Item MS045 - Richard Nisbet manuscript

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Richard Nisbet manuscript

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • 1786 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

1 item (bound manuscript, 177 p.)

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Biographical history

Little is known about Richard Nisbet. His coat of arms (Argent three boars heads erased sable within a bordure sable) and his crest (a boar salient regardant) taken together with his motto "Vis Fortibus Arma", suggests that he may be of the Nisbets of Greenholm, a branch of the Nisbets of that ilk dwelling in Ayr. He refers to himself as a 'philomath' — a lover of learning or a student of mathematics.

A contemporary Richard Nisbet — an erstwhile planter of Nevis who subsequently relocated to Philadelphia — published at least two works defending the institution of slavery (especially as practised in the West Indies) before being consigned to a Philadelphia hospital for reasons of insanity. It is possible that this is the same Nisbet, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest it.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The manuscript is titled "Richard Nisbet's Navigation Book". A bookplate bearing his coat of arms and motto (Vis Fortibus Arma) with his initials is affixed to the pastedown of the front board. A smaller binder's mark is affixed in the upper left corner of the front pastedown indicating that the manuscript was bound by T. Hookham of New Bond Street [London]. The front board bears the word "Navigation" embossed in gold. The manuscript contains 177 pages of text with extensive geometric diagrams, some of which have been coloured. A sea chart of the area around the English Channel and Bay of Biscay has been tipped in near the centre of the manuscript.

Notes area

Physical condition

The entirety of the manuscript is written in iron gall ink; in some places, heavy lines have entirely perforated their supporting pages and there is a substantial amount of ink transference throughout. Handle with care.

Immediate source of acquisition

The manuscript was acquired from book collector Barry Brown in the late 1960s.


The manuscript is divided into sections: definitions and problems of geometry : plain trigonometry right angled : mariner's compass : plane sailing : traverse sailing : parallel sailing : middle latitude sailing : mercator sailing: a journal of a voyage from England towards Madeira : to find the latitude by double attitudes of the sun : to find the variation of the compass by an amplitude : to find the variation of the compass by an azimuth : nautical and geographical definitions : oblique sailing.

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