"BECAME THE STANDARD NAUTICAL DICTIONARY UNTIL THE END OF SAIL": FALCONER'S UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY OF THE MARINE, 1769 FIRST EDITION, WITH 12 FOLDING COPPERPLATES OF SHIP CONSTRUCTION—THE COPY OF VISCOUNT MELVILLE, FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS
FALCONER, William. An Universal Dictionary of the Marine: Or, A Copious Explanation of the Technical Terms and Phrases Employed in the Construction, Equipment, Furniture, Machinery, Movements, and Military Operations of A Ship. London: for T. Cadell, 1769. Quarto, contemporary full green polished calf sympathetically rebacked, original red morocco spine label, raised bands, original marbled endpapers. Housed in a custom slipcase. $4500.
First edition of this important nautical dictionary, with 12 copper-engraved folding plates depicting ship construction and design, various shipping positions, and separate views of ship masts, sails, yards, and rigging, in contemporary calf-gilt. The copy of Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty during the Napoleonic Wars.
William Falconer was a member of the Royal Navy, a midshipman on the Royal George and later purser on the Glory and the Swiftsure. Promised the secretaryship of the East India company, he signed on as purser on the Aurora, bound for India. The ship was lost at sea. In addition to this dictionary, Falconer is known for his chief poem, "The Shipwreck" (1762). "Falconer's reputation rests on these two major works: the Dictionary of the Marine and 'The Shipwreck.' The former is a work of extraordinary care and scientific thoroughness, and it became the standard nautical dictionary until the end of sail" (ODNB). With list of subscribers and a "Translation of the French Sea-Terms and Phrases." Engraved armorial bookplate of Henry Dundas, First Viscount Melville (1742-1811), First Lord of the Admiralty during the Napoleonic wars. "The post Melville wanted and at length got was First Lord of the Admiralty… On Melville's taking office the navy had 81 ships of the line afloat. The number of vessels launched during his term at the Admiralty was higher than in any similar period of its history. By the summer of 1805 Britain boasted 105 ships of the line on active service, and five others almost of the same standard. That autumn she would have 120, including 26 new ones… He was promptly vindicated by Nelson's victory at the battle of Trafalgar. This settled the naval war for the duration. Never again would France dare to challenge Britain at sea. That meant Britain could not be defeated, even while she and her allies were still a long way off defeating France. Nelson had been an untiring importuner at the Admiralty for ever more vessels to deploy in his actions, and Melville had done everything possible to satisfy these demands. He could claim to be the man who made the dead hero's triumph possible" (ODNB). Dundas had also been Treasurer of the Navy from 1782-1800. Eighteenth-century ink inscription on the verso of title page discussing the book's contemporary binding, with some bleed-through to title page letterpress.
A few plates with minor repairs to versos, text generally clean. Expert restoration to board extremities, gilt bright. A very good copy with an exceptional nautical provenance.