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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Sailing Ships, 21 Jan. 2011
J. C. Van Dijk (Amsterdam Holland) - See all my reviews
I received First Rate The Greatest Warships in The Age of Sail by Rif Winfield yesterday the 21st of january 2011.
I could not stop reading:it is a great book(also in size)with a wealth of information,including lots of drawings
some contemporary including a large unfoldable drawing ot the Victoria (with also steam propulsion)
All in all a very recommendable book.
I am a modelbuilder(dutch)but I have always admired the British craftmanship on building ships.
Anyway I have learned something more trough this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb- but not quite complete., 11 Oct. 2011
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This is a beautifully produced book, and full use is made of its considerable physical dimensions to reproduce many magnificent illustrations, mostly in full colour. Even more illustrations could have been provided: in my own collection there are many additional photographs of models that relate to First Rates, and the Van De Veldes, Elder and Younger, drew or painted most of those from the Restoration period, although it is likely that not all of these fine works of art were available to the publishers. The technical data provided is rather meagre and significant details such as changes in the armament warrants may have been easier to comprehend if presented in tabular form. We were also promised comparisons with foreign contemporaries, but brief details of three captured ships is all that is provided.

My real criticism, though, concerns the decision to omit all the ships that were not of the very largest size, even though they may, in practice, have been given First Rate status during their careers. The Cromwellian Dunbar (later Henry) and London, also the Restoration period Royal Kathlene, Royal Oak and Loyal London, and the St Michael, all had histories that were intertwined with those of the slightly larger ships of their time. Although rates were first mentioned during the reign of Charles 1st, there was not a true differentiation in role between First and Second Rates until the 30 Ships program of 1677. At a later period, during the ealy 1800's, the Impregnable, Ocean, Trafalgar, Royal Adelade and Princess Caroline were certainly considered First Rates: the 'standard' warrant for these ships was 104 guns and they were mostly rather larger than their immediate predecessors, but nonetheless all are excluded from the book.

It's true the Caledonias and 'Surveyors of the Navy' classes were larger still and had 120 guns but the Navy itself recognized that there were two categories of First Rate in the 1810- 50 period, the second rates of that time being the large new two- deck ships, notably those of the 90 gun Nile class. Mr Winfield is not strictly wrong to exclude all those ships, and probably did so to avoid creating an even larger and more expensive book, but personally I would have preferred an 'inclusive' rather than this somewhat 'exclusive' approach: if I'm spending this amount anyway I'd be prepared to pay a bit more if necessary to be sure I have the whole subject fully covered. However, it may have been possible to avoid more expense through economizing a little elsewhere in the lavish production- I believe this could have been done without really spoiling what is certainly a high quality product.
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