BOWDITCH, Nathaniel (1773-1838). The New American Practical Navigator: Being an epitome of navigation... Newburyport, Massachusetts: Printed by Edmund M. Blunt, May 1807.

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The New American Practical Navigator: Being an epitome of navigation; containing all the tables necessary to be used with the Nautical almanac, in determining the latitude; and the longitude by lunar observations; and keeping a complete reckoning at sea. 

8vo., (8 6/8 x 5 4/8 inches). One page publisher's advertisement at end. Large folding engraved map of the Atlantic Ocean as frontispiece (some discreet archival repairs to fold separations, some offsetting and spotting), 10 full-page engraved plates (one or two marginal water stains, some spotting and browning with offsetting from plates). Contemporary America mottled sheep, the smooth spine gilt-ruled in six compartment, black morocco lettering-piece in one (upper joint cracked, extremities a little scuffed).


Provenance: with the contemporary ownership inscription of John Pirt at the head of the title-page.


Second and enlarged edition, first published in Newburyport in 1802 under several different imprints.

A skilled navigator and mathematician "Bowditch's first major contribution was his revision of John Hamilton Moore's "The Practical Navigator". Working in collaboration with his brother William, Bowditch corrected the errors in the thirteenth English edition and produced in 1799 the first American edition. A second edition appeared in 1800, and what would have been the third was prepared in 1801. Because Bowditch's alterations were so extensive, however, this third edition was instead published under his own name as "The New American Practical Navigator" (1802). By the time of Bowditch's death, "The New American Practical Navigator" was in its tenth edition. Widely used throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this handbook gained for Bowditch public recognition and his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1799. His election as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Harvard in 1806 (which he did not accept) was based on a reputation acquired through this book, which was more of a practical manual than a scientific contribution; a single article on the application of lunar observations for purposes of navigation, published in the "Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences" in 1804; and his 1806 publication of a chart of the harbors of Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, and Manchester, Massachusetts" (Marc Rothenberg for DNB).

The important large folding map depicts the coastline of the Eastern seaboard of North America in the west and the coasts of France, Portugal and northern Africa in the east, as well as the Trade winds and tides. The other engravings show a newly revised projection of the Plane Scale, the solar system, the annual motion of the earth round the sun, artificial maps used to explain geographical terms and show surveying techniques, a similar globe, a mariner's compass and minute glass, a quadrant, and Mayer's Circle of Reflection (bound upside down). Howes B657; (Streeter 3967).