The Warwick Plain Scale: An Early Seventeenth-Century Navigational Instrument

Author(s): Michael J Gilbart

Year: 2013


One of the most intriguing artifacts recovered from the Warwick, is a wooden, mathematical instrument called a plain or ‘plaine’ scale.  Plain scales were small, wooden instruments used by ships in the early-17th century.  The plain scale allowed pilots and navigators to determine a ship’s position with dividers and the graduated markings on the scale. 

This paper examines the history of plain scales, the use of the plain scale for navigational and astronomical purposes, and how the Warwick plain scale was identified and conserved.  The paper also discusses where the Warwick plain scale fits in the hisotry of 17th-century navigation technology, especially since the first written account of the plain scale is John Aspley's work of 1624, Speculum Nauticum, five years after the Warwick sank.

Cite this Record

The Warwick Plain Scale: An Early Seventeenth-Century Navigational Instrument. Michael J Gilbart. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428379)


Temporal Keywords
17th Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 597