I finished a book on pirates, shut the back cover, and the opening scene for this started rolling on the inside of my forehead. No, I had not yet seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Rather, I had been a sucker for pirate movies from my earliest days, and it finally all came together. I had enough sailing background, and dug in deeper on the period stuff.
So this list really is choke ship books, as it needs to be.
One of my biggest questions was in setting the time period. When was there a whole lot of piracy by many nations? After a certain period, the Caribbean is policed by the British or the Americans. I wound up constructing out of the encyclopedia a timeline of wars, then added in from my pirate sources. This let me refine what ships would be used, even the shifting alliances back when my female lead was born. Often a lot of your 50 books will be research refining from the general to the final choice of year.
John Esquemeling; Basil Ringrose; The Buccaneers of America, with The Voyage of Capt. Bartholomew Sharp; 1678; reprinted by Dorset Press, 1987.
1). A general history of the time,
not over 200 pages.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
3.) General transportation:
4.) General costume
5.) Specific transportation:
6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals
7.) Spectator entertainments, whether theatre
or sports, a general overview.
8.) Self-entertainments, like card games,
lawn games, and children's games.
9.) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
10.) Recipes for period food.
11.) Marriage and family.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
13.) Religion for the time and place.
14.) A fat history book of the area and
century as an introduction.
15.) A history of the most influential
country at the time (country A).
16.) A history of its rival (country B).
17.) A biography of the leader of country
18.) A biography of the leader of country
19.) A history of the country you are setting
20.) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
21.) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22.) An everyday life for the commoner/lower
classes of your time and place.
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
25.) An everyday life for women of your
time and place
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27.) A book on houses and furnishings of
the period, if possible.
28.) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29.) A book for naming historical characters
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
What I needed here were charts, since so much of it is at sea. For that, checking on a few things that were period, I was free to use the oldest modern ones I could. Unlike maps, charts don't have borders and other annoying political markings.
32) More Ships: Robert Gardiner, editor, The Line of Battle: The Sailing Warship 1650-1840.
33) More Ships: William Ledyard Rodgers, vice admiral, USN, ret.; Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Centuries. A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design; 1940, 1967; Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.
34) Piracy: John Sugden; Sir Francis Drake
35) Setting: Russell Sackett; Edge of the Sea
36) Setting: A. B. C. Whipple; Restless Oceans (Planet Earth Series)
37) Female employments: Elsie Davenport, Your Handspinning , 1953, 1964, Select Books, Mountain View, MO. Because even ladies spin flax, and this shows how to dress the strick on the spindle. Embroidery took over in the story, but I've been doing that so long I didn't need a book for the short scene. But I had done my research in case I had needed it. Not everything you research will wind up being used.
38) Magic, Science, and Alchemy: "Albertus Magnus"; Albertus Magnus. Being the Approved, Verified, Sympathetic and Natural Egyptian Secrets or White and Black Art for Man and Beast. Revealing the Forbidden Knowledge and Mysteries of Ancient Philosophers. The recipes in this book seem to date from about this time, by internal evidence. So this is gilding, waterproofing boots, and what to write on a wooden plate to throw into a house fire to snuff it out. I don't know if another copy of this reprint still exists. But I have a period sorcerer.
39) Martial Arts: Alfred Hutton; Old Sword-Play: The Systems of Fence in Vogue During the XVIth, XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, with Lessons Arranged from the Works of Various Ancient Masters; 1892; H. Grevel & Co., Londdon & B. Westermann & Co., NY; Dover 2001; 1536-1765.
40) Martial Arts: John Clements; Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapiers and Cut-and-Thrust Swords; 1997; Paladin Press, Boulder CO.
41) Martial Arts: G. Hale, Gentleman; The Private Schoole of Defence. Or, The Defects of Publique Teachers, Exactly Discovered, by Way of Objection and Resolution. Together with the True Practise of the Science, Set Downe in Judicious Rules and Observations; in a Method Never before Expressed; 1614; London: Printed for John Helme, and are to be found At his Shop in S. Dunstames' Church-yard in Fleet Street. English. My period books include Vincente Saviolo (his spelling literally gives me headaches), both books by Silver, and several French ones of the time. Fencing was just being really developed at the time, and in Saviolo the lunge does not yet appear.
42) Setting: the editors of Time-Life Books; Life Nature Library: The Sea
43) France: Charles Kingsley; Ancien Régime; 1867
44) More Ships: George C. V. Holmes; Ancient and Modern Ships. Part 1. Wooden Sailing Ships
45) Navigation: Build your own sextant from a CD and the back of its jewel case [free site]--something to do with that album you hate or the backup burn that failed or yet another AOL offer, and the jewel case with the broken lid hinges. But don't believe him that all sextants start at $50 in plastic: in 2007, I got a lovely brass one with the half-mirror, coloured lenses, &c. for less than $30 with shipping. Check the internet. You ought to know by now that I believe in hands-on research: you learn so many things about your character and details you can build in, even plot twists that come out of actually doing the things. A series of cloudy days can get you very lost. Your character needs a honed skill and mathematics and a good chronometer: dimwits can't navigate. This isn't like GPS or even LORAN.
46) Navigation: Nathaniel Bowditch ought to be venerated for founding The American Practical Navigator (US Hydrographic Bureau; (free download 1995 edition online in PDFs) The main link will take you to the latest "buy a dead tree" edition (though not the CD-ROM), the date link to an older pdf copy. The newest edition still covers weather and sea conditions, how to do celestial navigation with tools like sextants, dead reckoning, etc. Your sailing characters will need to do this. I just stumbled on my '38 in a local thrift shop (I live on an island, after all, and old sailing books fill the attics). The author name link takes you to the article on him at Wikipedia, which is worth reading.
47) Navigation: Bruce Bauer's The Sextant Handbook (1995; McGraw-Hill Professional) is available as PDF on Google Books. This one is particularly good because of the long introduction in the opening chapters on the history of the development of the sextant, so it covers quadrants, astrolabes, and other early devices, and their limitations.
48) Yet More Ships: E. Keble Chatterton, 1878-1944; Sailing Ships: the Story of Their Development from Earliest Times to the Present Day (1909; London: Sidwick and Jackson)
49) General: J. M. Stone; Studies from Court and Cloister Being Essays, Historical and Literary, Dealing Mainly with Subjects Relating to the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries; 1908; London.
50) Music: This is the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque. What I actually needed was what sort of music would be found way below the level of Monteverdi. Re-enactor sites helped. I actually found a period song about pirates, translated from the Dutch! But I wrote to soundtrack music.
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Early Modern Europe pages.|
Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.