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Mathematical Treasure: The Mariner's Magazine

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

The Mariner’s Magazine, or Sturmy’s Mathematical and Practical Arts, London, 1669, was compiled and published by Samuel Sturmy (1633–1669). Sturmy was a British sea captain and respected authority on navigation and seamanship. Above, the frontispiece bears Sturmy’s portrait and the title page bears illustrations of the nautical instruments discussed in the book. The feature “calculation” is listed in the content description, indicating a recognition of the importance of mathematics in the tasks of navigation. This image was obtained through the courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

This chart, titled “The Most Excellent Gunner” and designed for naval gunnery, is from The Mariner’s Magazine. By the 17th century, naval gunnery started to become something of a science dependent on the use of mathematical data. Sturmy’s chart provided such data at a time when the British navy was coming into its own. The average gunner was most likely illiterate and such references were intended for gunnery officers. This image was obtained from Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

You may use these two images in your classroom; all other uses require permission from Yale University’s Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, respectively. The Mathematical Association of America is pleased to cooperate with Yale University to make these images available to a larger audience.

An additional plate from a 1684 printing that shows the trajectories of cannonballs fired from various angles and distances appeared in an exhibition, The Geometry of War, 1500–1700, mounted by the History of Science Museum, Oxford.

Plate from Mariner's Magazine showing trajectories of cannon fire.

The Folger Shakespeare Library has provided an image from its first edition of a nocturnal with a movable volvelle, or pointer.

Nocturnal with movable volvelle from 1669 Mariner's Magazine.

The image from the University of Oxford’s copy is available here. See more information about the Folger’s copy here. A full digitization of the first edition owned by the University of Michigan may be found in GoogleBooks, with an OCR version of the text available here.

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: The Mariner's Magazine," Convergence (August 2013)