The Logbook as Timekeeper

Kate Wersan

A Journal of a voyage from Salem to St. Helena, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape de Verd Islands in the Brig Augusta 1803 and 1804, Log 1067.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, captains and navigators, even those educated in the most cutting edge navigation practices, struggled to translate what they knew at their “finger ends” into generalizable maxims or—perhaps more crucially— accurate navigation.  The extensive collection of ships’ logs in the Phillip’s Library collection testify to the frequent sense of disorientation, frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty that plagued navigators as internal perceptions of space, time, and movement clashed with astronomical observations, soundings, or observations of the natural world. In these entries we can see mariners weighing what they know about their local environments and geographical and temporal locales, seeking reliable patterns, and trying to identify anomalies or outliers.  Read more

Navigation in the Age of Robinson Crusoe

Jamie Bolker

Illustration from the ciphering book of Stephen Jenkins, 1823. Photo courtesy of the author.

As NPR reported in February, the US Navy wants to bring back the practice of celestial navigation, the antiquated art relying on complex calculations that has been handily replaced by GPS technology.  Since electronically assisted navigation over land and sea (and space) has become the norm, it is easy to forget how difficult traveling from point A to B was in centuries past. Read more

Exciting New Library Acquisitions for August

Image from diary of Le Minh Truong, 1973-1974

The Phillips Library has recently acquired some rare and interesting items for its manuscript collection. Here is a sampling of a few of those gems.

North Vietnamese Diary and Photo Album

North Vietnamese Diary and Photo Album by Le Minh Truong, 1973-1974

This handwritten diary and photo album by North Vietnamese war correspondent and photographer Le Minh Truong (1930-2012), documents his journey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North Vietnam to Saigon between 1973 and 1974. Read more