William Bourne was a notable and prolific Elizabethan mathematical practitioner. This bibliography is research-in-progress; please send any corrections or additions to stephen.johnston@mhs.ox.ac.uk.

A revised bibliography of William Bourne

E.G.R. Taylor published a bibliography of the Elizabethan mathematical practitioner William Bourne in her Hakluyt Society edition of A Regiment for the Sea and other Writings on Navigation by William Bourne of Gravesend, a Gunner (c. 1535-1582) (Cambridge, 1963). Taylor’s bibliography was drawn up by D. W. Waters and R. A. Skelton.

The following is intended as a supplement and correction to the list in Taylor. It includes some additional manuscript sources unknown to her and redates those she was aware of. (There is nothing novel here about Bourne’s printed works.) With these manuscript revisions it is possible to offer a far more convincing chronology of Bourne’s work and to dispense with some hypothetical early manuscripts which she was forced to invent (and whose existence has been accepted by subsequent historians).

Abbreviations used:
BL: British Library, London
Bodl.: Bodleian Library, Oxford
Pepys: Pepysian Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge
STC2: A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad 1475-1640, 2nd edition, 3 vols (London, 1976-91)

The list is presented in chronological order. For details and locations of the printed works, see STC2.

[Almanac and rules of navigation]
Printed 1567
No copies have been located but, according to STC2, the edition of 1571 was largely a reissue.

(Lost) text similar to Sloane 3651
Manuscript, datable to c. 1570/71
Described by Bourne elsewhere as ‘Concerning the mathematical sciences, treating upon geometry, perspective and also for the use of ordnance or artillery’ (Bodl. Rawlinson MS D 704, f.1r). It was given to Edward Fiennes ‘near about michaelmas was twelvemonth’; before the book of artillery was presented.

An Almanac and Prognostication for Three Years
Printed 1571

Bodl. Rawlinson MS D 704: ‘William Bourns booke of artillery’
Manuscript, datable before May 1572
Exclusively an artillery text and therefore presumably a draft for The Art of Shooting in Great Ordnance. Evidence for dating: dedication is to Edward Fiennes who is addressed as Lord Clinton and Say, whereas in Regiment for the Sea Fiennes is also addressed as Earl of Lincoln, a position he was raised to on 4 May 1572 (DNB); practical artillery trials ‘hath been chargeable unto me within this five years one hundred marks out of my purse’ (f.3r); ‘if that I were in any place where that I might prove certain conclusions with ordnance’ (f.5v), which indicates that Bourne was writing before he was appointed master gunner at Upnor Castle in the third quarter of 1574 (Bodl. Rawlinson MS A 202, f.40r); ‘I have seven children all sons yet living that must be kept at my hand’ (f.4v). On the latter point, E.G.R. Taylor says in her edition of the Regiment for the Sea that in 1572 Bourne ‘had his own four boys to care for while his three stepsons were just emerging into the adult world’ (p.xxv). If this is correct as regards the stepsons then the artillery book could not have come much later because then the stepsons would be of an age where they would no longer be kept at Bourne’s hand.

BL Sloane MS 3651
Manuscript, datable to 1572/73
Dedicated to Lord Burghley, but apparently written before the decision to split up its material into the separate treatises that became the Treasure for Travellers and the Art of Shooting in Great Ordnance. Refers to ‘my last work or almanac and rules of navigation’ (f.7r), presumably the 1571 edition. Dedicated to Burghley as Lord High Treasurer, a post he was appointed to on 15 July 1572 (OxfordDNB).
It seems likely that this manuscript was offered for sale in both 1687 and 1688. In Bentley and Walford’s auction catalogue of 21 November 1687, item number 20 of ‘Manuscripts in English, in Folio’ is ‘William Bournes Book of Geometry and Perspective with his Treatise of the use of Artillery’ (p.89). The catalogue preface states that the sale ‘comprises the main part of the Library of that Famous Secretary William Cecil, Lord Burleigh’. (Although note that a great many of the printed books are dated well after Burghley’s death; the sellers have presumably mixed in their own stock with whatever they had of Burghley’s.)
The BL copy of the catalogue Bibliotheca Illustris: sive Catalogus Variorum Librorum ... Quorum Auctis habebitur Londini, ad Insigne Ursi in Vico dicto Ave-Mary-Lane prope Templum D. Pauli, Novemb. 21 1687 (Per T. Bentley & B. Walford, Bibliopolas. Lond.) is shelfmark 821.i.8.(1.) and is signed on the title page ‘A Palmer -87’. It contains prices marked against many of the items; Bourne’s work fetched 3s6d.
Less than three months later Benjamin Walford was behind another book sale, on 13 Feb 1687/8. Number 6 of the ‘Libri Manuscripti’ in Catalogus Librorum Roberti Scott, Bibliopolae Regii Londinensis ... is ‘Will. Burne his Book of Ordinance Dedicated to William Cecil Lord Burleigh’. This catalogue is in the same BL volume as 821.i.8.(3.) and the price of 6s is recorded on p.175.
Despite the difference in the description of the subject matter, both the rapid cycling through the trade and the explicit mention of the Burghley dedication on the second occasion make it highly probable that the same volume appeared in both sales and that it can be identified with Sloane MS 3651. Certainly, this assumption was made by R. A. Skelton and John Summerson, A description of maps and architectural drawings : in the collection made by William Cecil, first Baron Burghley, now at Hatfield House (Oxford, 1971), p. 10n. They also note (p. 26) that a 1615 manuscript catalogue of the library of Burghley’s grandson, the 2nd Earl of Salisbury, contains some manuscripts on technical subjects, ‘such as those of William Bourne on shipbuilding, gunnery, survey and navigation.’ Presumably this refers at least to the volume now known as Sloane 3651.

Bodl. Ashmole MS 1148, pp.79-102: a short hydrostatical text
Manuscript, datable to 1573/4
Exists as an anonymous transcript. Presumably this is the follow up for Burghley that Bourne prepared after being questioned. It contains material that would be incorporated principally in book IV of Treasure for Travellers, though also some bits for books III and V.

A Regiment for the Sea
Printed 1574
Dedicated to Fiennes as both Earl of Lincoln and Lord Clinton and Say. The book is not dated but is normally assigned to 1574; see E.G.R. Taylor, Regiment, p. 443. There were at least eleven English editions to 1631. The first of at least three Dutch editions appeared at Amsterdam in 1594.

Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, ljs345: ‘Inventions or Devices’
Manuscript, datable to 1575/76
Dedicated to Lord Burghley, this is a first version of the text printed in 1578; it differs significantly from the published version. In the autograph dedication Bourne refers to his previous contacts with Burghley: ‘about 3 years past I delivered your Lordship a book’, which must have been Sloane 3651, and as a result he wrote a ‘little note as touching the art of static’ (the original of the Bodl. Ashmole MS 1148 text listed above).
The manuscript was acquired for the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection from Christie’s (London), 29 November 1999, lot 207. (In a blog post of 2013, the antiquarian book dealer Jeremy Norman revealed that he had purchased the manuscript in the 1970s from the Heritage Bookshop in Los Angeles. "The Weinsteins, owners of Heritage, sold the manuscript as an early copy of the book, as most of the text was written in a standard Elizabethan secretarial hand, and priced it accordingly. But the author signed the manuscript in two or three places, and the dedication was written out in the same distinctive hand as the signatures. These factors caused me to wonder if it was possibly an autograph manuscript written by and for the author himself." Comparison with examples of Bourne's signature confirmed Norman's suspicion but commercial success did not instantly follow: "Having worked in the antiquarian book trade for forty-nine years (as of 2013), I can report that it is not unusual for the reception of material by customers to be the converse of its historical significance. In this case the obvious institutional buyers of this invaluable manuscript passed it up through private offers and its appearance in two of our printed rare book catalogues. We catalogued the manuscript first in 1980 in our eighth catalogue entitled Twelve Manuscripts ... Eventually, I consigned the Bourne manuscript to Christie's in London in their sale of November 29, 1999.") The University of Pennsylvania hosts a complete digital facsimile of the manuscript, available from their catalogue page.
There is also a 17th-century transcript of the dedication, preface and (lengthy) table of contents at Pepys PL 2871, pp. 335-354. As with the previous three texts in this miscellaneous manuscript belonging to Samuel Pepys, it was copied from an original in the possession of the Earl of Ailesbury (‘Ex Chartophyl. Com. Ailesburgens’), which may suggest something of the provenance of the autograph version, or another copy.

A Booke called the Treasure for Traueilers
Printed 1578; 1641 (as A Mate for Mariners)

Inuentions or Deuices. Very Necessary for all Generalles and Captaines, as wel by Sea as by Land
Printed 1578; 1590?

The Arte of Shooting in Great Ordinance
Printed 1578; 1587; 1643

BL Lansdowne MS 121: Optical text
Manuscript, datable to 1579/80
Printed in James Orchard Halliwell, Rara Mathematica; or, A Collection of Treatises on the Mathematics (London, 1839), 32-47; Halliwell’s text was republished in Albert Van Helden, ‘The Invention of the Telescope’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 67, part 4 (1977), pp. 30-4. Bourne states that he has drawn up his text at Burghley’s request, presumably as a result of the latter’s interest in the 110th device in Inuentions or Deuices (1578). Bourne also mentions the presentation of a MS to Burghley 7 years before and his subsequent authorship of a ‘litle Boke of Statick’.

BL Lansdowne MS 29/20 (ff.48r-49v): Three naval discourses
Manuscript, dated 2 March 1579/80
Written at Chatham (ie Upnor), date is endorsement.

An Almanac and Prognostication for x years
Printed 1581
Dedicated to Edward Fiennes as Earl of Lincoln and Baron of Clinton and Say. Preface to reader dated 1 December 1580 ‘from the Queen’s house called Upnor Castle in Kent’.


Thanks to Sven Dupré for pointing out the Summerson/Skelton reference for Sloane MS 3651 and the 1615 library catalogue; Richard Barker originally alerted me to the Christie’s 1999 sale.