Saturday 31 January 2015

Two ships passing in the archives

We promised that this blog would include some of the stranger items in our collection and today’s choice delivers in spades.
Tucked among the archives is a leather bound book on navigation published in 1733 – a time when navigators were still working to find New Brunswick on the map. The work is titled: The Modern Navigator’s Compleat Tutor : Being a Comprehensive Treatise of Plain and Spherical Trigonometry. The book, printed in long-ago London, feels wonderfully ancient in the hand with thick pages stamped heavily by a mechanical press, and with spelling conventions long since abandoned. The opening pages denote that the work is by

“Joshua Kelly With whom Young Gentlemen and others are well Boarded and Completely and Expeditioufly Qualify’d (on Reafonable Terms) for any Bufinefs relating to Accompts and the Mathematicks.

Translation:  Kelly was a teacher who ran a boarding school where he instructed would-be sailors and others in mathematics, particularly, trigonometry.

We have been able to uncover very little about Joshua Kelly and his school in Wapping, but what interests us more about this lovely old tome is what it tells us about another school... the French Village School of 1924.

It may seem an impossible jump from 1733 London to 1924 French Village, but that is the wonder of archival documents – they seem able to transcend time and space. This ancient work with its difficult spelling (and, quite frankly, impossible trigonometry explanations) was once a lesson book used at the French Village School in 1924. We know this because the inside front cover is well doodled by a student;
“John Noel Gibson, April 18th / 24, aged 10 years.” Someone cautioned us that perhaps this student was working away on his navigational trigonometry in 1824, but another turn through our archives uncovered the French Village School Records from 1924. There among the scholars is John Gibson, age 10, Master Doodler.

OK, we may have made up the Master Doodler part.

There are a great number of school books in our collection, but no other is of such an age – or enjoyed such a very long life on school bookshelves (never let it be said that New Brunswick does not make the most of its education dollars). 
The reason why a book of navigational trigonometry from 1733 was used in the New Brunswick classroom of 1924 might forever remain a mystery. But it seems somehow fitting that this work on navigation, and the school records of one of the book’s last students, have come to rest together in the archives.

Two ships with a shared history of travel through time.

For the brave of heart (and the strong in mind) we have included practice questions from the book for you to try. Click on the image below to enlarge the text. Show all of your work. Please be authentic in your method – no cheating by using a sextant.

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