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Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia Hardcover – November 17, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You don't have to be a maritime history buff--or even a sailor--to find Lincoln Paine's Ships of the World fascinating. Certainly no scholar or student of the history of ships will want to be without it: it consists of more than 1,000 alphabetical entries describing individual ships' histories and fates. Yet because of the author's flair for language and the skill with which he has made his selections, the book is a browser's delight--almost a short-story collection. Look up an entry on any celebrated vessel--the Titanic, the Monitor, the Lusitania--and you'll find an admirably concise history of the boat and the events that made it famous. But browsing turns up countless unexpected pleasures, from the story of the Politician (a freighter that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides, where its cargo of Scotch was efficiently plundered by locals) to that of Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. The hundreds of well-chosen black-and-white illustrations help bring the tales alive.

From Booklist

This book is a magnificent survey of several thousand years of river, lake, and open-ocean ships, from those that floated on the prehistoric Nile, through the centuries of sailing ships, to engine-driven monsters that carried airplanes to victory, to supertankers, such as the Exxon Valdez. Entries are alphabetical by name of ship, and many include illustrations, with a few in color.

Each entry gives statistical information--length, beam, and draft, in feet and meters; tonnage; crew and/or passenger complement; and other data, including date of commission. Then follows an essay, from a quarter-page to two pages or more, giving the history of the ship, its sometimes several changes of name and usage, and its final destiny, whether sunk, scrapped, blown up, or scuttled. One or more reference works are briefly listed at the end of each entry, with fuller data on each in the bibliography at the end.

Almost every well-known ship is here. There are entries for the historically significant HMS Beagle and Mayflower, luxury liners such as Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary, warships such as the Bismark and USS Constitution, and ships best known for disastrous voyages, such as RMS Titanic as well as Alvin, the submersible that found the Titanic wreck. Not every ship that ever sailed is included, of course. Hundreds of cruisers, submarines, troopships, and the like, on both Axis and Allied sides of World War II, are not given specific entries. However, an attempt is made to include at least one ship from each group; this is usually one that was historically important for some reason, such as the USS Maddox, a Sumner-class destroyer, which was involved in the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964.

The section devoted to full-page or half-page colored illustrations is very fine. Many of these are paintings, since color photography is too new for most historic ships. A few of the ships that are pictured, such as the Mayflower and Columbus' Nina, are replicas. At the end of the volume is a glossary of nautical terms. There is also a listing of a hundred or so fictitious ships or boats, such as the African Queen, USS Caine, and HMS Pinafore. An extensive bibliography and an excellent index complete the work, which is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 680 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First American Edition edition (November 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395715563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395715567
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 8.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At first glance, the prospective buyer might easily dismiss this work as just another book about ships of the world. After all, the rather innocuous front cover shows part of an historic painting of a naval engagement from 1794 above which are nothing more than the book's title and author's name. Behind that, however, lies an altogether excellent product.

As with all reference works which cross my desk, I began by browsing through the book, pausing whenever I saw one of the many historic black and white pictures until I found the colour section in the middle. Whilst I was pleased to see Turner's famous painting "The Fighting Téméraire" had been included, I was absolutely stunned to see the amount of detail on the stern of the Wasa which had survived over 300 years underwater. This was the Swedish warship which, after sinking on her maiden voyage in 1628, had been preserved in deep mud until raised in 1960. It was not until I saw this picture that I was aware of the incredible extent of that preservation.

In a world of publishing where the word `encyclopaedia' is used far to frequently to describe works which are no such thing, this book is exactly as described by its title. With many, many vessels listed in strict alphabetical order, this is a first-class reference source for anyone with even a passing interest in ships. There is no bias towards any specific country as the reader moves between the ships - sometimes famous, sometimes important protatypes, sometimes just different, of different nations.

Of course, no work can include every vessel which ever went to sea but, with something in excess of 7,000 significant ships and submarines included here, this product gets very close.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This encyclopedia is literally the White Pages of ships: if you know exactly which ship from history to look up, you'll be fine. There is no geographic cross-reference index to, for example, view ships of the Spanish Armada, historical English ships or U.S. military vessels. It would greatly benefit from such an index and even a brief section on basic types of vessels (i.e., steamship vs schooner vs destroyer). The information on each vessel varies wildly from a couple paragraphs to three pages. This book is more of an appendix for enthusiasts or others who already have a more comprehensive collection on ships. It hardly rates as an encyclopedia, but more as a book you'd hand a high school student so they can fill out their class paper on the Santa Maria. I'd return it, but I purchased it for pennies on the Marketplace. I'll just have to stick it on my shelf and hope one day it'll provide enlightenment on some obscure ship from history referenced from a more complete tome.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has a lot of easy to glean info, but essentially about European and American craft, up until the modern period, when it becomes slightly more "of the world." Those looking for information for boats important to maritime history of East Asia, for example, will be sorely disappointed. Nothing about kitamaebune or higakikaisen, to name just two types of Japanese merchant vessels that helped shape that countries emerging modern economy. As such, this tome should be called ships of [about half] the world. From that point of view, it is more like 3 1/2 stars, since the book is comprehensive but the data for each ship (not to mention illustrations) are fairly sparse.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, comprehensive and detailed compendium of the "biographies" of hundreds of the notable ships, boats and other water craft of many nations throughout history. The book is amply illustrated and it also contains very useful appendixes. It is a first-rate reference work and should be in the library of anyone who is interested in the diverse vessels that have sailed, cruised and rowed on and under the sea.
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Format: Hardcover
Ever asked the question, "What was that ship? When did it sail? Why do we know of it? If you buy this book, your questions will be answered. From the Aaron Manby to the Zuytdorp, this book has them all. Even a list of "literary ships" such as the Africa Queen and the Caine.
"Ships of the World" describes each ship in detail including it's dimensions, builder, hull, origin, and ultimate disposition.
A "must" for any naval historian.
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Format: Hardcover
I've had this book on my shelf for some years and refer to it frequently.

It describes actual ships and boats and mentions literary vessels including 'The African Queen', 'Red October' and (my personal favourite) 'The Ship of Fools'.

Most importantly, from an historical perspective, it provides a series of chronologies and an extensive bibliography. I am also grateful for the maps and the glossary.

Recommended to those who need a single volume reference for specific ships and a starting point for more general matters maritime.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best addition to my collection of nautical/maritime books since my purchase of the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. I've already spent many hours reading the different ship histories and learning more about ships I've read about since I was a young boy. From Nelson's Victory to Luckner's Seeadler and Dewey's Olympia, Paine's books has them all. Concise, well-written histories that dwell on the human as well as the technical, make this a must-have for any naval or maritime history buff's shelf. Just a few quibbles. The Essex class carrier U.S.S. Franklin was probaby named after the Benjamin Franklin and not the Battle of Franklin. Every other Essex class is name after something from the Revolutionary War, so I would assume that the Franklin is too. Also, I wished Paine had included the U.S.S. Pensylvania, the 120-gun wooden warship built for the Navy that was burned at Norfolk during the Civil War. I also was surprised to see H.M.S Kelly left out. But these are minor quibbles with a splendid book that has earned a place of honor in my collection
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