The library has an excellent collection of maritime books covering ship design and building, commercial carrying, histories of shipping companies, the Royal Navy, sea battles, wrecks and losses, navigation, whaling , fishing, lifeboats and voyages of exploration and discovery, and much more.
A special mention goes to two early 19th century pilot books of the East Coast, a large 18th century book of sailing directions to the Baltic and a facsimile of Chapman’s 1760 Architectura Navalis Mercatoria, which contains beautifully executed plans of naval ships.
We hold primary sources for researchers including a collection of ships’ voyage books mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries. The voyage books were the accounts kept for each voyage by the master for scrutiny by the owner at the end of the voyage. They contain records of expenditure on food and drink for the ship (usually plenty of small beer as the manual labour was a thirsty job and fresh, clean water was not always available). There are details of where the cargo was taken on board and what it was (mainly coal or Baltic timber but once, a cargo of a few horses and a mule named Sulphur was taken to Carolina and sold at the races in Charlestown. An American breeding enthusiast has traced the line of one of the horses down to the present day).
Other expenses were administrative ones concerning lighting and pilots dues etc. Some list the crew members and wages paid which varied in war and peace times, some list profits paid to shareholders when a reckoning had been made.
We also have a few ships’ log books made by the master during a voyage, recording the ship’s course and the weather and sightings of other ships .
In the late 18th century Nicholas Piper, a ship owner from Pickering, kept two small extra notebooks of expenditure which even included the sixpences given to his apprentices to go to Ruswarp fair. He owned Scoresby’s ship Henrietta and goes into great detail about the amounts of oil and bone gained from each voyage and where it was sold showing the varying profits made.
We have some steam ship voyage accounts and lists of crew for the International line.
We are fortunate to hold a large collection donated by the Smales family. The Smales collection not only contains voyage books, but letters to and from the owners concerning the business and letters from steam ships’ captains to the owners of the Eskside Steam Shipping Company. The Smales family were also timber merchants and their archive has records of their ship building activities which include the purchase of timber in the local area.
As well as the muster rolls we also have the records from the Seamen’s Hospital from the 18th century onwards. They include minutes of the founding meeting and subsequent petitions from widows including details of death and injury at sea and payments made to dependents for food and housing.
Within the Library there is a small archive concerning the loss of the hospital ship Rohilla off Saltwick during World War l.
One of the books in our collection is a beautifuly illuistrated work book belonging to Henry Simpson which he produced when studying navigation in 1711 when he was 17 years old.