The earliest documentary evidence for the use of this system is found in two drawings dating to 1684, the year of La Belle's construction (Figures 6, 7). La Belle provides the earliest and only archaeological evidence for the use of this design system, and despite its small size, is an example of the "cutting edge" of French hull design at the time. In addition, La Belle exhibits a framing pattern that appears for the first time in French shipbuilding in the 1680s (Figures 8, 9) (L'Hour and Veyrat 1999).

Part I of this essay presents the archaeological and documentary evidence that supports the conclusion that a graphic design system of "geometric fairing with diagonals" was used in La Belle's construction. It also discusses how and which specific measurements were applied to the reconstructed design procedures to regenerate La Belle's archaeologically documented hull shape.

Part II examines whether La Belle's design system was a completely new invention or whether it was developed from existing concepts of ship design. It will be argued that this system actually expanded on the basic concepts of Mediterranean moulding—a non-graphic design system of geometric fairing that was in use in European shipbuilding for centuries prior to La Belle's construction—in the process of adapting them to the methods of orthographic drawing.

In both parts of the essay, La Belle's design will be discussed with reference to broader issues in the history of ship design and construction. Preserved design marks not only provide clues to understanding the design of the specific vessel being studied but also a basis on which to develop and refine theories and techniques applicable to the archaeological study of hull design in general. La Belle's surmarks, as those on other vessels, are associated with construction sequences in which the frames are raised first, and these transverse structural elements define the hull shape during the construction stage of the vessel. However, this essay will present the view that the surmarks located on the frames are actually direct evidence for the quantification of longitudinal curves, and this longitudinal quantification was central to defining the hull shape during the design stage.

Furthermore, it will be argued that the idea of quantifying longitudinal curves originated with adjusting and regulating curvature along the runs of planks or ribbands at transitional points on the shell of the hull. This difference in emphasis has potentially important repercussions for how we view and investigate the transition from shell-first to frame-first construction. The use of key plank runs for regularizing or even regulating hull curvature in shell-first construction (Pomey 1998) may be an existent design concept that was adapted to enable the transition to frame-first construction. NEXT