Arte de la Verdadera Navegacion.

Valencia, en casa de Juan Crisóstomo Garriz, 1602.


FIRST EDITION. pp. (viii) 152 (viii). Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut vignette showing three vessels with ‘España’ written on sails, 6 half-page or smaller woodcut astronomical diagrams, decorated initials and ornaments. Margins slightly foxed, small tear to blank fore-edge of B4, few ll. very slightly browned, little ink splash to lower edge of H, ‘real’ inked over on t-p. A good copy in paper boards c.1800, stamp ‘Bibliotheca Heberiana’ to fep.

A good copy of the first and only early edition of this Spanish navigational manual of illustrious provenance. Trained in law, which he also taught for a while, Pedro de Syria (fl. late C16-early C17) abandoned this career to study the applications of mathematics to navigation. His masterful work was praised by Philip III and rewarded with a high office in the Navy, which Syria never took up. His most renowned work, complete with woodcut diagrams and tables, ‘Arte’ is a manual embracing and updating all fundamental traditional knowledge necessary for navigation: cosmography, astronomy, meteorology, the tides and winds, the use of charts and instrument, calculations of latitude and longitude. Syria also discusses the navigational techniques for and speed of East-West and West-East linear and diagonal trajectories, considering the differences in triangulation determined by the curved ocean surface. He mentions that the compass or ‘bruxola’ was perfected 150 years before Columbus’s discovery of the Indies, and that ‘the other Ocean’ touches several regions of the New World, like Peru and New Spain. He also mentions the ‘Mar Vermejo’, between Nueva Galicia and California, that is, the sea of the Gulf of California. So named by the navigator Ulloa, it had been perceived in the early C16 as a specular water basin to the Red Sea (Polk, ‘Island’, 143-44). Syria’s mention is a very late occurrence of this topographical name. A very dense, uncommon manual epitomising over a century’s worth of ground-breaking navigation techniques and discoveries.

Richard Heber (1773–1833) was a collector of early books, and a founder of the Roxburghe Club. He travelled on the Continent purchasing extensively, often leaving his new books at local depots in major cities like Paris and Antwerp. Upon his death he owned over 100,000 volumes. He once said: ‘No gentleman…can be without three copies of a book, one for show, one for use, and one for borrowers’ (de Ricci, ‘English Collectors’, 102).

Sabin 94133; Alden 602/105; JFB S1051; Palau 314796. D. Polk, The Island of California (London, 1991); Bibliotheca Heberiana (1833), Part II, 5909.


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