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    Re: The Nautical Sextant, by by Bill Morris.
    From: Gary LaPook
    Date: 2010 Nov 30, 14:35 -0800
    I wish I could write as well as you do George.


    --- On Tue, 11/30/10, George Huxtable <george@hux.me.uk> wrote:

    From: George Huxtable <george@hux.me.uk>
    Subject: [NavList] The Nautical Sextant, by by Bill Morris.
    To: NavList@fer3.com
    Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 1:39 PM

    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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