A few years ago, with no relevant training or experience whatsoever - except that of paying attention to detail, I built a scale model of the Thermopylae followed by a much larger version of Cook's HMS Endeavour. The results compared favourably to models built by those who style themselves `advanced modellers' and show off their efforts on the internet. As a result of that experience I have reviewed a small number of books which explain rigging and planking techniques - if only because I have a modest understanding of the subject.
This excellent work, however, is a book about the Sailing Frigate told through those historic models which are still in existence and, just as soon as I opened the book, I was unable to put it down. The underlying history of this particular genre of vessel is based on the scale models held by the National Maritime Museum - and what a collection it is too! Only now do I see the difference between the laudable efforts of the amateur and the precision provided by the various shipbuilders of the day who produced these scaled down versions of the larger size vessels they were using in a bid to sell their ships to the Royal Navy and beyond.
May I say, as a professional shipwreck historian, I was previously unaware of Frigates which were also equipped for rowing in addition to the normal complement of sail. A truly outstanding model - showing all 36 oars deployed, appears on the front cover and is fully explained on p.99. That, however, is just one example of many different models.
The book makes an excellent job of explaining the life of the Sailing Frigate. With Chapters entitled; Prehistory 1600-1689, Guerre de Course 1689-1713, The Establishment Era 1706-1748, The `True Frigate' 1748-1778, The Heavy Frigate 1778-1815 and The Last Generation 1815-1850, we find a complete history of the Frigate told through the only accurate representation of this genus of warship still in existence - the builders models of the time. Not even ship portraits by the most celebrated painters of the day could possibly compete with the detail found in these three-dimensional forms.
With anything from a single image reproduced across two pages to four images on a single page, this richly illustrated work shows every type of Frigate from the first designs through to the final hybrids which were powered by both sail and steam - and deftly reports the evolution and eventual demise of the Sailing Frigate as it does so. Some of the models were deliberately finished in an incomplete state - so as to explain various `below deck' and, therefore, out of sight features in addition to assisting the shipwrights charged with building the full size vessel. Throughout the book, at one end of the scale we find models which are in various stages of incompletion, without planking and without masts and rigging. At the other end, we find the most extravagant examples of fully rigged vessels with fine moulding over the stern in models so well made that some are even shown ready for launching on their own model ramp...
This is a book from which the reader will learn much about the Sailing Frigate because the subject is placed so expertly under the microscope, and even more about the topic of model ships because they are as equally well reproduced and, therefore, perfectly represented. Add to all that the simple fact that the entire product is packed with fascinating information and put together in the most readable of styles and it only remains for me to congratulate both author and publisher for such an excellent job of work.