Signals and Instructions for Ships Under Convoy.
( ca. 1810), (London)
b/w flags, some hand colored. Folio. 14 pp.
These are printed Admiralty signals issued to commanders of merchant vessels under Royal Navy escort and, presumably, to the escort as well. Printed instructions for signaling are illustrated by dozens of signal flags, 20 of which are hand colored. This copy, identified as copy No. 59 in manuscript on the title, is signed on 26 July 1810 on board the 74 gun ship “HMS Orion” by her captain, Sir Archibald Collingwood Dickson, and issued to the schooner “Betsy”, Thomas Mullett commanding and also signing the document. With instructions for destroying these signals upon departing the convoy or meeting the enemy. A memorandum on the verso of the final sheet reads: All Masters of Merchant Vessels to supply themselves with a quantity of False Fires, to give the Alarm on the approach of an Enemy Cruizer in the Night; or in the Day to make the usual Signal for an Enemy. On being chased or discovering a suspicious Vessel, and in the event of their Capture being inevitable, either by Night or Day, the Master to cause the Jeers, Ties, and Haul Yard to be cut and unrove, and their Vessels to be otherwise so disabled as to prevent their being immediately capable of making sail. Among many other instructions Mullet is warned not to go before the beam of the “Orion,” and to show no lights after ten o’clock. A manuscript note on the last page reads, In case of separation before we enter the Balt(ic) rendezvous off Dors Head. If after clear of the Balt(ic) off Gottenburg. “HMS Orion” enjoyed a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, having been commanded by a series of enterprising officers. She participated in all of the major actions of the Napoleonic Wars. Interestingly, Patrick OBrian refers to just such a set of instructions in the second chapter of his first book, Master and Commander. – Then, labelled Secret, the information for the private signal – the difference between friend and foe, between good and bad. Self wraps, stitched as issued. Old folds, short tears to page edges not affecting the text or signal flags. A rare relic.