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The Naval History of Great Britain,
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JAMES, William.

The Naval History of Great Britain,

From the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. in 1820. A New Edition, with Considerable Additions and Improvements, including Diagrams of all the Principal Actions.

Published: London: Harding, Lepard, and Co., 1826

Stock code: 94643

Price: £1,750

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This item is on show at 100 Fulham Road (map)

The second edition, revised and expanded, the first published in five volumes 1822-4. A “monument of accuracy – it has stood the test of time and remains the best account of the naval side of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars” (Kemp, The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, p. 425). First conceived of when he was held prisoner in America during the War of 1812 the Naval History is a remarkable work. Working under the motto “Verité sans Peur”, James set himself standards of inclusiveness and accuracy extraordinary for the 19th century. His aim was to compile “… an exact account of every operation of naval war during the period named. He consulted not only published works, especially the official narratives, both British and French, but also the logs of the ships, and, whenever possible, the participants themselves” (ODNB). The “greater portion” of the sixth volume “is made up of the operations of the late american [sic] war” (Preface). Successively mined by Forester and O’Brian for incident and colour, this well-written history is not only essential reference for the period, but makes excellent reading. This copy with the ownership inscriptions of one John Hancock to the front pastedowns, with his marginal notes on a number of pages, including a detailed list of ships in Lord Howe’s fleet to the front free endpaper of volume III, and detailed notes on his rôle – written in the third person – at Copenhagen as Lieut. John Hancock, commanding the boats, in saving the Holstein, later renamed the Nassau. Pleasing contemporary naval provenance.

6 volumes, octavo (216 134 mm). Contemporary half calf by Duffield & Weller of Cheltenham, marbled boards, all rebacked to style with original black morocco lettering- and numbering-pieces laid down. Battle-plans to the text, 28 folding tables of abstracts. Boards somewhat rubbed, browning throughout, in places heavy as often, but overall a very good set.

Bibliography: NMM, V, 2158.

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