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BIDDLECOMBE, George.

Naval Tactics and Trials of Sailing; illustrated by Diagrams of Several Evolutions.

To which are added, the Established Plan of Lights for Steam-Vessels, and Regulations to avoid Collision.

Published: London: Charles Wilson, (Late J.W. Norie & Wilson,) at the Navigation Warehouse and Naval Academy, 1850

Stock code: 102412

Price: £1,250

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First edition. This copy from the library of the earl of Ellenborough with heirloom stamp to the front pastedown. Sir George Biddlecombe, (1807–1878), naval officer and hydrographer, joined the merchant navy at the age of 16, “he was an officer in the East India Company’s navy in 1825–8. Passing as a second master in the Royal Navy in May 1828, he was soon after employed in surveying in the Aetna and the Blonde until 1833. He was on active service in various ships from 1833 until 1854, and was known for his skill in naval surveys in many parts of the world. While in the Actaeon, in 1836, he surveyed a group of islands discovered by her in the Pacific. When attached to the Talbot, 1838–42, he surveyed numerous anchorages on the Ionian station, in the Greek archipelago, and up the Dardanelles and Bosphorus; he examined the south shore of the Black Sea as far as Trebizond, as well as the port of Varna in eastern Bulgaria, and prepared a survey, published by the Admiralty, of the bays and banks of Acre. He also displayed much skill and perseverance in surveying the Skerki shoals in the Mediterranean where he discovered many unknown patches” (ODNB). As Master of the Baltic with Napier – who features on the impressive four-page subscriber’s list – on the St. Vincent, he reconnoitred the southern parts of the Åland Islands, Hango Bay, Baro Sound, and the anchorage of Sveaborg, before conducting the fleet there. He piloted the allied fleets to Kronstadt during the Crimean War, and took the steamer Prince, with upwards of 2000 French troops on board, to Bomarsund, being present at the fall of the fortress. He was subsequently attendant of shipyards in Devonport and Woolwich. On the title page Biddlecombe is described as “of Her Majesty’s Yacht Victoria and Albert”, and it is from there that he addresses the two-page presentation letter to Ellenborough which is loosely inserted into this copy: “Feeling that Your Lordship takes a deep interest in the Naval Service – I beg leave to submit this copy for your Lordships acceptance”, reminiscing that “it was when your Lordship was head of the Navy, that I received my first appointment to the Squadron of Evolution … which afforded me the opportunity of gaining more knowledge of that particular part of my duty which enabled me to produce this work”. Ellenborough was very briefly First Lord of the Admiralty. Uncommon, just 7 copies on Copac, this a particularly nice copy in the cloth, complete with the protractor, and with a suitable naval provenance.

Quarto. Original blue-green cloth, title gilt to the spine, and to the front board together with a large block of a three-master delivering a broadside, elaborate panels in blind to both boards and to the spine compartments, edges sprinkled brown, cream surface-paper endpapers, binder’s ink stamp of Lewis & Sons to the front pastedown. Frontispiece of HMS St. Vincent and 5 other plates, one folding, numerous diagrams of manoeuvres to the text, dispositions coloured by hand, folding table, ?celluloid protractor remains in the slit-pocket to the front pastedown. A little rubbed, front board a touch sunned and mottled, corners softened, head and tail of spine crumpled, light browning, a very good copy.

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