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    The Nautical Sextant, by by Bill Morris.
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2010 Nov 30, 21:39 -0000

    Christmas is coming, the time of year when navigational bookworms hint to 
    their wives and mistresses about what they would like to see in their 
    Gary has recently commended Bill Morris' new book, "The Nautical Sextant", 
    and a few weeks back copied a mention of it, found in "Ocean Navigator". 
    Frank Reed has posted about it, and it's recently had favourable mention in 
    "rete" (a mailing list mainly addressed to curators of science-museums), 
    which I will copy below. So the word is getting around, and it's time for 
    me to add my own few ha'porth, as it's now available in bookshops around 
    the World.
    The evolution of this book has been closely tied up with Navlist, since 
    Bill Morris started to post here a few years back, as "Engineer". Sections 
    of text and pictures were tried out first on us Navlist readers, and it was 
    clear from the start that here were something special. A man who knew what 
    he was talking about, who wrote well with perceptive insight,  knew how to 
    illustrate it with clear photos, and who relished going into detail.
    I like to think that the reception he found here give him encouragement, 
    with the result that a couple of years back he assembled those pages into 
    an e-book on CD, with the titillating title of "The Naked Nautical Sextant 
    and its Intimate Anatomy". At this stage, I had a small involvement, asked 
    to do a bit of error-checking. I found that it not only provided the detail 
    I needed about specific instruments, but also provided a fascinating read 
    about stuff that I had never even realised I wanted to know about.
    The only real criticsm I could offer, at that stage, was that it had to be 
    read off a computer screen (unless laboriously printed out). That's alright 
    for reading the odd few pages, but I hate having to read more than that 
    on-creen. I like printed text. On the other hand, on-screen reading did 
    justice to Bill's photo-illustrations, because they were good enough to be 
    magnified a few times, and needed that to show the necessary detail on a 
    Published on CD, it came to the attention of listmember Ken Gebhart, who 
    runs Celestaire, which stocks a wide range of navigational titles. Ken has 
    encouraged, initiated, and published (in association with Paradise Key) 
    other specialist navigational titles, and he spotted the potential of this 
    one to appear in print.
    I was keen to see it as a printed book, but a bit worried about whether the 
    print quality would be good enough. With a colour picture on nearly every 
    page, it wasn't going to be a cheap product, and needed to be given good 
    resolution, to make up for the lack of a "zoom" button on the printed page.
    I need not have worried. The end-product, which appeared recently under the 
    somewhat-less-sexy title "The Nautical Sextant", shows up the necessary 
    detail nicely on its many colour pictures. With a decent page-size of 18 x 
    26cm, 247 pages, hardback, it more than justifies its (Amazon) price tag of 
    around $26, or £23, post paid.
    With sextants, which superficially seem so similar between various models, 
    the devil is in the details, and Bill relishes detail. He explains not just 
    how they differ, but why they differ, and the tradeoffs that went into the 
    design. Although it's not written as a history, the development, from 
    Newton through Hadley, from octant to sextant, is thoughtfully treated. The 
    principles are carefully explained, with good line-diagrams and 
    Be aware that this book is about just what its title says, "The Nautical 
    Sextant" To find out about air sextants, say, or artificial horizons, you 
    will have to look elsewhere, such as Peter Ifland's "Taking the Stars", or 
    perhaps hope that Bill may be working on a companion volume. Somewhat to my 
    regret, plastic sextants are bypassed.
    The setting-up adjustments that a sextant user needs to know about, are all 
    explained here, fully and carefully, but the user won't find much in the 
    way of practical advice about actually using it in anger at sea for finding 
    a position. Bill makes no pretence to be anything other than a landsman. I 
    would love to take him to sea, as a shipmate in a small craft in brisk 
    weather, with a few sextants to try out, to discover whether his 
    assessments survive that school of hard knocks.
    His book, I'm sure, will last for many years as a classic, there being 
    nothing like it around.
    Navlist members might like to read an appreciation of Bill's book in 
    another mailing-list, "rete" (which is aimed, mostly, at science-museum 
    professionals), from Rich Paselk, who wrote on 25 Nov-
    "Those of you who know me know of my interests in the how of instrument 
    manufacture. With this in mind I want to make note of a book and website 
    that may have come up before, but is new to me.
    The Book is:
    W.J. Morris. "The  Nautical Sextant" Paradise Cay Publications, Arcata, CA 
    The web  page that I particularly enjoyed is:
    The great thing about both is that Bill explains both historical 
    developments and sextant design from the point of view of an instrument 
    maker-engineer/instrument repairman. This is not a historical study, but 
    Bill frequently puts design and material considerations into historical 
    perspective and his insights into instrument design etc. are wonderful 
    (e.g. the advantages disadvantages of frame materials in the web article 
    Although the book and website are specific to the sextant, folks interested 
    in other instruments may also find some of his insights of value since 
    instrument makers generally used similar skills and techniques across their 
    product lines. "
    I agree completely with Rich.
    contact George Huxtable, at george{at}hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK. 

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