Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Architectura Navalis Mercatoria

Date: 1768–1769
Height: 570 mm, width: 877 mm, 4.6 kg
Medium: Paper, cotton, leather
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: V00015204
Place Manufactured:Sverige

User Terms

    This object is a first edition version of F H Chapman's encyclopaedic work on naval architecture that features detailed engravings of ship designs of the 18th century. The publication consists of 6 volumes with 62 engravings and a leaflet in English containing data for each of the vessels depicted. The first volume features a dedication in Swedish to the Admiral of the Fleet Prince Carl and the frontispiece depicts an engraving of Stockholm Harbour by Arre.
    SignificanceArchitectura Navalis Mercatoria was published in 1768, the same year that Captain Cook set sail on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand. The book contains detailed data on the construction and design of ships and boats of all sizes and it is an important record of European shipbuilding technology on the eve of European settlement in Australia. Chapman’s influential work provided for the first time a systematic collection of contemporary shipbuilding designs and scientific findings and its continued importance is reflected in the fact that the book has been republished numerous times and translated into many languages.
    History'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria' was written by Swedish naval architect Fredrick Hendrik Chapman and published in 1768. With this work Chapman aimed to create a scientific and systematic record of current shipbuilding techniques by highlighting what he saw as the best and most interesting examples of naval technology of the time.

    Although Chapman wrote and published several books on naval architecture, 'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria' became a classic and cemented his place as the best shipwright of his generation. The publication contains, over 6 volumes, 62 highly detailed engravings of different types of vessels ranging from the smallest Breton fishing boat to merchant ships and grand warships. Chapman’s nephew Lars Bogeman created the copper engravings for the drawings which are highly detailed and illustrate individual timbers and spars, stern galleries, figureheads, draughts of hulls at varying angles of heel and bow and different facades. The engravings of 'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria' have very little accompanying textual information as Chapman’s original intention was to produce a companion volume with explanatory text. However due to his heavy work schedule it was not until 1775 that 'Tractat om Skepps-byggeriet' ('A Treatise on Shipbuilding') was published. Many new editions of 'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria' are merged with text from 'Tractat om Skepps-byggeriet'.

    It appears that Frederik Hendrik Chapman was destined for a career as a shipbuilder from the moment he was born in 1721 within the walls of Nya Varvet, the Royal Dockyard at Gothenborg. His father, Thomas Chapman, was a British Naval Officer who had joined the Royal Swedish Navy and later rose to captain of the Royal Dockyard while his mother, Susanna Colson, was the daughter of London shipwright William Colson.

    Early in his career Frederik Chapman went to sea and in his late teens worked in a number of private and state-owned shipyards. In 1741 Chapman assisted in a project to build a vessel for the Spanish trade and the money earned from this venture enabled him to spend almost three years abroad in London working as a ship’s carpenter at Deptford Dockyard. During this period Chapman gained valuable practical experience and upon his return to Sweden he opened his own shipbuilding yard in Gothenberg around 1744.

    After nearly four years at Gothenberg, and unsatisfied with the traditional methods of shipbuilding, Chapman sold his share in the shipyard in order to pursue a higher knowledge of the science of shipbuilding. Chapman recognised that his practical experience in shipbuilding would need to be supplemented by a deeper understanding of mathematics and physics in order to perfect his craft. Between 1748 and 1757 Chapman travelled to Stockholm, London, France and the Netherlands studying mathematics and physics and undertaking lessons in engraving. During his travels Chapman also visited the shipyards of these countries, observing the latest techniques and designs and making meticulous notes and drawings throughout. While in England, Chapman’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject caught the eye of British authorities and in 1753 he was arrested on suspicion of trying to convince British dockyard workers to enter French service. Chapman was kept under house arrest for one month and his meticulous drawings and notes were confiscated, with all but one returned to him upon his release. Ironically, several years later in 1756, Chapman was offered a job with the English Royal Navy and by appealing to his British heritage, it was a post he very nearly accepted. The French authorities also recognised Chapman’s abilities and made him a similar offer during his time in France. However in 1757, in the country of his birth and at the age of 36, Chapman was appointed assistant shipwright to the Royal Swedish Navy at the Karlskrona Dockyard remaining in the employ of the navy until his retirement in 1793. Chapman was later elevated to the position of Chief Constructor of the Swedish Navy which placed him in charge of vessel design and also allowed him to successfully restructure the entire shipbuilding process.

    In 1765 Chapman applied for permission for leave from his work as chief naval architect at Sveaborg (off Helsinki) to work on 'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria'. Many of the works that featured in this book were his own designs, however many were also types that he had seen and studied during visits to foreign countries.

    An exhaustive worker, Chapman continued studying and writing after his retirement and up until his death at the age of 87. Chapman’s great achievement in the theoretical and practical arts of shipbuilding was to collect and make systematic what had been a process of trial and error and handed down knowledge. Chapman's research and his writings made enormous advances to naval architecture both in his lifetime and beyond.

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.