Rouan: Martin le mesgissier, 1575. FIRST EDITION. THE FIRST FRENCH BOOK ON NAVIGATION. Woodcut printer's device on title, full-page woodcut portrait of author facing impressive full-page woodcut coat-of-arms. With 20 text woodcuts, including illustrations of instruments, and 3 tables. Nineteenth-century vellum; small repairs to title-page and to lower corner of coat-of-arms. Item #4428
FIRST EDITION of this extremely rare treatise, the first work printed in France on navigation and one of the earliest attempts to determine longitude at sea. As a mathematician and instrument-maker, Bessard believed this could be accomplished by fixing one's position vis-a-vis the stars; his instruments, which are illustrated here, support this conclusion. Notwithstanding, he was well aware of the needs of seamen, and his methods for determining longitude at sea were successfully followed by navigators and seamen. An early description of South America is also included, undoubtedly drawn from Bessard's first hand experience.
Bessard (also Bossard), born in Putot-en-Auge, became an accomplished mathematician and designer of navigational instruments, publishing in 1572 L'aigle-compas de T. de Bessard, d'auge en Normandie. However, most of his life was passionately spent in travel, both at sea and by land, and Bessard is remembered as one of the most renowned voyagers in sixteenth-century France.
We could locate only three other copies of this work: British Library (STC-French, 51), the Bibliotheque Nationale (12,647) and the Crone Collection of the Scheepvaart, the Dutch Maritime Museum (Crone Library, 77), which copy appears incomplete.