Architectura Navalis Mercatoria

Architectura Navalis Mercatoria by F.H. af Chapman was first published in 1786. The book is loaded with period ship plans from the age-of-sail, including frigates, schooners, sloops, cutters and much more.

Architectura Navalis Mercatoria is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of ships. A first edition is well beyond reach for most people, but fortunately, a new facsimile edition gets published every few centuries.

The 1957 facsimile of the "Mercatoria", printed by Robert Loef Verlag in Magdeburg, Germany.
architectura navalis mercatoria facsimile cover

It turns out, this is often enough to keep the second hand prices at a reasonable level for most of us. Especially if you consider what you get for your money.

Between editions you'd expect to pay anywhere from $35 and on up depending on reprint and condition. We're in luck, because it is currently in print from Dover publications, thus reducing the price to less than $12.00.

The Mercatoria for short, has very little text. In fact, the only text is on a title page with a large period "harborscape" and an index page of the 62 plates that make up the book. More accurately, there are three index pages - one each in Swedish, English and French.

Most of the plates depict more than one ship, so the total number of ship plans is 145, plus one "Boat for Sailing on the Ice".

F.H af Chapman followed the Mercatoria with the treatise on ship building several years later. Essentially, the accompanying text. It didn't catch on quite the way of his the earlier work, and is by no means necessary to review the plates in the Mercatoria.

The book was first printed on a large format and the plans drawn to a 1:64 scale. Just about all facsimile editions are in a considerably smaller format.

Amazingly, the original copper printing plates are still in existence at the Staten's Sjohistoriska Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. They also have several first editions (in varying condition) in their library that is open to the public.

Af Chapman had an incredibly productive career, before and after publishing his masterpiece. Many of his plans and writings are preserved at the Sjohistoriska Museet (as mentioned above). For a sampling, I highly recommend the book F.H. Chapman: The First Naval Architect and His Work by Daniel G. Harris.

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