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This is an essential reference for those involved in rigging or working "modern" (i.e., late 19th and early 20th century) sailing ships, especially those with wire rigging, and those building detailed, large-scale models of them. The book has been an invaluable guide to sailors (this reviewer included) involved in maintaining and working with contemporary "tall ships," most of which were built during this period.
Underhill clearly describes in detail the complex rigging of large ocean-going ships, but also describes the rigging of smaller coastal sailing vessels, and accompanies his description with a large number of detailed, clear illustrations as well as fold-out scaled drawings of the rigging of typical ships. Included are descriptions and illustrations of many of the devices used in working with the rigging (e.g., Jarvis brace winches), and some of the innovative methods sailors and riggers experimented with, such as patent reefing systems. The book focuses on European, and especially British, practice, but American practice was largely similar.
This should also be of considerable interest to those with an "armchair" interest in sailing ships who want to understand how they worked, although the book will be of less relevance to those interested in Napoleonic and earlier eras than to those whose interest covers the latter half of the 19th century.
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