Digital Library

Livro Náutico, ou Meio Practico de Construcão de Navios e Galés Antigas, e Memorial de Várias Cousas Importantes

Title: Livro Náutico, ou Meio Prático de Construção de Navios e Galés Antigas
Vol 2: Memorial de Várias Cousas Importantes

Author: Unknown

Year: 1575-1625

Country: Portugal

Description: 2 vols. (1, 86 f.; 2, 144 f.); 32 cm

Owner: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisboa, Portugal

Call No.: Vol 1: COD 2257; Vol 2: COD. 637

Notes: Unpublished. Collection of papers with nautical texts and recipes to build Indiamen. No illustrations. Originally bound in one volume but now bound as two volumes.

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Digitized version of original document from the Biblioteca National de Portugal (both vols.)

View Digitized Original at Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal


The Livro náutico is a collection of manuscripts bound in two volumes, with 86 and 144 pages respectively, and dating between 1575 and 1625. It is presently located in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in Lisbon. It contains important data pertaining to the organization of the part of the Spanish Armada of 1588 that was fitted in Lisbon, as well as several lists containing armament and victuals for India naus.

The second volume, Memorial de Várias Cousas Importantes, was not originally recognized as being associated with the Livro Nautica, despite a plate in the back of the book referring to the Livro «que contém a primeira parte deste códice» (which contains the first part of this codex). The two were originally bound in a single volume.

Francisco Contente Dominges dates the compilation to the late 1580s / early 1590s, placing it between the work of Fernando Oliveira and João Baptista Lavanha.


The author is unknown.


The documents compiled in the Livro include detailed lists of measurements, quantities of wood, and total costs needed for building various ships; salaries and supplies needed to man the vessels; ammunition, artillery, weapon and gunpowder lists and costs; and the total value of certain vessels as well as the total value of the 1588 Spanish Armada.

The Memorial, in addition, contains a more diverse set of documents: the costs and income from various parts of the Portuguese empire, including India, Brazil, Mina, Santo Thome, Cape Verde, and Angola; construction and maintenance of various sizes of vessels; supplies needed and their costs; and technical navigation issues.

Of particular note is the «Folha dos Nauios que Sua Magestade tem nesta Coroa de Portugall…» (“List of the Ships that His Majesty has in this Crown of Portugal…”). It is a list of ships available for Crown use in 1589, including their current state and the cost of getting them rigged and ready to set sail, including artillery but not wages. It begins in the Livro and continues in the Memorial.

There is also a list of ships, men, weapons, ammunition, and other supplies
«que se entienden ser menester para en caso que se haya de hazer Ia jornada de Inglaterra» (“which are understood to be necessary in the event that the day of England is to be carried out”), including an estimate of the cost of outfitting the expedition and paying those involved for eight months (p 80-104 in Memorial).

Works Cited

Domingues, Francisco Contente. (2004). Os navios do mar oceano : teoria e empiria na arquitectura naval portuguesa dos séculos XVI e XVII. Lisboa: Centro de História da Universidade. p. 171-184.

Additional Sources

Lopes de Mendonça, Henrique. (1829). Estudos sobre navios portuguezes nos seculos XV e XVI. Lisboa: Academia Real das Ciencias.

Quirino da Fonseca, Henrique. (1934). A caravela portuguesa. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra. p. 311-342.

Domingues, Francisco Contente. (2004) Os navios da expansão: o livro da fabrica das naos de Fernando Oliveira e a arquitectura naval portuguesa dos séculos XVI e XVII. Lisboa : [s.n.]. p. 400-424.

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