Captain John Smith’s Sea Grammar and its Debt to Sir Henry Mainwaring’s ‘Seaman’s Dictionary’

By P.L. Barbour, published February 1972


The need for a book on seamanship and nautical terminology was recognized during the early 1600’s to adequately train future seaman and avoid losing England’s nautical pre-eminence of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This coincided with the appointment of George Villiers as Lord High Admiral after years of neglect, under King James. Captain Sir Henry Mainwaring composed between 1619 and 1623 “The Seaman’s Dictionary” which was the first work in English on seamanship and nautical terms. In 1626, Captain John Smith, Governor of Virginia and Admiral of New England, drawing on this work, composed “An Accidence, or the Path-way to Experience, Necessary for all Young Sea-Man”. This was expanded in 1627 under the title “A Sea Grammar”. Smith’s debt to Mainwaring is evidenced by the author’s comparisons of the similarity of organization and related passages of these two works.

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Filed under: Tudors | Other (location)
Subjects include: Administration | Miscellaneous

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