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A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to…

A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of… (1995)

by Dean King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,0721312,443 (4.04)48
A guide to the British Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age for fans of the Aubrey-Maturin series: "A gem of a book" (Minneapolis Star Tribune).   What is a sand-grouse, and where does it live? What are the medical properties of lignum vitae, and how did Stephen Maturin use it to repair his viola? Who is Admiral Lord Keith, and why is his wife so friendly with Captain Jack Aubrey?   More than any other contemporary author, Patrick O'Brian knew the past. His twenty Aubrey-Maturin novels, beginning with 1969's Master and Commander, are distinguished by deep characterization, heart-stopping naval combat, and an attention to detail that enriches and enlivens his stories. In this revised edition of A Sea of Words, Dean King and his collaborators dive into Jack Aubrey's world. In addition to their invaluable glossary, the authors provide essays on the age's politics, naval medicine, and the many ships that Jack Aubrey sailed, sighted, and fought against. For both the curious fan and the O'Brian aficionado, A Sea of Words is an invaluable tome on the British Royal Navy.… (more)


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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Very helpful in figuring out what the nautical terms mean in Mutany On the Bounty & other seafaring books ( )
  CAFinNY | Apr 26, 2019 |
I've read the first four of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, and have enjoyed them for the characters and for their sense of humor. But I do have one major problem with them: my complete ignorance of anything to do with ships or sailing means that there are times when I can read entire chapters and have absolutely no idea what just happened. Oddly enough, this was never much of an issue for me with the Horatio Hornblower books. C. S. Forester was, I suppose, good at at least giving me the illusion of following his naval action, but O'Brian is not nearly as kind to us landlubbers. So, I thought this book might help.

It starts off with a couple of articles. One is on medicine during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. I found that quite interesting, and mildly horrifying. Once again, I am deeply grateful to live in the 21st century, where medicine is mostly not based on made-up craziness. The other article is about the British Navy of the time: its structure and functioning and the role it played in the war. This was pretty dry, but did contain some useful information.

Most of the book, though, is taken up by a dictionary. Entries include various nautical terms, of course, but also medical terms, contemporary vocabulary and slang, medical terms, historical terms, and names of various birds and other animals. There are also entries, some of them rather long, on specific ships, historical figures, and events. It seems fairly comprehensive, and was reasonably interesting to browse through -- enough so that I kept it around for months to occasionally pick it up and read or skim through it a few pages at a time. Whether I've actually retained anything useful from it in my memory, though, remains an open question. I suspect it hasn't actually done all that much for my understanding, but I'm hoping that keeping it handy when I finally get back to the series and using it to look up specific terms as I encounter them may be helpful. ( )
  bragan | Mar 11, 2017 |
Working with a Kindle dictionary or online dictionaries will not produce results as useful as this book. I know, I tried several terms both ways.
Many of the words here are not to be found in online dictionaries (or at least, not with the naval definition) or else you spend ages looking though Google and often as not drawing a blank.

This book doesn't have everything, but it does surprisingly well. Latin phrases, terms for all kinds of shipboard items including sails, pulleys, food, etc.

I keep this book beside me while reading and it adds a lot to my enjoyment of the novels and is also good to browse at random. ( )
1 vote JudithProctor | Jul 23, 2016 |
Dean King's A Sea of Words is a must-read for any landlubber fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. The introductory essays by John B. Hattendorf and J. Worth Estes provide excellent context about the Royal Navy and shipboard medicine during the War of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. These essays are followed by maps and diagrams of naval battles, types of ships, and the rigging used in various ships.
King's extensive lexicon naturally fills the vast majority of the book and serves as both a dictionary and an encyclopedia for O'Brian's novels. Though a reader could keep this book at hand while reading the Aubrey-Maturin series, constantly turning to it would interrupt a reader's enjoyment of O'Brian's work. It is better to follow King's own advice from his introduction and page through this at one's leisure, moving around between associated terms and so teaching oneself about sailing in the early nineteenth century.
Though it is possible to read the Aubrey-Maturin series and guess at definitions from context, A Sea of Words will answer any and all questions that should occur to the curious reader. A must-have for any fan of Patrick O'Brian. ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Feb 14, 2016 |
Very helpful to get even more enjoyment from the series.
  sriemann | Mar 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dean Kingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Estes, J. WorthContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hattendorf, John B.Contributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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