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La Belle:  Rigging in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast, a Reconstruction of a Seventeenth-Century Ship's Rig

Catharine Leigh Inbody Corder
Thesis: December 2007
Chair: Crisman
Nautical Archaeology Program

La Belle's rigging assemblage has provided a rare and valuable source of knowledge of 17th-century riggin in general and in particular, French and small-ship rigging characteristics.  With over 400 individual items including nearly 160 wood and iron artifacts, this assemblage stands out as one of the most substantial and varied among all available rigging assemblages and currently is the only assemblage of 17th-century French rigging published.  Furthermore, French rigging in gerneral has not been as well definted as English rigging, nor has the 17th century been as well researched as the 18th.  As such, La Belle's rigging assemblage has provided a valuable source of knowledge whose research will hopefully provicde a valuable foundation on which future studies can be built.  Specifically, this project has attempted to catalogue these artifacts and reconstruction a plausible 17th-century French rig.  This projects has further attempted to define the differences between the better known English rigging features and those more characteristic of the French and the Dutch.  The reconstruction is based on the specific details derived from La Belle's artifacts as well as contemporary French and other continental sources such as rigging assemblages, ship models, treatises, and nautical dictionaries.  Together, these have suggested that La Belle probably carried a relatively simple rig with decidedly seventeenth-century characteristics and a Dutch influence.  

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