« AnteriorContinuar »
ART. V.-1. History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce. By W. S. LINDSAY. Four Volumes. London: 1874-75.
2. The Black Book of the Admiralty. Edited by Sir TRAVERS Twiss, Q.C., D.C.L. Vols. I.-III. 8vo. London:
3. Storia della Marina Pontificia nel medio evo dal 728 al 1499. Per il P. ALBERTO GUGLIELMOTTI, dell' Ordine dei Predicatori, Theologo Casanatense. 2 vols. small 8vo. Firenze: 1871.
T might fairly be supposed that to a people whose wealth and power are peculiarly derived from the sea, the history of navigation would have a very marked interest, and that works treating of the origin or development of naval energy and maritime enterprise would be eagerly sought after. That this is not altogether the case is very evident from the rapidity with which recent books on these subjects, and on naval history and biography, have found their way into the trade list of ' remainders,' to be sold for anything they will fetch, sometimes for prices little above their value as waste paper. And yet no one whose studies have led him to examine carefully into this class of literature can wonder at it; for sailors are, in the natural course of things, men of action, and their writings are too often in a style which few care to read; whilst on the other hand, the difficulties and technicalities which stand in the way of an outsider, render it almost impossible for such a one to write honestly and faithfully on a subject with which he is not familiar. It is thus that several of our best known naval works are either clumsy records, destitute alike of literary skill and critical judgment, or are the productions of facile pens in the hands of professed bookmakers: we may say, in all sincerity, that these last might employ their time in a more useful manner; that their books are distasteful alike to the seaman and the student, and speedily fall into disrepute even with that general public whom a flowing style may, for a short time, have beguiled.
It is, therefore, with pleasure that we have received the volumes which stand first on the list at the head of this article. Mr. Lindsay is a seaman, and has a practical knowledge of his subject; he writes in a pleasant workmanlike style, easy to read and to understand; he has given us a narrative which has been welcomed, which will, we trust, continue to be welcomed, by the reading public, and which, so far as it
adheres to the title, as a history of merchant shipping and commerce, is of very real merit. Unfortunately, it frequently wanders far away from these limits into the domain of naval archæology in general, a subject of which the author does not seem to have an equal grasp, and which, in fact, he has treated rather as giving scope for ingenuity and imagination than for historical research. He has thus, in the discussion of important questions, overlooked or neglected the early records or modern commentaries which would have led him clear of many difficulties and stumbling-blocks. He has taken no notice of such recognised authorities as Marino Sanuto, Pantero Pantera, Bartolomeo Crescentio, or even Sir William Monson; * although he refers occasionally to the Archéologie Navale' of M. Jal, his acquaintance with it would seem to be very superficial; he quotes the Chronicle of the Sire de Joinville from the slipshod and inaccurate translation published in Bohn's series, when the able and scholarly edition of M. de Wailly was surely within reach; he discusses at second hand, from an incorrect notice in the Monthly Magazine,' the memoirs of a French Protestant, which was republished in Paris a few years ago; and he has altogether ignored the new and beautiful edition of Marco Polo by Colonel Yule. When this is the case with works so easily accessible, the rest may be almost anticipated. There is not a trace of his having searched the rare or unpublished treasures stored up in the great libraries of this or other countries, nor of his even knowing that there is an enormous accumulation of archæological wealth in the Venetian Archives. We conceive, then, that in this part of his work Mr. Lindsay has fallen short of his intention; and if we dwell more persistently on what is, strictly speaking, only a lengthy digression, it is in the wish to augment rather than to criticise a very interesting addition to our naval literature.
The second work on our list is of a very different class. It is the official publication of the contents of a manuscript volume known as the Black Book of the Admiralty,' which disappeared mysteriously more than fifty years ago, and has been quite lately found in a box of waste paper stowed away in a cellar; its recovery being due principally to the attention
'Liber secretorum Fidelium Crucis,' cujus Auctor Marinus Sanutus dictus Torsellus, in Bongars, 'Gesta Dei per Francos,' vol. ii. fo. Hannoviæ, 1611; L'Armata Navale,' del Capitan Pantero Pantera, 4to. in Roma, 1614; Nautica Mediterranea' di Bartolomeo Crescentio Romano, 4to. Roma, 1607; Naval Tracts,' by Sir William Monson, in Churchill's Collection of Voyages,' vol. iii.
which had been drawn to it by the publication of its contents in the first of these volumes. The Black Book is not, as its name might seem to imply, a record of offences or offenders; it is simply a collection of our old laws relating to maritime affairs, drawn up more especially for the guidance of the officers of the Admiralty Courts, and has been now, for the first time, printed from a collation of different copies, including one most beautiful MS., written, it would seem, early in the fifteenth century, for the use of Sir Thomas Beaufort, Lord High Admiral in the reign of Henry V.; the writing of the Black Book itself is considered to date from the reign of Edward IV. Of the editor's part of the work it is almost superfluous to speak. The name of Sir Travers Twiss is sufficient guarantee for its excellence. The critical commentaries which precede the statutes and judgments contained in the three volumes are just what they ought to be-short, clear, and very much to the point; and the introduction of medieval English translations of the medieval French originals strikes us as extremely felicitous. The third volume contains the greater part of The Consulate of the Sea,' now first translated into English under the title of The Customs of the Sea;' the contrast between it and the hitherto classical French edition by Boucher, printed in 1808, is a delightful proof of the very great advance which has been made during the present century in critical archæology.
The title of the third work which we have named above may excite some surprise; for the idea of Pontifical Rome having either a navy or a naval history will be new to many of our readers. The fact is that in the dark and disturbed ages, the prestige of Rome still constituted her a sort of rallying-point for the friends of order, and her moral influence, far excelling her material strength, enabled her to collect the ships of the segregated petty Italian states under one flag, for the defence of the coast against barbarian, Byzantine, or infidel invaders. The work of Father Guglielmotti, therefore, whilst dwelling on and perhaps exaggerating the importance of the Roman authority, must rather be considered as a general sketch of the growth of the naval power of Italy, independent of the more particular development of the might of Genoa and Venice. The book itself is an enlarged edition of an essay published nearly twenty years ago, and brings the subject down to the sixteenth century, when it merges into the history of the celebrated league which triumphed at Lepanto, already related by the author as grouping round his central figure of Marc-Antonio Colonna.
It has been very generally assumed by writers on naval history that between ancient and modern times there is a distinct gap, a breach of continuity: it has been forgotten that the Byzantine Empire, in wealth and power and civilisation, flourished for many hundred years after the fall of the Empire of the West; and that the naval art, both for commerce and for war, was carried on at Constantinople, irrespective of the western inroad of the Germanic tribes. The nautical traditions and usages of the Mediterranean were preserved and handed down in unbroken sequence from the earliest ages, and laws relative to shipping and commerce have come to us in direct descent from the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians. Different as they now are, it is a difference of development, not of origin, and they may be traced back through gradual changes to their classic home in the Island of Rhodes, in which place they seem to have been first collected and codified. In this form the Rhodian Law embodied rules regarding copartnership, charter-parties, and bills of lading; it fixed the pay of masters and seamen by shares in the profits of the voyage, a usage still adopted in whaling ships; it decreed certain penalties for carelessness or negligence on the part of the officers or men, whereby the vessel or her cargo was damaged, and regulated the law of flotsom and jetsom, salvage, bottomry and demurrage. This complete body of maritime and commercial law was accepted by the Romans as such, and continued in force till the downfall of the Western Empire. It still lived in the East, and with the rise of new kingdoms and states in Italy, France and Spain, reappeared as traditional usage, till it was finally reduced to writing in various codes, the best known of which bears the name of The Laws of Oleron.'
Considerable doubt has been entertained as to the immediate origin of these laws, which are very certainly the basis of modern maritime law in the West and North of Europe. In a memorandum of 12 Edward III., it is stated that these laws and statutes were by the Lord Richard, formerly King ' of England, on his return from the Holy Land, corrected, interpreted and declared, and were published in the Island of 'Oleron, and were named in the French tongue la ley Olyroun' (Black Book, vol. i. p. lvii.); but it is well established that King Richard I. did not visit the Island of Oleron on his way home from the Holy Land. Sir Travers Twiss maintains, we believe correctly, that the disputed expression may imply merely that King Richard I., upon his return to England, sanetioned those judgments which had been previously pub'lished at Oleron.' The question then naturally arises as to
the possible connexion between maritime law and a petty island such as Oleron, which, it has been asserted, had no commerce or maritime importance. It was therefore argued by Cleirac that however insignificant the island might be, it was a favourite retreat of the Dowager Queen Eleanor, who gave many and unusual privileges to the inhabitants; it would thus seem probable enough that the laws and usages-which have in all ages had a peculiar and definite force in nautical mattersbeing codified for the guidance of the merchants and seamen of Aquitaine, were in the first instance published by Eleanor at Oleron, either during the life of her first husband, Louis VII. of France, or later, during the absence of Richard, and confirmed by him after his return, under their then recognised and accustomed title.
This theory has met with very general acceptance; but Sir Travers Twiss points out that whatever may be the possibility of Queen Eleanor having originated these laws, it is and must be purely a hypothesis, utterly unsupported by evidence; and that, as a matter of fact, the Island of Oleron furnished an important contingent to the great fleet which was sent forth in the second year of the reign of King Richard for the relief of the Holy Land, and that, amongst the five commanders of that fleet, was William de Forz of Oleron, whom the king 'constituted one of the Justiciaries of his Navy' (Black Book, vol. i. p. lxx.). That the Island of Oleron continued an important place in maritime jurisdiction is clearly established by the Coutumier of Oleron, now first published as an appendix to the Black Book (vol. ii. p. 254). This record of customs and usages, which the editor attributes to the earliest years of the fourteenth century, shows that the Law Maritime was habitually administered in the Mayor's Court ' at Oleron, not merely in suits between foreigners and burgesses but in causes where both the parties of the suit were foreigners. The circumstance that Breton mariners and merchants had frequent recourse to the Mayor's Court at Oleron for the settlement of their disputes in maritime matters in the fourteenth 'century, raises a presumption that the court at that time was in considerable repute as a Court of Maritime Law, and there are documents belonging to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries which refer to Oleron under circumstances which warrant us in supposing that it was at that period a port much frequented by foreign shipping' (vol. ii. pp. liv. lv.). How it came about that this little island, now principally noted as a
Us et Coustumes de la Mer;' Bourdeaux, 1661.