Every book that covers celestial navigation gives some sort of description of the sextant and usually plenty about its use. However, of the few books published in the twentieth century, specifically about the sextant, none give much detail about the structure of the sextant. The Nautical Sextant aims to correct this.
You will find little in it about how to use the sextant, but you will find a wealth of detail, down to the nuts, bolts and washer level, about its structure, with clear instructions about its maintenance, repair, adjustment and history that you cannot find anywhere else.
It covers instruments from about 1850 to the present day, so the collector and antique enthusiast is well-catered-for. Though little used now by the professional sailor, the sextant has enjoyed something of a renaissance among recreational sailors, and at least 2000 new sextants are being produced annually to cater for this demand.
This is no mere pamphlet, but a substantial work of over 66,000 words containing over 270 labelled colour photographs and diagrams in over 250 pages. It is 7 x 10 inches (185 x 262 mm), hard bound in black with the title in gold on the spine. The photograph shows it in its dust jacket. The list price is US$39.95 (see “Buy the Book”).
I will now be using the Blog to add information that was too detailed or too late for inclusion in the print book, so that the book will, as it were, be continuously updated. To help you find your way about the posts, I have now added an index, which will also be updated with each post. Please note that the material in the posts is copyright. I am happy however for you to print out a copy for your own use and for purposes of study.
This is what reviewers have said about the book:
Even landsmen who take an interest in scientific instruments and precision measurement will find this book of absorbing interest. There has never been anything quite like it before, and it will become the standard work for a long time to come. —George Huxtable, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation
This comprehensive work is the definitive word on the nautical sextant. Its abundant photographs and diagrams dispel the intimidation that confronts navigators when faced with repairing, or even adjusting, their sextants. The details of sextants—their makes and models, construction, repairs, and history—are not only interesting in themselves, but may tempt many to venture into restoration and collection of these fine, enduring instruments. —John Karl, Author, Celestial Navigation in the GPS Age
Old sextants need not die. Using Bill Morris’s book, any celestial navigation enthusiast who owns a distressed or weather-worn sextant—one that isn’t quite an antique and not yet junk—can resurrect it with these amazingly detailed instructions. With this book, you can tear down and rebuild a sextant and bring it back to perfect working order. But even for those of us who would never imagine doing such surgery on an old sextant, this book is like a Gray’s Anatomy of the components, construction, and inner workings of these instruments. And it’s not just the intimate anatomy of one species of sextant—The Nautical Sextant is a comparative anatomy of a whole zoology of sextants. I highly recommend it. —Frank Reed, Navigation Historian
After reading the whole book, a satisfied reader,Trevor Ketchington, PhD wrote:
“ I have just finished reading through your book and it is fabulous! (That comes from a pedant who rarely fails to find fault with the books I am sent for review.) I doubt that I will ever find time to develop the skills needed to strip down and rebuild a sextant, even with your guidance to hand, but you have lifted my understanding and appreciation of sextant details to a whole new level.
Thank you, Bill, for providing such an excellent book.”
I also have for sale my practical restoration manuals for the Mk IX series, the A 10 series and the A12 WW II bubble sextants. These are available as downloads or on CDROM. You will find samples and price details on the post “My Bubble Sextant Restoration Manuals”. Contact me to enquire about how to purchase.
Now available : Maintenance Manual for the SNO-T Sextant. This covers the overhaul, reconditioning, maintenance and use of this very fine sextant. See my post on the SNO-T Sextant for details of how to purchase.
Last November (2012) found me taking up the blog again after an interval of three months, during which time I was bringing a related book to completion. People who are interested in sextants may well be interested in chronometers and my “The Mariner’s Chronometer: structure, function, maintenance and history“ is available from Amazon.com for US$39.50, or the equivalent in Euros and British pounds. It is also available through good booksellers.
It is a paperback book this time to keep prices reasonable, but of larger format, 8 x 10 inches (203 x 254mm) and, following the pattern of ”The Nautical Sextant”, it covers the structure of the marine chronometer in great detail, followed by an account of how to service and look after it. There is no other book, in print or out, that gives such detail on overhauling the marine chronometer. The detent at the heart of the instrument needs very careful handling indeed, but the rest of the instrument is comparitively simple and robust. I have postponed the history of the chronometer to the last chapter and viewed it as an evolutionary process, by which all the parts evolve and come together to form the modern machine about 200 years ago. I have given more prominence to French horologists than is usual in most texts in the English language. There are 124 figures, most of them in colour, in 175 pages. In April 2013 I have started a web site to support and add to the book : www.chronometerbook.com.
Professor Alexandre Eremenko writes of “The Mariner’s Chronometer“:
Bill Morris’s book is unique. It addresses in great detail the construction, working, maintenance and use of marine chronometers, together with a brief history. It deals with the fully-evolved instrument and explains it in great depth, starting from theoretical principles, and including sections on maintenance. Every part is described and illustrated, and its function discussed. The book contains a step-by-step manual for disassembling and maintenance. It is abundantly illustrated with excellent professional drawings and photos.
In my opinion, this book is a must have for every collector, clockmaker, and person who is seriously interested in chronometers, horology, or the history of navigation and technology. The author has long experience in the repair and maintenance of old navigation instruments. In my opinion, he is one of the very few real experts in the design, repair and restoration of these historical instruments.