A row of books at the exhibition


Within the National Maritime Museum, lies a historical collection of books that reveal the maritime history of not just Britain, but the entire world!

It opened in 2003 and has been used as a research center ever since. The library has well over 20,000 books! J.V Bartlett Esq was the benefactor of the collection and donated an amazing 6,000 books and it has certainly grown in size since then.

I had the honour of being able to look through the collection and pick ten volumes that I think would spark the most interest.

  1. The Log of HMS Bounty W. Bligh 1787 (Genesis Publications 1975)

The log for Captain Bligh on his famous voyage.

The first one has to be a copy of the log Captain William Bligh wrote on his famous voyage. The HMS Bounty was a victim of mutiny in 1789, but was launched in 1787. This is a fascinating piece of history. It may not be the original but it is in Bligh’s handwriting so it’s just as good – I can certainly see why people do their research here.


  1. Philips Mercantile Marine Atlas of the World

This is an antique atlas that’s almost 100 years old, and it was really interesting to look at. First off, it’s massive and very detailed, I liked seeing the old place names. Another thing I liked seeing was the flag page which is very outdated to the modern eye. There was a section for the flags with countries under the British Empire, and some of them have the Union Jack on them which was fascinating to see.

The antique atlas

  1. Journal of the Endeavour – James Cook 1768-71


James Cook is one of the most famous seaman in Britain. The Endeavour sailed around the world and is one of Captain James Cook’s most famous ships that he sailed on. This book includes a copy of his journal which describes the voyage. It certainly looks like a fascinating read.


  1. Titanic- Filson Young 1912


This book was released only 37 days since the terrible incident. Goodreads wrote:

A picture of two books containing Captain James Cook’s voyages

“Despite the haste, it remains one of the most well-written and stylish of his early works”. This volume is an original, the cover it was published with is still attached. A book written that eininarly on sounds quite intriguing and shows how the world was captivated by it, there was definitely a call for more information.


  1. Nautical Magazine- 1874-91


It’s a collection of books that have inside them articles from the Nautical Magazine, but only the ones with the subject of maritime. Each book contains a year’s worth of these articles, containing news stories to weather reports! It really is an interesting collection, which vividly brings the world of Victorian maritime to life.


  1. The Harbour Masters Journals


This collection spans over forty-five books, and is all in the harbour masters’ own writing. These are also from the Victorian period and contain an important insight into how they operated, but only if you can read the 19th century writing!

One of the corridors in the library

7. Great Shipwreck- a record of disasters at sea 1544-1877

This book has been well preserved and is from the Victorian period. It’s very descriptive and details in chronological order incidents from a 19th century perspective. The book seems more like a good read than a good reference for historical research.


  1. Merchant Navy List collection from 1859- 1973


I think what amazed me about this collection was the number of volumes and sheer amount of detail. It lists all the merchant navy ships of that year, each of the volumes are reasonably big. It lists almost everything from the name to the depth of the hold. This is a very good source of research I would believe, given its detail and that it spans 114 years.

A picture of a ship that is placed near the entrance.

9. Official Shippers Guide- to the Principle Ports of the World by Osaka Shosen Kaisha

Osaka Shosen Kaisha is a Japanese shipping company, there are two volumes which are about shipping ports around the world and explaining them in great detail. They were both written in the first half or the 20th century. I loved the cover of the book it’s very much of the old-world.


  1. Merchant ships of the world- Frank C. Bowen



This one is also mainly a reference book that is mostly used for research, and it seems to be a good source for it! It was edited by Frank Bowen and was written in 1923. Looking inside made me think of the years of research this must have taken to complete, which is what I thought when I saw the other books (as many of them are quite big).

The main part of the library.

The collection is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm and admission is free. All you have to do is ask at the desk and after you’ve signed in, they’ll let you through. I just listed ten of the 20.000 volumes (it was hard believe me!).

It seems to have everything from yachting information to lists of naval ships and the information isn’t just linked to Cornwall, it’s from around the world. I would defiantly recommend the Bartlett collection for all history nerds.

When I was there I got to interview a member of staff, listen here: