Although such developments had limited practical application at the time, they did highlight the need for graphic depictions of hull shapes in order to standardize construction and carry out mathematical analysis.
Surviving French ship drafts as well as La Belle's archaeological evidence testify that in this dynamic environment, concrete progress was made in graphic ship design in the last two decades of the seventeenth century. Jean-Claude Lemineur, in Les Vaisseaux du Roi Soleil, suggests an intriguing possibility that an architect from Paris may have been responsible for some of these innovations in graphic ship design (Lemineur 1996:57). Arnoul, intendant of the Toulon arsenal, writes in a letter dated November 17, 1679, that a young architect and master carpenter from Paris named Chaumont has worked for two years drawing vessels, and the sons of the Toulon shipwrights Coulomb and Chapelle have already been working under him for a year (AN 1679a:Marine B3-32 fol.499; Lemineur 1996:56–57, 220–221; Rieth 2009:136–137). The 1684 Toulon flute draft (Figure 7) that presents the basic concepts of design with diagonals is signed by [François] Coulomb (son) (MnM 1684b:PH 39810)—one of the two sons of shipwrights referred to in this letter.
The 1684 body plan of Profond (Figure 6), the other early example of design with diagonals, relates to flutes built in Rochefort by Henri Mallet, the senior master shipwright (Boudriot 1998b:58; MnM 1684a:PH 178893). Researcher Jean Boudriot concludes that it was probably one of the junior shipwrights, like Henri's son Pierre Mallet, or Pierre Masson, the son of his brother, or Jean Guichard, that executed this draft (Boudriot 1998b:58), and La Belle's devis actually bears the signatures of Henri Mallet and these three shipwrights (AR 1684a:1L3–19 fol.88v–89r). The evidence seems to suggest that in the late 1670s and early 1680s, knowledge of this new graphic design method of geometric fairing with diagonals spread among the next generation of shipwrights working in the leading French naval shipyards. Quite fortuitously for the study of the history of naval architecture, La Belle provides unique archaeological evidence of the practical application of these recently developed design techniques.
What specific ideas or skills civil architects contributed to the development of French ship drafts is unknown. As Lemineur (1996:57) writes, the architect Chaumont is forgotten by history. Unfortunately, this also applies to the ship drawings made by him in the course of at least two years in Toulon (1677–1679). His work is mentioned in Arnoul's letter, but no such drafts have yet been discovered. It is known that by this time the principles of orthographic projection, enabling the depiction of multiple cross-referenced views of a structure, were well established in art and civil architecture (Booker 1963; Lefèvre 2004). However, terrestrial structures of the time did not incorporate the complex curvature that characterizes the shapes of ship hulls. NEXT
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