The shipwright

According to archival sources, the Dauphine was built by Philippe Cochois (or Cauchois), a shipwright who was active in the late 17th and early 18th centuries at the royal shipyard at Le Havre. Very few documents written by him have come down to us; as a consequence, we know little about him and even less about his techniques. In the early 18th century, naval architecture was a relatively recent science. It was only then that master shipbuilders, who for a long time had handed down their knowledge from father to son, began to codify their experience. A few of the very best shipwrights, freeing themselves from the empiricism of their predecessors, began to use mathematical curves to define the hulls of their ships. This movement, which began in England, came to France in the 17th century, where the first drawings saw the light of day around 1680. The procedure was initially confined to royal shipyards, where since the time of Colbert drawings, even sketches, had to be submitted to a construction committee. It was not until the 18th and even the 19th centuries that the practice became widespread and was taken up in private shipyards. Only the study of sunken hulls of wrecks can provide us with information about the methods and techniques used to build ships, whether in royal or private shipyards.

Multimedia

A. Fux © Musée national de la Marine
Drawing of an 18-gun frigate by Cochois, Philippe (active in 1697) 1697. (N° inv. J9e/7374)
Magdalene College, Pepys Library, Cambridge
One of the first drawings of a ship. Attributed to Matthew Baker, circa 1580. Magdalene College, Pepys Library, Cambridge ( MS2820), fo 8.
Service historique de la Marine (Vincennes)
View of a part of the Arsenal of Toulon, with the shipyard where one can observe the keel of a ship in place with the equipment required to place the stem and stern-post. Album Colbert (SHM Vincennes, SH 141), plate 1.
Cliché J. Blondel. Musée de Tatihou
Detail of a ship under construction. View of the Rochefort shipyard, used for both ships and galleys. Pen and ink drawing, brown and grey wash, watercolour highlights, paper mounted on canvas. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Rochefort, dépôt Bibliothèque municipale, Saintes (D BA 22-41).
Service historique de la Marine (Vincennes)
Album Colbert (SHM Vincennes, SH 141), plate 1: View of a part of the Arsenal of Toulon, with the shipyard where one can observe the keel of a ship in place with the equipment required to place the stem and stern-post.
Jacques Blondel © Musée de Tatihou
Album Colbert (SHM Vincennes, SH 141), plate 1: View of a part of the Arsenal of Toulon, with the shipyard where one can observe the keel of a ship in place with the equipment required to place the stem and stern-post.