Don’t lose your compass

The wonderful caricature of a windswept midwife by Thomas Rowlandson in my last post got me browsing through other prints by this famous artist. They’re a great window into the past.

Sea monster devouring a fleet of ships, Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Sea monster devouring a fleet of ships, Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

The caption of this one states, ‘Lose their compass, their ship slips between the teeth of a fish unknown in this part of the world’. Not what you want to happen, really, when out for a sail.

It was one of Rowlandson’s wonderful images to accompany the tall tales of German baron Karl Munchhausen, who fought for the Russian military against the Turks in the eighteenth century. This was a busy time for sailors, with seafaring nations taking to the water with great vigour to trade, explore and fight (often in the same voyage).

We’ve hundreds of exquisite model ships in our collections, mostly on display in our shipping galleries. If you are looking for a contemplative escape from the pressures of the day, they’re well worth a visit if you’re nearby.

Model of a 50-gun warship, 1730s (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Model of a 50-gun warship, 1730s (Science Museum / Science & Society)

This is one of the many eighteenth-century models of British wooden warships we’ve got. The detail is exquisite, and the story of the Georgian navy is fascinating. Naval historian N.A.M. Rodger’s book, ‘The wooden world’, is superb, if you’re interested.

Mariners compass, eighteenth century (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Mariner's compass, eighteenth century (Science Museum / Science & Society)

But what about that pesky lost compass, in Rowlandson’s print? Well, perhaps it is forever lost, but fear not. You will be pleased to learn that others from this period have survived. Here’s one. We’ve lots. Bon voyage!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


3 × = nine

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>