Bowditch | Nathaniel

The Improved Practical Navigator

Early English Edition



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The rare early English edition of The Improved Practical Navigator by Nathaniel Bowditch, published in London by David Steel in 1802.

Octavo, xvi, [1], 18-304pp, [Tables I-XXIX], [2pp ads]. Pages 265-272 are misnumbered in this copy; printed as 315-322. Finely bound in full calf, four raised bands, title in gilt on red morocco label affixed to spine. New endpapers. Solid text block, some foxing to flyleaves, faint toning throughout, a near fine example. Title page with small loss to top corner, removing letter “R” from “Navigator.” Previous ownership inscription of W.F. Batchelder affixed to rear endpaper. Complete with twelve full-page plates, including frontispiece. Two are fold-outs, each depicting a map of the stars. Plates were published by J & L Hardy on May 1, 1802.

(Howes B657)

A scarce title; WorldCat shows only ten copies worldwide. A well-presenting example of a landmark work in marine navigation, still used today by organizations like the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

A talented mathematician, Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) found countless errors in The New Practical Navigator (1772) by John Hamilton Moore. Bowditch took numerous voyages to improve the celestial navigation system and correct Moore’s errors. His publication, this Improved Practical Navigator (often referred to as “The American Practical Navigator”), contains precise mathematical tables and navigational principles, and was instrumental in enhancing the safety and accuracy of sea voyages. Bowditch’s work has become a timeless reference for sailors worldwide, shaping the foundation of modern navigation and contributing significantly to advancements in maritime technology and exploration.

Full Title: The Improved Practical Navigator. Containing All Necessary Instruction For Determining The Latitude By Various Methods, And For Ascertaining The Longitude By Lunar Observations, In A Complete Epitome of Navigation. The Whole Elucidated By The Precepts and Examples, As To Render The Practical Part of Nautical Astronomy, The Keeping Of A Ship’s Reckoning And Journal At Sea, And Other Nautical Computations, Familiarly Clear To Every Capacity; Enabling the attentive Mariner to become his own Instructor. To Which is Added A Number Of New Tables, Including those requisite to be used with the Nautical Almanac, with Improvements and Additions, and Corrected from many Thousand Errors of former Publications.

Additional information

Location Published



David Steel


Early English Edition

Date Published



Full calf


Near Fine


Bowditch | Nathaniel

Author Display

Nathaniel Bowditch