FREE Delivery in the UK.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
The History of Seafaring has been added to your Basket

Dispatch to:
To see addresses, please
Please enter a valid UK postcode.
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Good | Details
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ships from the UK. Former Library books. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Your purchase also supports literacy charities.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The History of Seafaring Hardcover – 25 Sep 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
"Please retry"
£25.95 £7.50

Man Booker International Prize 2017
A Horse Walks Into a Bar has won the Man Booker International Prize 2017. Learn more
£40.00 FREE Delivery in the UK. Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Conway (25 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184486040X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844860401
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 3.4 x 34.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,003,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

Product description

Review the most striking and original book of the season. It is a hefty, coffee table-sized tome, and beautifully illustrated The scope of this book is breathtaking and it seems for once that the authors and editors have achieved their promise and aim. -- Taken from review in Warships International Fleet Review, January 2008 issue

The authors have endeavoured to create a definitive volume on navigation and exploration, with a fully international approach. Their research is based on original sources with new information being brought to the historical table. The images include rare maps, manuscripts, maritime paintings, navigational instruments and artefacts and they illustrated the book throughout. The book has chapters on ancient sailing routes, Viking routes, advances in science, Iberian ventures, Frontiers unlimited, to name just a few. It highlights how important the seaways are in the world as a whole, both in history and today. -- Review in All At Sea, December 2007

Big subject, big book. Johnson and Nurminen, an American and a Finn respectively, set out to write a book that "deals with finding your destination when sailing on the open sea, and with how the knowledge, skill and tools of navigation have evolved over the centuries." The result is a very readable 374 page tome of atlas dimensions and weighing 6¼ lbs, so not one to be taken lightly by any sense of the word. It is a handsome volume richly illustrated throughout with 353 facsimiles of contemporaneous paintings, instruments and charts, complemented with modern diagrams depicting routes taken by various seafarers.

The authors, each of whom has considerable nautical experience, clearly have a deep affection for the subject. Johnson built his own 27 foot boat in which he has crossed the Atlantic a number of times, and he tends to shun modern navigational aids in favour of more traditional techniques. Nurminen is a reserve officer in the Finnish Navy and is head of a nautical foundation and publishing house in that country. No surprise, then, that the clear explanations of navigational techniques often seem to reflect the first-hand knowledge of one who has probably practised them, and that among the wealth of illustrations many were sourced in Scandinavia, often the John Nurminen Foundation or the Juha Nurminen Collection. While their focus is mainly European, the authors also discuss the Pacific and Indian Ocean seafaring traditions.

It is a fascinating voyage through seafaring history that charts the evolution of marine navigation, paradoxically made all the more interesting by knowing already where we have reached and how the story must end. As to the route taken along the way, in my case some of the waypoints were known while some others were only vaguely recalled. There were several more gaps in my knowledge, I now realise, than I care to admit. In telling its story the book links the various events and achievements by our forefathers, and shows how one thing enabled or led to another. So, in this one volume we now have the complete story, one that has different origins in different parts of the world at different times in history. Some of these paths of evolution eventually converge, some cross while others seemingly peter out.

Thus, the feats of the Polynesians and Micronesians are described who, up to 4,000 years ago undertook voyages within the Pacific Ocean of several hundreds of miles out of sight of land and without any technical aids, travelling between remote islands by relying on their understanding of nature and their interpretation of natural phenomena. (As one who has fretted over finding Bermuda while the Supply Officer told me for the umpteenth time how vital the stores were that awaited us there, I find their achievements awesome.) At the same time the Egyptians and Phoenicians were developing trading routes in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Later, the Arabs began to open up routes across the Indian Ocean and even as far as the South China Sea. The Chinese themselves developed large vessels capable of open sea voyages, and by the 15th Century they were sending huge fleets (almost 2,000 ships many of which were as much as 120 metres in length) as far as the East coast of Africa for the purpose of trading. The contributions of the Romans, Greeks, Vikings and Irish (yes, the Irish) to the development of navigation are covered along the way, as are those of the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and others. Also described are: how wind roses developed into compass roses; the importance of magnetic compasses and how the understanding of magnetic variation and its affect on navigation gradually grew; latitude sailing; how the nautical chart evolved and the significance of Mercator's projection; the cross-staff and the quadrant; the astrolabe and the sextant; lighthouses and seamarks; the understanding of tides and currents, and so on. It is all here.

What I found particularly good about the book was that throughout there are what the authors call Info boxes where they explain various aspects of navigation from the standpoint of the seafarer which they have grouped under three themes: natural phenomena; tools used at sea; ships. There are 30 such Info boxes most of which are double page spreads, all superbly illustrated. What was a little disconcerting, though, was that the Info boxes are distinguished only by a slightly smaller typeface, so on turning a page the unwary reader might find himself momentarily confused.

I was also pleased to see due weight given to the achievements of Captain James Cook whom I have always considered one of the greatest Naval Officers. My admiration for him is summarised by this quote from the book: "Throughout the history of navigation some men, like Christopher Columbus, had great practical skill in navigation; others, like Magellan, pushed the bounds of their discoveries to lands farther than any others before them; while some, like Dampier, were keen observers who went beyond extending geographic knowledge by describing the natural history and peoples of the regions visited. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) was the embodiment of all these skills, united to a degree unmatched by any navigator either before or since."

The book ends with a very brief Epilogue entitled "The Electronic Age" which records the advent and influence of radio and satellites on navigation, and of digital charts. Sagely, the authors conclude thus: "[Despite these technological advances] It all finally comes down to each man's judgement, gained through experience and the use of his senses - of what he sees, hears and feels - when traversing paths of the sea." Amen to that.

My concern at first was that Johnson and Nurminen might have taken on too much but, at least so far as the history of European navigation is concerned, they have produced an excellent book. Whether it properly fulfils the promise of its title I am not qualified to say. My criticisms are niggles in the main. In a couple of instances the text is printed over a dark picture, making it difficult to read. There is occasional repetition, eg the explanations of dead reckoning and the use of the chronometer for determining longitude. If the authors had wanted the book to be used for reference it would have benefited from more comprehensive indexing than just an index of names, as well, perhaps, as a glossary.

Nevertheless, for anyone with an interest in marine navigation I heartily recommend this book. Add it to your Christmas list by all means, but warn Santa that Rudolph and co might struggle a bit going uphill. -- Taken from review by Peter Chapman-Andrews for Navigation News, December 2007 issue


The History of seafaring is a huge topic and Donald Johnson and Juha Nurminen have produced an equally huge book. The author's strengths are in the history of navigation upon which they self-consciously concentrate.
Johnson has sailed across the Atlantic no less than five times in his self-built schooner and has practical experience of using ancient navigational instruments.
Nurminen has made his wealth in modern cargo handling but has used this to support his research and collecting in the history of navigation.
It is a finely-illustrated and comprehensive history of navigation from the earliest times to the present day...The History of Seafaring is excellent value in all ways and does its main subject more than justice. It is a very admirable volume and is recommended both as a good and informative read and a much better than average addition to the coffee table. -- Taken from Review by Dr Eric Grove for Navy News, January 2008 issue

Seafaring Ancestors?
This books is a visual delight. The colour prints adorning every page are sumptuous. Besides aesthetic appeal, teh ancient charts, illuminated manuscripts, astronomical tables, wind maps, navigation instruments, portraits of great seamen, painting of ships and different sea states and the flora and fauna of exoric lands feed the imagination with a sense of the mysterious world our ancestors set out to explore...
..There are 'Info boxes' devoted to specific types of vessel, clippers, East Indiamen, early cargo ships, but these deal with design and purpose; the extreme dangers and rigours of a sailor's lif before the modern age can, perhpas be inferred, but are seldom addressed directly, not the sailor's sense of pride in his craft or his distinctive character, bred of constant hardship, sudden emergency and long periods away from 'normal' life ashore.
This delighful book will enliven your research - It is a work of enthusiasm, hurrah for that!
-- Peter Padfield, for BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine, Dec 07

From the Publisher

- The ultimate single-volume history of seaborne exploration.
- 35 feature boxes on discovery, ship development, method and instruments.
- Some 270 illustrations many of which are published for the first time.
- Includes material from some of the world's leading museums and

See all Product description

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bought as gift for someone. They were thrilled with the book. Amazons service was excellent
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very nice book,pictures and everything other is also great !
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand, beautiful book of adventure and history 30 Sept. 2011
By Inverse Outburst - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This wonderful book tells the stories of adventure and bravery that took place across the ages. Even in today's world, the bold, the intelligent, and the plain curious, suffer the afflictions of fools and tyrants who fear all and anything they cannot understand or control. But in ages past, when these blights on the human spirit not only clung to the idea of a flat world, where the water just fell of into the aether, they even punished with death those who dared to dream. Fortunately for us, the brave men and women of history flew in the face of fear and tyranny to pursue the truth and the fire in their own hearts.

For those who love books, not only for the wonders they reveal, but for their physical beauty, this one is a treasure. Printed on thick, quality stock, with vibrant and expertly done photography of navigational objects, charts and maps, illustrations, and more, this book will make proud addition to any library.

By the same publisher, is the book A History of Arctic Exploration. It is a twin sister to this one and I highly encourage the reader of such material to purchase them both. You will not be disappointed!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful Edition of Seafairing 26 July 2015
By Chas B Livingstone - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A beautiful Edition of Seafairing.Wonderful words arranged to more than cover the subject. A fine paper with excelent printing and beautiful photos of original documents. I will enjoy its details over the coming months.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book 29 July 2014
By Milton J. Keiles - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful book, great reference on navigation and maritime history
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting, but still good in ways 8 Jun. 2016
By Jim Richmond - Published on
Format: Hardcover
First off, this is a BIG and HEAVY book. It's 13 1/2" tall, and would not initially fit on my bookshelf. Luckily, my bookshelf has adjustable shelf levels, so with modifications, I could make it fit. This isn't a book that that you'd want to leave laying around, so I'm glad I could make it fit. I don't have a scale to weight it, but this is by far the heaviest book I own. It's not user-friendly for carrying around, and certainly isn't very portable. The thick pages and plentiful graphics are great, but add to the weight of this beastie.

I was hoping for more of a general nautical book, with nautical terms, descriptions of ship parts/components, descriptions of actual sailing and handling the sea, and coverage of America and New World sailors/privateers/pirates. I really found none of that in this book.

This book is actually narrow in scope, and focuses on navigation in the Old World. There is coverage of the Middle East and Asia, but that's pretty much it. Navigation is the focus, so not much in the way of commerce, privateering, leisure sailing, etc. What the book covers is very deep in scope, and the imagery and graphics are top notch. So if that is your specialty and interest, you'll like this book.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a book that will give you a taste of sea air and the feel of misty winds on your face, this isn't your book. This is a book generated from other books in the depths of libraries. That can be great too - and there's a place for books like this - but again, it wasn't what I was seeking. I found myself getting a bit bored about 1/4 through the book too, as it seems to sometimes repeat what was discussed prior. In summary, this book is a bit of a millstone in my collection, being big and bulky, and also an expensive purchase that I wasn't quite satisfied with (a bit of buyer's remorse).
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know

Look for similar items by category