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NICOLAES WITSEN AND SHIPBUILDING IN THE DUTCH GOLDEN AGE

Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age

Author(s)                 A. J. Hoving, Diederick Wildeman, Alan Lemmers, Andre Wegener Sleeswyk
Publisher Texas A&M University Press
Date 2012
Pages 310
Format pdf
Size 10.1 Mb

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   Any person who tries to master the text of Witsen's "Ancient and Modern Shipbuilding and Management" will discover that the task is akin to finding one's way in a decayed labyrinth, even if he or she re ads XVII-century Dutch without any difficulty. The frequent and rather pointless elaborations in which Witsen indulges resemble shrubbery that has overgrown the paths; some of the walls seem partly collapsed because Witsen has the disturbing habit of not furnishing the announced explanations. Since its first publication in 1671, Witsen's book has been a most valuable source for our knowledge of shipbuilding of that time, even if very few of the many other authors quoting the work had really read it from cover to cover. It took Ab Hoving fourteen years to arrange that part of Witsen's work which directly bears on the history of ship construction logically coherent manner, to supplement and elucidate where necessary as well as to provide helpful commentary. Of course, these years were not spent in continuous labor on this task. In this type of research it is of the utmost importance to pause between the steps of what cannot be anything else but a stepwise approach. These pauses help to consider all previous steps critically and to plan the next steps carefully. Hoving's presentation of this large part of Witsen's work has not only cleared out the labyrinth but also laid out a path w ith clear signposts that readers can follow to arrive at an understanding of Witsen's construction principles. The most important part of the book is the description of the building of a pines, which Witsen intended to present in 122 consecutive steps.

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