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CHARNOCK, John.

Biographia Navalis;

or Impartial Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of Officers of the Navy of Great Britain, from the Year 1660 to the Present Time; drawn from the Most Authentic Sources, and disposed in a Chronological Arrangement.

Published: London: R. Faulder, 1794-8

Stock code: 70849

Price: £500

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First edition. Unfortunately slightly defective set of this uncommon and desirable work of reference. Charnock was educated as Winchester and Trinity College, Oxford, at university he wrote a number of political essays for periodicals, but came to dedicate himself to the study of Naval matters. In the pursuit of such knowledge it appears that he served for a time as a volunteer in the Navy, although the details of his service are not known. A falling out with his father forced him to fall back on his researches in order to support himself. “Charnock lived in Blackheath, and struck up a friendship with Captain William Locker, a correspondent of Horatio Nelson and lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital. This association gave a definite direction to his work, and led to the publication of his Biographia navalis a compilation covering all post captains and admirals, in which he was largely aided by Locker’s collections. His acquaintance with many of the officers whose lives are related, and his knowledge of naval tradition, gave Charnock’s book a peculiar value. At the same time, Charnock had little access to original documentation and, though painstaking to a degree, he had very hazy ideas as to the credibility of evidence and a tendency to confuse officers of the same surname. Sir John Laughton, who checked his work extensively for the Dictionary of National Biography, observed: ‘The book is useful, but it should be used with caution'” (ODNB).

6 volumes octavo (210 128 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf, flat spines, black labels, gilt greek key rolls forming compartments with small sailing ship tools, gilt floral rolled panel to the boards, edges sprinkled brown, marbled endpapers. Frontispiece to each, lacks the folding chart. A little rubbed, some head-caps chipped, upper joint of volume I started, but holding, small tear in the first text leaf of volume V, repaired, slight loss of text, bookplate removed from the same volume, light browning throughout, about very good. Contemporary armorial bookplates of Richard Robinson to the front pastedowns, later ownership inscriptions of C. L. Eastwick.

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