Visually Enticing and Noteworthy: “Sailors’ Narratives” and its Additions

Although Sailors’ Narratives of Voyages Along the New England Coast, 1524-1624 mostly features plain-written texts, George Parker Winship includes many additions that I feel are all worth mentioning. Winship supplements the chapters of the book with brief summaries mentioning the specific details of sailors’ voyages along North American coastlines. Bruce Rogers’ Montaigne typeface and floral ornaments not only distinguish the book’s texts but are also visually pleasing to the eye.  Rogers’ typefaces give the book its sense of character and may help us determine what type of audience sought to read Winship’s work. All in all, the physical qualities of Winship’s book not only help its contents stand out, but also give it significant meaning and value.

Example of one of Winship’s descriptive summaries before a chapter

As shown in several pictures in my prior posts, Winship provides some short summaries (usually consisting of a couple of paragraphs) in the beginnings of chapters to detail the events, challenges, and peoples that sailors encountered during their voyages along the New England Coast. Winship likely added these features after he gathered the sources of sailors and used them to give scholars, students, and other individuals concise specificities of what they were reading, what sailors were doing, and where they traveled.

Example of Winship’s comments (found on the left side of the page)

Winship further aids readers by adding comments on the sides of texts (usually only one or two words) detailing the specific locations and dates that sailors are describing in their narratives. The processes of understanding these gathered contents likely involved Winship talking to other reputable historians and academia to grasp the material he selected. These inquiries further establish that Winship’s contents took place in real locations that can be visited and recalled today. These processes give significant weight to the contents of Winship’s book and display that, not only did Winship intricately analyze his materials but desired to aid readers in understanding them and give his texts further historical meaning.

Bruce Rogers nearing the end of his typographical career

Bruce Rogers played a prominent role in shaping this book’s texts. He was a famous typographer in the early twentieth century that worked on numerous publications such as The Centaur and The History of Oliver and Arthur. He also helped work on Sailors’ Narratives at Winship’s request and cast Winship’s writings in the Montaigne typeface, which was a typeface created distinctly by Rogers. Rogers’ distinct typeface not only help the book’s texts stand out but may further help us conclude that Winship sought to make his work stand out as noticeably as possible.

An example of Rogers’ illustrations (at the top of located near the page number)

Rogers also incorporated an ornamental typeface in Winship’s book to decorate Winship’s pages and complement his contents. In the beginnings of each chapter, Rogers intricately adorns the tops of pages with small, floral ornaments. While I doubt Rogers used these ornaments to convey any personal or cultural messages, he may have done so to help the book’s contents stand out and visually please its audience. While Rogers’ Montaigne typeface helped the texts stand out, his ornamental decorations further establish Winship’s work as unique and creative. The presence of ornaments at the beginnings of each chapter may not only serve as decorations but may also keep readers enthralled as they begin reading each of the book’s contents.

Winship incorporated several intriguing additions in formatting his pages and texts. Oddly enough, he laid his contents out on ruled paper (one can see an example of this on any picture I take of the book’s texts), significantly limiting how many words he could fit on each page. Why Winship did, this is unknown, but considering that sailors originally recorded their entries on ruled paper, Winship may have maintained this feature to make his work seem more historical, visually enticing, and in-line with how the sailors formatted their entries. Another interesting point is that the font size is relatively large considering how small the ruled pages are. The spacing between the paragraphs, however, is minimal, and Winship may have spaced them out in this manner to save what little space he had left on pages. All of these characteristics tell us that, even though Winship incorporated several additions into his book that limited space, he sought to keep his contents as compact as possible.

From the facts displayed here, we can conclude that Winship sought to appeal to a general audience with an interest in colonial history. As stated in other entries, scholars, collegiates, and commoners alike can grasp the materials of this book. The fact that Winship included manuscript-like rulings in his work may symbolize that his visual and scriptural tastes sought to appeal to avid observers of history. Furthermore, the simple, yet intricate design of the book meant that Winship’s work could be picked up and understood by any readers that purchased it. While this book catered to readers, one can also conclude that a work such as this may be found in various institutions and museums to be intimately studied. All in all, these functions all serve as a valuable piece in determining who Winship’s audience was and how he conveyed his interests and messages to readers.

While Winship’s texts seem simple on the cover, the various additions he and Rogers made give us a more detailed, elaborate painting of Sailors’ Narratives of Voyages Along the New England Coast, 1524-1624. The various descriptive additions, typeface, and illustrations all add to the flesh of Winship’s contents and give insight into how and when this book was made. Furthermore, the various qualities present in the book served to represent an audience interested in Colonial history, but could also appeal to any reader curious about previously hidden knowledge. All in all, Winship and Rogers does a fantastic job of gathering these multiple texts, describing them, and introducing them to audiences in an authentic manner. Rogers’ work cannot go by unnoticed as well, as his work supplements Winship’s book and further distinguishes it amongst other historical works.