Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age
8.5 x 11, 310 pp.
313 b&w images. 9 tables. App. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 03/29/2012
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
Price:        $120.00 x

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Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age

A. J. Hoving

Translated by Alan Lemmers

Foreword by André Wegener Sleeswyk

In 1671, Dutch diplomat and scientist Nicolaes Witsen published a book that served, among other things, as an encyclopedia for the “shell-first” method of ship construction. In the centuries since, Witsen’s rather convoluted text has also become a valuable source for insights into historical shipbuilding methods and philosophies during the “Golden Age” of Dutch maritime trade. However, as André Wegener Sleeswyk’s foreword notes, Witsen’s work is difficult to access not only for its seventeenth-century Dutch language but also for the vagaries of its author’s presentation.

Fortunately for scholars and students of nautical archaeology and shipbuilding, this important but chaotic work has now been reorganized and elucidated by A. J. Hoving and translated into English by Alan Lemmers. In Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age, Hoving, master model builder for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, sorts out the steps in Witsen’s method for building a seventeenth-century pinas by following them and building a model of the vessel. Experimenting with techniques and materials, conducting research in other publications of the time, and rewriting as needed to clarify and correct some vital omissions in the sequence, Hoving makes Witsen’s work easier to use and understand.

Nicolaes Witsen and Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age is an indispensable guide to Witsen’s work and the world of his topic: the almost forgotten basics of a craftsmanship that has been credited with the flourishing of the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century.

To view a sample of Ab Hoving’s ship model drawings, please visit:

A. J. (Ab) Hoving is the senior restorer of the Navy Collection in the department of Restoration and Conservation at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and a recognized expert on historic Dutch shipbuilding methods.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Hoving…offers an enthralling reading of Dutch shipbuilding from the 17th century through his treatment of Nicolaes Witsen’s major publication of 1671. It is necessary to underline the importance of the illustrations; an essential complement to the text. A very useful and comprehensive glossary is included. In conclusion and above all must be emphasized the essential contribution this book makes to the history of 17th century Dutch naval architecture.”—Eric Rieth, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

"In many ways, this book is one of the most important publications to have come out in the last twenty years. . . Hoving's book deserves a place on the shelves of every maritime library, and in the collection of anyone with a serious interest in wooden shipbuilding."--Nautical Research Journal


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