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An Essay on Naval Tactics,
London: Printed for T. Cadell [Part I]; for Cadell and Davies [Parts II, III, & IV],, 1790 & 1797. Systematical and Historical. With Explanatory Plates. In four parts. Quarto (270 × 205 mm). Contemporary streaked calf, red morocco label, gilt ruled compartments to spine, red sprinkled edges. Without the half title to part I, but with the half title and separate group title page to parts II–IV, 52 part-coloured plates of naval manoeuvres, 30 of them folding. Extracted contemporary review of the 1805 edition loosely inserted. Slightly rubbed at the extremities, bookplate removed from the front pastedown, gift inscription struck through on the title page to Part I, light toning, else a very good copy indeed. True first edition of Clerk's celebrated Essay, which is distinguished as "one of the first British accounts of tactics, as opposed to a work in French translation, and for its criticism of the current Royal Naval practice of looking more to signal books to the detriment of fighting instructions" (ODNB). Just the first part was privately distributed in 1782, with this first published edition appearing in 1790, and the remaining three parts being published 7 years later. Clerk is famous for the manoeuvre of cutting the enemy's line in attacking from the leeward, as successfully used by Admiral Rodney at the battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782. A controversy subsequently arose over the true origins of the manoeuvre, which was not explicitly described in Clerk's first edition, and in this edition Clerk himself admits that his ideas were not fully developed at the time of the battle of the Saints, and that his thinking had not finally come together until the late 1790s. "Clerk's abilities as a tactician may have been overrated by friends and disputed by his critics. Nevertheless, he remains an author of the highest order, who attempted to understand manoeuvres while looking for effective ways to bring the battle to a decisive conclusion. Clerk's Essay certainly helped to inspire a later generation of naval officers, notably Admiral Adam Duncan at the decisive battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797), and was subsequently translated into French, Portuguese, Russian, and Dutch." The gift inscription to both title pages, struck through on the first, is from Capt. Frank Sotheron "of His Majesty's Ship Latona" to Edward Leveson Gower, dated April 1801. Sotheron joined the service in 1776, aged 11, and distinguished himself as a Midshipman under Admiral M'Bride, seeing action at Ushant and at the relief of Gibraltar in 1780. He commanded the Latona in the expedition against the Helder in 1799, and "In the spring of 1802, he was sent abroad with despatches ; and some time after the renewal of hostilities, obtained the command of the Excellent, 74, attached to the Mediterranean fleet, under the orders of Lord Nelson, by whom he was entrusted with the defence of the Bay of Naples…" (Marshall Royal Naval Biography) From 1811 until his death in 1839 he was MP for Nottinghamshire. The recipient served during the Napoleonic Wars commanding Pomone and Eagle, spending three years in France as a prisoner of war.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2013-10-10           Check availability:      Biblio    

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