Fabrica di galere or Libro di marineria (c. 1436)

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The Libro di Marineria has been partially published in the mid 19th century by Auguste Jal under the title Fabrica di Galere, by which it is now better known. It is a Venetian manuscript dated to the mid 16th century, with 123 folios, containing texts of several authors, some of which can be dated to around 1410. It is now deposited in Florence, in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, codex Magliabecchiano, XIX.7.

Plentiful in comprehensive pen and ink drawings, it covers a galley of Flanders (folios 1-13), a galley of Romania with a digression on sail-making (14-25v), a light galley (26-32), a lateen rigged ship (33-36), and a square rigged ship (37-49). It presents a formula for calculating displacements - perhaps the oldest recorded - and a description of a whaler (ballanier) as built by those of the West (quelli de ponente). There follows a section on rigging and spars (51-64v), sail-making (65-72v), and again the galley of Flanders (73-75v), the galley of Romania (75v-folium number omitted in the publication available), and a light galley (folium numbers omitted).

The next section of the manuscript is dedicated to smaller craft and contains a mention of the great Greek shipwright Theodoro Baxon, whose light galleys were praised as being among the best ever built in the Arsenal (in 1407 eight of Baxon's galleys were ordered by the Senate to be set aside to serve in emergencies and to be copied as models since Theodoro was not a young man anymore, and there was a fear that he may not have taught everything to his Italian fellow workers).

The manuscript then presents the measurements for a falchoni to be made in the Arsenal (folium numbers omitted), followed by the prices of ironwork, timber, oars, and other equipment (folium number omitted -87v). The last folios are dedicated to the design of rigging for square rigged ships (88v-100v), sail-making (101-122v), and information on the tides (122v-123). 1


1. Filipe Castro, 2002, ShipLab Website Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University

Further Reading

There are two copies of this manuscript: the first in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, codex Magliabecchiano, XIX.7; the second in the Austrian National Library, Marco Foscari Collection, cod. 6391, under the title: Arte di far galee e navi.

The Fabrica di Galere is accessible through the studies of Auguste Jal, who published a partial transcription in 1840:

Jal, Auguste. Archéologie Navale, Paris: Arthus Bertrand Éditeur, 1840.


Alertz, Ulrich, "The Naval Architecture and Oar Systems of Medieval and Later Galleys," in Gradiner, Robert, ed., The Age of the Galley, London: Conway Maritime Press, 1995.

Anderson, R.C., "Jal's Memoire no. 5 and the Manuscript 'Fabrica di Galere'," Mariner's Mirror (1945) 31:160-167;

Bellabarba, Sergio, "The square Rigged Ship of the 'Fabrica di Galere' Manuscript," Mariner's Mirror (1988) 74.2:113-130.

Bondioli, Mauro, "The Art of Designing and Building Venitian Galleys from the XVth to the XVIth Centuries", in Proceedings of the IX International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology, Venezia 2000, edited by C. Beltrame (Oxbow, Oxford) (in print).

Bondioli, M., and Penzo, G. "Teodoro Baxon e Nicola Palopano proti delle galee sottili. L'influsso greco nelle costruzioni navali veneziane della prima metà del XV secolo", in Archeologia delle Acque, 1999, I, n. 2, pag. 67-80.

Lane, Frederic, Venetian Ships and Shipbuilders of the Renaissance, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1934, 56-57.

Lane, Frederic, "Naval Architecture about 1550," Mariner's Mirror (1934) 20:24-49;

McManamon, John, "The "Archaeology" of Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts on Shipbuilding," INA Quarterly (2001) 28.4: 17-26.

Rieth, Eric, "A propos de des relations entre le texte et les illustrations d'un livre de recettes techniques: la Fabrica di galere (debut du XVe siecle)" (in print)

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