A wide variety of books owned and used by sailors, from instructional manuals and dictionaries, to bibles and biographies.
The USS Constitution Museum’s rare book collection offers comprehensive insight into the history of Constitution and her crew, the growth of federal-period America, and the development of the US Navy and Marine Corps. Early histories document social and political landscapes, while official reports and government publications offer rich insight into the development of the burgeoning nation. Accounts of the daring actions of America’s early military heroes speak to the country’s fascination with their public figures, while sailors’ tales of their experiences at sea speak to growing 19th-century literacy rates and the public desire for adventure or escapist literature.
Many of the volumes in the Museum’s collection were actually carried by sailors from ship to ship. A French Dictionary carried by John Lord to the Mediterranean evidences his desire to communicate with cultures he encountered abroad, for example, while Amos Evans’ medical texts were an invaluable resource for a surgeon who couldn’t readily consult colleagues or medical libraries. Bowditch’s Practical Navigator, a quintessential tome on navigating the high seas, was likely to be found on every US Navy vessel, as well as most American sailing ships.