From the moment that Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O'Brian's sequence of novels about the 19th century naval office Jack Aubrey and his surgeon colleague Stephen Maturin, was published in 1970, critics hailed the book as a masterpiece of historical recreation. Patrick O'Brian died in 2000 not long after the publication of the twentieth novel in the series (Blue At The Mizzen) and by that time his reputation was secure. Reviewers were generous in their praise "Pure gold... O'Brian by the very scale and consistency of his achievement has gone further than just classic storytelling intertwined with high scholarship. I think that he has shown that late on in our literary silver age, authentic gold can still be mined" (The Daily Telegraph).
What is so compelling about the Jack Aubrey novels is that they take the reader inside the navy of Napoleonic times and give us an incredibly vivid impression of what it must have been like to serve on board a warship in the age of fighting sail. O'Brian himself was enormously well-read in the subject and the fruits of his encyclopedic knowledge of the period leap off the page. But the books are so richly textured that it is easy to miss some subtle detail or fascinating historical fact in the process of following the plot, and this where this illustrated companion to the novels comes in.
Written by an author who is both a military historian and a passionate devotee of the Aubrey-Maturin sequence, this book is a perfect accompaniment to the novels. It explains the historical background clearly and provides a wealth of information about the fighting warships of the period, the life of the serving sailor (both office and ordinary seaman), how ships were built, manned and sailed, how they actually fought one another, and the rewards that awaited a successful crew. It also relates this information back to the novels themselves to that readers can return to individual titles to explore the intricacies of O'Brian's fictional world with far greater insight.
Illustrated in colour throughout with contemporary paintings and engravings, studio photography of naval artefacts, maps, diagrams and annotated drawings, Patrick O'Brian's Navy will prove the essential companion to one of the great contemporary works of historical fiction.