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e.k. chatterton : old ship prints, 1927 

E. Kebel Chatterton : Old Ship Prints, 1927.

Extracts from
E. Kebel Chatterton:
Old Ship Prints
John Lane The Bodley Head Limited,
, 1927.

Spring Books, Dury House, London, 1965.

Edward Keble Chatterton (10 September 1878 – 31 December 1944) was a prolific writer who published around a hundred books, pamphlets and magazine series, mainly on maritime and naval themes.

The illustrations are only attributed in the preface as "courteously reproduced" from the collections of several companies and individual collectors.


Plate 1.
The City of Treviso
with a Carrack.

(From The Numerburg
Chronicle, 1493


Page 22

The rest of the journey need not detain us long.
All the pilgrims got to Jerusalem, whence some of them proceeded to Mount Sinai and returned home via Alexandria. Breydenbach, who was the originator and moving spirit of the whole pilgrimage, arrived back at the end of January 1484.
In that same year he was made Dean of Mainz Cathedral, and lived till 1497, when he was buried in this very church, his body being embalmed with spices that he had brought from the East.

Now, fortunately for our interest and pleasure, Breydenbach on getting back from his pilgrimage took steps to have this account printed in Mainz, which had been the birthplace of Gutenberg.
The text was written in Latin, not by Breydenbach himself but by a Dominican named Martin Roth, a distinguished doctor of divinity, who had not accompanied the expedition.
This publication was in effect a tourist guide likely to assist any others who might think of making the pilgrimage to the East.
It was indeed destined to become so popular that it was translated into German, Flemish, and French, and between 1486 and 1522 no fewer than a dozen editions appeared.
Containing such data as the distances from Venice to the various places en route to Jaffa; much information concerning the Holy Land, the manners, rites, and errors of those in whose possession it happened still to be held; with such miscellaneous matter as Mohammedan laws, remedies for sea-sickness (handed down from two Arabian physicians who flourished in the tenth and twelfth centuries respectively), and remedies against vermin, it was the very book that was required.

Roth's text matches the woodcuts, all of which were drawn by Urnwith, though we cannot say who was the actual engraver.

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consist of panoramic views of the places visited, figures of strange animals, and various Oriental alphabets.
Not merely were these panoramic views the first ever made on such a large size, but never previously had one single painter been known to undertake the illustration of a printed book.
They are of the greatest importance because they were actually sketched on the spot, authentic, artistic.
Many of the other woodcut views belonging to the fifteenth century are not authentic, as we shall presently find; whereas Reuwich has left for all time an exact picture of famous places as seen in 1483, and the earliest printed representations known of Venice, Parenzo, Modon, Corfu, and Rhodes.

Reproduced as Plate 2 in this book is Reuwich's lively illus­tration of Rhodes.
In the middle distance we can see the chain boom to defend the harbour and its shipping from any sudden arrival of the enemy, and the artist has shown the unrepaired heavy damage which the Turks had wrought on this stronghold three years previously.
In the foreground is the two-masted galley in which Breydenbach and his fellow-pilgrims were transported by Contarini from Venice to Jaffa.
This galley is, of course, lateen-rigged, the mainsail being far the bigger, and the woodcut clearly shows a couple of hands at the peak end of the yard engaged in stowing the sail under the supervision of an officer who stands half-way down the yard.
This spar is correctly shown to consist of two pieces lashed together in accordance with historic custom obtaining in the Mediterranean.
At the masthead is clearly shown the top from which darts and other missiles could be hurled against any ship that dared to attack.

Coming down on deck and looking from forward to aft we note the banner which flies at the bows.
This bears the device of the Jerusalem cross of the pilgrims.
At the stern are two more flags, which have been thought to represent Burgundy and Flanders,

Plate 2

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whilst on the awning is the Lion of St. Mark which Contarini would naturally be proud to display.
There are many interesting points in this galley worthy of attention; such for instance as the survival of the ram, the hawse pipes and stowage of the anchors, the pens just forward of the mizzen mast for carrying the pilgrims' horses.
Then, again, Reuwich has shown such details as the single-fluked grappling anchor to be used in tackling and boarding an enemy, the canvas screens for keeping out the seas from the oarsmen, whilst there are such items of gear indicated as the block and vangs of the mizzen, the top cranes with their crane-lines for hoisting up further supplies of darts or stones to be hurled from the maintop.

Inside the chain-protected harbour the artist has tried to give the reader an idea of the three-masted ship lying under protection of the walls; but, inasmuch as the latter interfere with the rigging, he has shown us in the open sea a three-master at anchor, running before the wind, and on a wind across the horizon.
This ship is the conventional carrack of the time, and Reuwich has given a more impressionistic idea of that class whose model was reproduced by "The Master W*."
There can be no doubt but that both artists were contemplating the same type of vessel which was well known as a trader from the Levant to the North Sea.
She is the typical fifteenth-century big-bellied round ship, with rounded forefoot and full round stern.
The fore and after "castles" are seen as the usual fighting platforms, super-imposed on the ship's hull, but soon to be embodied in the actual design.

As to the rig, we are able to witness the transition stage from the single-sail type handed down from Viking times; for, if this fifteenth-century vessel carries three sails, it is really the large main­sail that matters, the foresail and mizzen being used on a wind, as shown, but rather as auxiliaries.
Presently the latter were to become

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of increased importance.
The bowsprit, correctly shown as well-Beeved, was as yet primarily for the purpose of supporting the stays and bowlines, in addition to suspending the grapnel, which could thus be dropped from a height on to the enemy's decks when hoarding tactics should begin.
Reuwich has carefully indicated the powerful rigging for the mainmast and the important round-top with its supply of darts kept in readiness.
Thus, in short, by representing in one picture both a carrack and a galley he has given us the two opposite types along which naval architecture developed: the long, quick-manoeuvring, shallow craft, and the short, round, more seaworthy, deeper draught vessel able to carry the maximum anount of cargo.

I have stressed these Reuwich-Breydenbach prints because it ii difficult to exaggerate their importance to the collector of nautical material.
So much was the artist a pioneer that others did not fail lo borrow his first-hand designs unblushingly.
It will suffice to give three instances.
The great Venetian painter Carpaccio, who displayed in his works such minute knowledge of Oriental costumes and figures that it has been assumed he visited the East, used three of Reuwich's figures of Saracens and Abyssinians in painting the Triumph of St. George in the chapel of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni,

Secondly, Reuwich's work becomes associated with Christopher Columbus in a strange manner.
The latter set out for his memorable first voyage across the western ocean in 1492, and after discovering the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola, got back to
Spain in the following year.
In 1493 was translated his famous Epistola de insults nuper repertis, giving an account of his initial voyage.
This is a very rare book nowadays, and in 1494 there was an edition issued at Basle containing four woodcuts, of which the first and the last are absolute "cribs," having nothing what­soever to do with Columbus's Santa Maria or his other two ships,

Page 26

Pinta and Nina.
For the first of the four cuts is a galley!
Quite apart from her unsuitability for crossing the Atlantic, this illustra­tion has been copied from Reuwich's pilgrim galley seen in our reproduction.
The only alteration which the Basle engraver made was to reverse it, remove the obvious Jerusalem flag at the bows, and then let the cut go at that.
The horses in the pens, and every­thing else aboard, are presented just as observed off Rhodes.
Similarly the last of the Basle quartette shows an excellent stern view of such a fifteenth-century carrack as we discussed just now.
It is true that the Basle printer has this design reversed also, but in all other respects it is exactly as appeared in Reuwich's design showing the port and shipping of Modon.
The third instance of plagiarism will be noted in the following chapter.

The various editions of Breydenbach are eagerly sought, and the accompanying print has been taken from that of 1502 printed Drach at Speier.
This Gothic-lettered book was the third Latin edition.
The French translation of Breydenbach by N. Huen, folio, printed at Lyons in 1488, beginning, "A tres haulte tres cretienne et tres redoubtee princesse," was the first French book to appear with copper plates, and during the first half of the nine­teenth century fetched £84.
Obviously it is worth considerably more nowadays.
But we pass on to examine a coloured woodcut.

Page 27

Of all the old romantic towns in Europe few appeal to us with such fascination as the walled and moated Nuremberg, which still remains in respect of its mediaeval buildings and its art treasures one of the richest in the world.
From its position on the route between the Netherlands and Venice it necessarily became an important centre of activity and thought.
The industry of its inhabitants was proverbial, and as the place became a free township in the thirteenth century there was every encouragement for the work of hand and brain in a brotherhood of peace and an atmosphere of contentment.

Under such happy conditions the arts and crafts prospered amazingly.
Painting and sculpture, wood-carving and music, engraving and printing were fostered by their guilds, and one inevitably thinks of Wagner's Mastersingers, of Hans Sachs, Beckmesser, Walther von Stolzing and the rest.
For it was at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the next century that the guilds had reached their climax, and under the prudent discipline of the older men there grew up such painters and engravers as Durer, the greatest of all designers in woodcuts, Hans Sebald Beham, rge Pencz, and other masters, who were in turn to hand on the tradition to their successors; as Peter Visscher, the Nuremberg sculptor, did to his five eminent sons, all of whom became skilled with their chisels.

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Thus, confining ourselves immediately to book production, we can hardly be surprised at the ambitious work which Nuremberg issued in 1493 under the title Registrum hujus opens libri cronicarum.
This "Chronicon Norimbergense " was originally issued in two editions, the first in Latin and the second in German a few months later.
The latter is even more scarce than the other, and even fifty years ago fetched from £15 to £30.
The perfect collection of prints can never be complete without at least one of the woodcuts which the Nuremberg Chronicle contains.
This great folio was compiled by its contemporary Hartmann Schedel, a Nuremberg physician; its illustrations of cities and figures of people were executed under the superintendence of Michael Wohlgemuth and of William Pleydenwurff, who were reputed as mathematicians as well as painters-" adhibitis tamen viris mathematicis pingendique arte peritissimis " is the description applied to these art-editors, as we may regard them.
Now Wohlgemuth was that master to whom Diirer in his early career was apprenticed, and the book was issued by Anthony Koburger, the famous printer, who was Durer's godfather.
Thus we have the closest connection between the ablest artists and the most skilled reproducers of that day.

Certainly the Nuremberg Chronicle is a curious collection both as to letterpress and woodcuts.
There is an excellent copy of the Latin edition in the British Museum, and as we turn over its leaves we may feel inclined to smile at the ponderous German mentality.
But here are distinguished literary and artistic men of the fifteenth century trying to quicken the minds of their fellow-townsmen towards the big fundamentals of life.
In a sense it is a kind of picture-book, for there are about two thousand woodcuts, most of them being half-page; but it is less an encyclopaedia than a guide to knowledge.
The book opens with the creation of the world, and there is

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an arresting cut showing Noah's ark in course of construction.
Inasmuch as these inland dwellers had knowledge only of the conventional fifteenth-century carrack type, the ark is drawn as just such a vessel, with fighting forecastle and sterncastle of the type already seen in Reuwich's Rhodes design.
Those Nurembergers with their lack of information, which can come only from original research, could not possibly know what even an Egyptian ship of the Dynastic period resembled; and though to-day no artist could reconstruct Noah's craft, yet the last thing he would do would be to depict a three-masted sailing ship of his own period.

But we must not be too critical, for the compilers were doing their best.
If to-day an instructor going into the heart of Wiltshire, or the Middle West of America, tried to show landsmen, who had never left their farms, what Noah's ship actually resembled in appearance, he would have no easier task than Wohlgemuth and Pleydenwurff faced.
The Chronicle has less regard for originality of conception than for an employment of the limited material at its disposal, so that the results are often amusing.
Some of the designs were unmistakably adapted from the Reuwich-Breydenbach publication, and there is a strange disregard for historical accuracy.
Thus you will find large woodcuts intended to indicate Jerusalem and Damascus, yet with the Mediaeval Gothic churches and steeples of Germany.
Similarly, when the art-editors ran short of blocks for one town, they used again the same which had done duty for another.
In this way the wood-cut of Damascus serves on other pages for such different localities as Neapolis and Perugia.

The large double-page illustration of Venice is  "lifted" from Breydenbach, and further on at the back of folio comes the illustration reproduced here as a colour frontispiece.
This purports to be the ancient city of Tarvisium, more familiar to us under the name of Treviso, which lies eighteen miles north of Venice.

Plate 1.
The City of Treviso with a Carrack.

(From The Numerburg Chronicle, 1493)


Page 30

It is true that Treviso already possessed its fifteenth-century cathedral and the Gothic church of Santa Maddalena, but there was no reason (so far as the editors were concerned) why this design should not be given whatever geographical title was most convenient.
That which chiefly entertains us, however, is the three-masted carrack which is shown outside the city's walls.
This has been copied from Reuwich's carrack in the Rhodes woodcut, but it has been reversed.
Three sailors on the mainyard and one other below it on deck have been added for the Nuremberg block, but otherwise the two ships are practically the same down to the very angles at which the yards have been lowered and crossed.

Throughout the Chronicle there are other woodcuts which also reveal the round-bellied ships with military maintop.
There are seamen going about their duties, there are harbour-quays and so on, all of these details contributing to our nautical knowledge of that century.
It is, none the less, something of a shock to find before the end of the book that a cut which pretends to represent Magde­burg is in fact identically that which has also served for Treviso.
The book contains a large double-page print of Nuremberg, which is perhaps the finest thing of the whole series; for there was no necessity here to plagiarize. But the towers, the spires, and embattlements of the engravers' own beloved city are shown with an enthusiastic fidelity and truthfulness.

The introduction of cross-hatching gave to these woodcuts a warmth and tone which make them of greater attractiveness, yet they are lacking in spirit and feeling when compared with much of the other fifteenth-century engraving.
The Nuremberg Chronicle artists have sought to obtain their effects by strongly marked shadows cut in stout contiguous lines. Many of these cuts, however, show that the editors were anxious to give their uncritical public rather a large quantity of entertaining illustrations than a few

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selected impressions of the highest excellence.
As one critic of the nineteenth century reminds us, these are to be appreciated not for their art but their imagery.
And at a time when Europe was beginning to wake up from its long Mediaeval slumber and inquire concerning the world about it, the Nuremberg Chronicle and later volumes supplied part of the same pleasure which in our own time is obtained from the illustrated newspapers.
The map which the compilers included in this volume is of further interest as showing how limited was fifteenth-century geographical knowledge.
Anglia is indicated with London (Lvndea) marked, as also shown are Ireland (Ibernia), Scotland (Scocia), Iceland (Vslant) ; but the full burst of enlightenment had yet to come.

A further confirmation of what we can now readily accept from " The Master from Reuwich, and the Nuremberg Chronicle as the standardized type of ocean-going merchantship will be found in the next print.
Here we have a couple of such vessels in an engagement off the coast of Iceland.
This is taken from a book written by Olaus Magnus (1496-1558), Archbishop of Upsala, concerning the North European peoples. Like many other books of the time it was printed in Latin, the title being Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, the incident shown bearing the explanation, "De mutua strage mercatorum pro portubus Islandiae."
This volume, which is full of many quaint chapters on wars, winds, whales and much else, appeared at Rome in 1555, but another edition was printed, also in Latin, at Antwerp three years later.
In 1658 there was printed at London, in English, a version entitled, "A Compendious History of the Goths, Swedes and Vandals and Other Northern Nations, written by Olaus Magnus, Arch-Bishop of Upsall and Metropolitan of Sweden."

It is by piecing together data such as are gathered by these early publications that we can fill in the gaps and get a fairly full picture


of past seafaring.
From the Archbishop's account we have positive information of the jealousies and fights which went on between the merchant ships of Bremen, Lubeck, Scotland and England for the primacy of the sea and the privilege of riding at anchor in Icelandish harbours.
The book tells us of "the leather ships made of hides used by the Pyrats of Greenland" ; "of the manner of fishing for whales " ; and we get an insight as to the early sixteenth-century
mariner by the regulation which insisted that any who "shall perniciously falsify the marriner's compass, especialy the needle" was to lose one of his hands.
Having regard to the enormity ol such an offence against the safety of ship and crew, the penalty was obviously well deserved.

In thoss print of the merchantmen bombarding each other it will be noticed that as they are running before the wind neither foresail

Engagement Between Two Merchant Ships
of the Coast of Iceland.

 From an engraving of 1555.


nor mizzen is set.
The ship to starboard has two guns mounted aft, and able to deliver a broadside of eight.
The use of artillery in Northern European ships had already during the first half of the sixteenth century made considerable progress.

Portholes had been introduced into the English ships during the reign of Henry VII, • I although shot of iron, lead and stone were the ammunition, there was still great reliance on boarding tactics and therefore howH, arrows, spears, pikes, halberds and bills. Indeed, as ilham llourne wrote in the year immediately preceding the Armada Itions, 11 We English men have not beene counted but of last I to become good Gunners " ; for the art of using naval guns h would fire a 30-lb. ball had been regarded by our forefathers barbarous and rude thing." The extreme range of such a was less than 2,800 yards fired by a demi-cannon ; but sup-fig these Icelandish merchants carried only " periers " they i\ fire a 24-lb. ball about a hundred yards less. We must not 01 too much detailed accuracy from the draughtsman : for ncc he has omitted in both ships to show the bowsprit. But illustrating northern cargo vessels of a date immediately reeding the Elizabethan period these prints are helpful and HIT glad to have our slender resources strengthened. Pel haps the most modern item in the book is the line engraving, here reproduced, showing a contemporary lifebelt which is
<    iiHMcd in a chapter, " De natatione armati militis." Sixteenth-niuiy books dealing with bright ideas, and what the seaman of duy terms '' gadgets," were not unknown. The same William urne, for instance, in 1578 published a little volume entitled 1 rations or Devises Very necessary for all Generalles and Captaines, headers of men, as well by Sea as by Land, which contained
<    Iul tips for preventing an enemy boarding, how to sink him lltn he was in superior strength, and so on.    Bourne even

Page 34

suggested a method how " you may make a Boate to goe without
oares or Sayle, by the placing of certaine wheels on the outside
     nf the Boate. in that sort, that the armes
of the Boate, in that sort, that the armes of the wheeles may goe into the water, and so turning the wheeles by some provision, and so the wheeles shall make the Boate to goe." In other words, here was an Elizabethan already thinking ahead towards the solution which was found in the nineteenth-century steamship.
But the Swedish Archbishop's " gad¬get " was a method of enabling even a soldier in armour to keep afloat by means of a leather bag filled with air (" saccus coriarius insuflatus ") by means of a pipe (" fistula "). The design here shows the bag or belt below the soldier's

supported    by    straps across the shoulders, whilst he is in the act ot inflating it. To many who served afloat in the British Navy during the recent Great War this print will be reminiscent of almost identically the same article which was in use at the Dardanelles and elsewhere. The book, altogether, is so replete with maritime incidents and illustrations—not excluding the sea-serpent—that the collector will find it a great joy.
Israhel van Mechenem of Bocholt, who died in 1503, whose lather has been identified with The Master of the Berlin Passion, was another early line engraver by whose work we get yet further illuminative details of the late fifteenth-century ships. Frans Huys, who made engravings of the younger Pieter Breughel's

Sixteenth Century Lifebelt
From an engraving of 1555.


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Plate 35

Plate 53

Plate 59

Plate 63

E. Kebel Chatterton:

Old Ship
John Lane The Bodley Head Limited,

, 1927.

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 Geoff Cater (2015) : E. Kebel Chatterton : Ship Prints, 1927.