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M'Kay | L(auchlan)

The Practical Ship-Builder

First Edition


SKU: 10333 Categories: ,


The first comprehensive American book on shipbuilding, The Practical Ship-Builder by Lauchlan M’Kay, printed in 1839.

Oblong quarto, [x], [11] – 107pp. Bound in period full calf, title in gilt over black label, decorative gilt bands on spine. Light foxing throughout. Front free endpaper starting to separate, but stable. Housed in custom maroon cloth chemise and slipcase, title in gilt on spine over red label. Bookplate of Harrison D. Horblit on front endpaper, with pencil inscription of Shipwright, Elbridge G. Morton, of Fairhaven, MA on the index and introduction. Complete with seven fold-out plates at rear, some wear to outer edge and toning. Plates include lofting plans of a ship, a pilot boat, a schooner, a brig, a sloop, figureheads and sterns, and a steamboat. (Moebs Early Imprints 330) (Carruth 189) (Rinderknecht 56977) (Not found in Howes or Sabin) Provenance: From the working library of Ship-Builder, Elbridge G. Morton of Fairhaven, MA, then the private collection of Harrison D. Horblit. Sold by Christie’s of New York in 1994.

Lauchlan M’Kay (also spelled McKay), born in Nova Scotia in 1811, was a younger brother of famed Boston shipbuilder Donald M?Kay, renowned for his extraordinary clipper ships including the Flying Cloud and Sovereign of the Seas. As young men Lauchlan and Donald served together in New York as apprentices to Isaac Webb. On 16 June 1836 Lauchlan joined the Navy as an acting carpenter aboard the sloop Natchez, later serving as carpenter aboard the frigate Constellation. While in the Navy, assisted by Donald and his wife Albenia, he wrote The Practical Ship-Builder. He left the Navy in 1840 and eventually rejoined Donald in the shipbuilding business. During the construction of the clipper Sovereign of the Seas, Lauchlan supervised the riggers and sail makers. His ultimate test came when Donald gave him command of that vessel on her maiden voyage around the Horn. She was partially dismasted during a furious gale on 12 October 1852. Masts repaired, she reached San Francisco in 103 days, nearly a month ahead of her closest competitor. Lauchlan’s first voyage in command had been frustrating, but extraordinary. He would repeat that voyage many times.

Additional information

Location Published

New York


Collins, Keese and Co.


First Edition

Date Published



Leather bound


Very Good

Jacket Condition

M'Kay | L(auchlan)