Multiple diagonals in the body plan depicted as narrowing and rising curves in the breadth and sheer views of a ship drawing are defining features of a design method that is first documented in early French drafts from the 1680s and 1690s (Figures 6, 7, 18, 19). In fact, the two earliest French drafts with multiple diagonals in the body plan both date to the year of La Belle's construction, 1684. The first, for which only the body plan exists, is of the 400-ton flute Profond (Figure 6) (MnM 1684a:PH 178893). Like La Belle, it was built in Rochefort in 1684, and its devis follows that of La Belle's in the official records (AR 1684b:1L3-19 fol.89r–90v; Boudriot 2000:41). The second depicts a French flute built in Toulon (Figure 7) (MnM 1684b). Both vessels depicted in these drafts are much larger than La Belle; however, they still have only two bilge diagonals per side for defining the lower hull. Later drafts from the 1680s and 1690s that display the same general characteristics are more developed. Once again, they mostly depict large vessels; however, a draft from 1697 is of a small frigate much closer in size to La Belle (Figure 18) (MnM 1697). It has the same arrangement of lower diagonals as La Belle, and these diagonals are clearly depicted in the breadth and sheer views. While the frigate has only two bilge diagonals per side in the lower hull, for some of the larger vessels one or two additional diagonals were added below the maximum beam (Figure 19) (MnM ca.1690).

While most of these drafts are technical drawings, the drawing of the 1684 Toulon flute is an illustration of the basic concept of this design method—the subdividing of the diagonals by mathematically generated increments to define smooth longitudinal curves, i.e., offsets (Figure 7).[1] This draft is very useful for studying and discussing La Belle's design since there are no written descriptions of this method contemporaneous with La Belle. In fact, this method is only mentioned for the first time in Paul Hoste's 1697 treatise Théorie de la Construction des Vaisseaux (Hoste 1697:145–149, Pl. I liv. 3; Rieth 1997:208; 2001:261), and all documents describing this method in detail date to the eighteenth century. For example, this method figures prominently in Duhamel du Monceau's treatise on ship design and construction (Duhamel 1752, 1758). Overall, La Belle's innovative design system is more representative of the design techniques described in French treatises from the eighteenth century than the non-graphic design method of Mediterranean moulding, known to have predominated in the seventeenth century (Boudriot 1998a; Rieth 1997; 2001).

Design Reconstruction Methodology

Since the same characteristics are apparent in La Belle's archaeology as in the earliest French drafts, one might presume that La Belle was designed by the same method used to create these drafts. NEXT