Manuscript Number: ljs345

Version: Mar/18/2003

Bourne, William, Inventions Or Devices, in English. Autograph Manuscript on Paper.

[Gravesend, England c.1576]

Quarto, 120 leaves, collation: flyleaf, [3], dedication, 120, [2], endleaf, foliated by the scribe in lower right corner of each recto, single column of 24 lines, single-ruled ink border, autograph dedication signed in Bourne?s italic hand to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the text in a neat secretarial copy, autograph emendations and additions in Bourne?s secretary hand in approximately 95 places on 67 pages, watermark of an urn inscribed ?TC", similar to Briquet 12814 (Silly, France, 1582), autograph illustrations and tables comprising one full drawing, 3 drawings on inserted slips, 6 smaller illustrations and diagrams in the text showing shops, a cannon, a besieged town, a ground plan of ?a strong fortiffycation?, etc. and 4 tables, autograph foliation and headings, occasional very slight damp stains, short tear to f. 32 not affecting text, some leaves skillfully mounted on guards with no loss of text, speckled calf binding, rebacked, some scuffs on sides, 200 x 150 (175 x 116) mm.

Incipit: To the ryght honorabll and hys syunguller good lorde Sir Wylliam Cecill baron of burghlegh knight of the most noblle order of the garter?


  1. An American collector.
  2. Acquired at Christie?s, 29 November 1999, lot 207.


William Bourne (c. 1535-1583) was a resident of Gravesend on the lower Thames. He is listed as one of the jurats of Gravesend in the first and second charters of incorporation in 1562 and 1568. In this capacity he recorded his own name in 1571 as one of the innkeepers in Gravesend fined for giving short measures; but he also worked as a gunner probably on the Gravesend bulwark, one of the Thames defenses. He combined these two professions with writing. His earliest works are a series of almanacs, with appended rules for navigation, which in 1573 he expanded and published as A Regiment of the Sea. Inventions or Devices was first produced two years before its first printing and contains 133 devices, twenty more than the printed edition. This manuscript contains 10 illustrations, six more than the printed work. However, the manuscript does not have 20 devices that appear in the printed book including Bourne?s original design for a submarine and a diving suit. The changes in the printed version show an increased interest in the military focus of the material over surveying and measurement. The manuscript is a complete, signed, authorial, pioneering work on military gunnery, tactics and navigation. This work formed the beginning of English literature of navigation.

The manuscript is dedicated to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer and the foremost statesman of England. The ninth device describes the use of fireships as a later hand cites as ?practiced in 88 ag[ains]t the Spanishe armado?.


Ancient Inventions, Peter James and Nick Thorpe, New York: Ballantine Books, [1994], p.103; Encyclopedia Britannica, ?submarine, early hand-powered submersibles; Christie?s, 29 November 1999, lot 207; OCLC 39754981 (first printed edition).

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