow as far as the estimated draft of the vessel.

The formula for the length of the beakhead is a good example of one that changed over time. Early in the seventeenth century its size was one fi fth of the ship’s length; by the end of the century it had shrunk to one eighth. A c omparison of Witsen’s and Van Yk’s shipbuilding formulas are presented in table 1 in the appendix. Witsen distinguishes 122 step s in the bu ilding process, which we w ill follow one b y one in thi s chapter after we ac quaint ourselves with his remarks about ship dimen sions.

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