A compelling look at the nimble two-or-three-masted ship known as a herring-buss. The author, Simon Smith (Charles 1's agent for the royal fisheries), discusses the construction and dimensions of herring-busses, the costs to build one, their projected socioeconomic benefits, and the laws that govern their use. Thomas Fulton, in his 1911 Sovereignty of the Sea, tidily summarizes Smith's view of the versatile ships:
Smith recommended that all the corporations and county towns in the kingdom should conjointly raise a stock to buy hemp and other materials to equip busses, which were to be built at the seaports nearest to them and sent to the fishing at Shetland; and he calculated, after the usual fashion, that each buss would maintain twenty families in work, "breed country youths to be mariners," and cause many ships to be employed in exporting the herrings and bringing back commodities.1
Smith begins his treatise, which he dedicates to the King, with directions for building a herring-buss, which could stow 412 barrels of, well, herring. He continues with a summation of construction costs (500 pound sterling); costs of netting (237 pounds, 4 shilling, 4 pence for 56 nets and impedimenta); operations (with a net profit of 144 pounds 6 shillings every two months); the best places to fish (Lewes Loughs, Doggersbanck, Buffin Deeps, and elsewhere); the types of herring in and around the British Isles (sea-sticks, Crux-herring, and, of course, red herring); a few tricks of the trade; the distribution of labor between the men and the boys (the latter mix the gutted fish with salt); how to outfit the crew (boot-britches, gipping knives); and finally, the statutes governing virtually very aspect of the trade, with a focus on the competition from the Dutch, who invented the herring-buss. A most interesting window into commercial fishing in mid-seventeenth-century England.
1Fulton, Thomas Wemyss, The Sovereignty of the Sea, Union, New Jersey: The Lawbook Exchange, 2002, pp. 442-443. (Reprint of 1911 edition.)
London: Nicholas Bourne, 1641.
Quarto, 182 x 134 x 10 mm (binding); 179 x 131 x 6 mm (text block). A-F4, [iv], 44 pp. Modern calf by Bayntun Riviere, spine titled vertically on morocco lettering piece: THE HERRING-BUSSE TRADE — SMITH — 1641. Minor wear to extremities. Interior: Title toned and spotted; leaves cropped close, sometimes trimming headlines and signatures, and with loss of bottom line of text on seven pages in the final gathering.
Sold at Dominic Winter in 2015; modern penciled cataloguers' notes to free endpapers.
Wing S4208; ESTC R18521; Thomason Tracts E.177; Bibliotheca Piscatoria p. 300; Hazlitt p. 234.