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

The Seafaring Young Family

Detail from the top of shipping articles for the Eureka, a bark mastered by Joseph A. Young

My name is James King and I interned at the Phillips Library this spring as part of my course work at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. My first task was to put my learning from class to the test and process the Young Family Papers, with the experienced help and guidance of Tamara Gaydos. This collection is on the somewhat smaller side, being 2.5 linear feet, but the amount of correspondence and meticulous accounts that have been kept really impressed me, especially from a time when these activities took a lot more time and effort to complete than in today’s technology-driven world. Read more