I recently had the pleasure and very great honor of meeting Brian Fowler, an avid reader of our beloved series as well as a marine scientist and journalist. He’s managed to combine his interests and skills into one great work: The Patrick O’Brian Codebook.
The Patrick O’Brian Codebook is a new 350-page companion to the Aubrey–Maturin tales. It’s similar to “Sea of Words” but contains four times the content and a lexicon with 12,000 entries. 700 images help illustrate the birds, plants, animals, trees, minerals, and other items mentioned in the books. 100 custom illustrations illuminate naval topics as the companion ladder, an elm-tree pump, and the top with cross-trees, trestle-trees, cheeks, and bibbs. A timeline of relevant events helps the reader draw correlations between plots in the novels and events during the Napoleonic Wars. A deck plan of HMS Surprise shows the living and working quarters of the most famous ship in the series. A visual primer includes illustrations that help readers learn about the parts of a ship, including stays, sails, decks, and arms.
The author, Brian Fowler, learned to sail as a student at UC Santa Barbara in Southern California. He discovered the Aubrey–Maturin tales while working at a marine science institute that operated a research vessel on the San Francisco Bay. Later he worked in Monterey for a marine laboratory on the Central Coast. He left the marine sciences and worked in marketing and journalism and read O’Brian’s novels for inspiration and professional improvement as a writer and editor for a small weekly newspaper. Prompted by a desire to better comprehend the words and references in the tales, Fowler turned an etymological hobby into a four-year endeavor that resulted in the “Patrick O’Brian Codebook.”
Brian has graciously provided an excerpt of his work, as well as a copy of the book as a prize for a trivia contest. If you’d like a chance to win, please head over to our Facebook page and answer the question posted. Or, if you’re not feeling lucky, follow this link to purchase the book.
Now read on for an excerpt of this exciting new resource for fans of the greatest series ever penned (in your captain’s humble opinion…).
mast-man: a seaman who is stationed to attend the gear and ropes of a mast.
mast-thwart: the thwart above the step in a boat or small vessel; the mast passes through a hole or notch in the center of the thwart to the step on the keelson.
match: also slow-match; a loose rope that is steeped in nitre and burns about one inch an hour.
match-board: a board with a tongue on one edge and a corresponding groove on the other to interlock with matching boards.
match-lock*: also lock and gun-lock; a mechanism that attaches to ordnance at the vent and is enacted by pulling a lanyard; it ignites the priming by dropping an arm with a lit fuse into a pan full of gunpowder above the vent.
match-tub*: a tub or bucket about 18 inches tall with holes in the cover to hang a knotted and lighted slow-match upside down to keep it burning during an action or great-gun exercise.
mate:  an assistant to a warrant officer or a petty-officer on a man-of-war;  on a merchantman or privateer, an assistant to the master, there being no lieutenants.
maté: a drink made by steeping the dried or ground leaves from the yerba mate plant (a holly species that is native to South America); it is traditionally served in a gourd with a silver straw.
mate of the watch: a midshipman who answers to the officer of the watch; his duties include heaving the log, marking the log-board, mustering the seamen, and the like. matey: dockyard craftsmen, ship-builders, carpenters, and the like.
matins and lauds, prime, terce, sext, nones, vespers, compline: the canonical hours for Roman Catholic prayers, devotions, and chants; they are comparable to the beginning of the day (midnight or 2 a.m. or sunrise), first hour, third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour, evening, and final hour before retiring.
Matlock: refers to Matlock Bath, a spa town roughly 160 miles north of Portsmouth.
Matthew Walker knot: a bulky but neat knot to finish the end of small cordage.
mattins, lauds, nocturn: mattins and lauds are the early morning hours for Roman Catholic prayers, devotions, and chants; a nocturn is one of three times that a mattin is performed.
Matucana: a town in Peru roughly 50 miles east of Lima.
Maturin, Stephen: a small and dark-skinned man with pale, piercing eyes; he is the natural son of a Catalan mother and an Irish military officer in service to Spain; he is a Roman Catholic, physician, naturalist, botanist, ornithologist, comparative anatomist, and polyglot who speaks Irish, English, French, Spanish, Catalan, and easily learns others; he is powerfully intuitive and insightful; he is a member of the disbanded United Irishmen and a pseudo-anarchist with disdain for tyranny and authority; he spent much of his youth with relatives in Catalonia where he inherited a mountain estate; he claims to loathe violence but kills coldly and efficiently as an experienced dueler; though a temperate drinker, he uses a variety of mind-altering substances; he expertly performs the suprapubic cystotomy.
maunder: to act, move, or think in a manner that is vague, dreamy, or idle.
maundering: in an aimless or meaningless way.
Mauritius: also Île de France; an island in the southern Indian Ocean roughly 575 miles east of Madagascar and 1,400 miles east of Africa; the French annexed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Île de France; the British captured the island in 1803 and restored the name Mauritius; it was the singular habitat of the dodo bird before extinction.
Mautritia vinifera:also Mauritia flexuosa and Moriche palm; a tall palm that grows to 120 feet tall; it has large, fan-shaped leaves and is found in tropical swamps and wetlands in South America.
maw: a stomach or belly, especially of animals.
maxilla: a fusion of bones that creates the upper jaw and roof of the mouth.
Mayfair: an exclusive and fashionable neighborhood in central London; it is near Hyde Park, Saint James’s Park, and the Admiralty.
mea culpa, mea maxima culpa: Latin for my fault, my very great fault (from the Act of Confession, a Roman Catholic prayer that pleads forgiveness).
mead: honey wine.
mealed powder: gunpowder that is mixed with spirits of wine then pulverized into a fine powder.
mean, meanest: average or mediocre; wanting dignity, of low rank or birth, low-minded, base, ungenerous, spiritless, contemptible, despicable, or low in worth.
measles: a viral infection of the respiratory system that is recognized by fever, cough, a runny nose, red eyes, and a red rash.
medal of the Nile: a privately minted medal to commemorate the 1798 Battle of the Nile; Horation Nelson and captains received gold metals while lieutenants and warrant officers received silver metals.
meat for your master: a phrase that means of a higher status, unattainable, or reserved for someone else.
medang: refers to the taxonomic group, Cinnamomum, which includes several tropical shrubs and trees that grow to 100 feet tall; they have waxy and oval leaves that are pinched at both ends and produce small fruit that ripen to a dark-purple color; they are found around the world.
Medenham: a country estate near Woolcombe Manor.
medieval: of or pertaining to the Middle Ages, the period of European history from the fifth to the 15th century.
Medina: a city on the east coast of present-day Tunisia in North Africa.
Mediterranean Fleet: the large fleet that is based in Gibraltar; notable commanders-in-chief include Samuel Hood and Horatio Nelson.
Medway River: also Medway and River Medway; a 70-mile river in the south of England that flows to the Thames Estuary.
meet elsewhere: a phrase that alludes to resolving an affront with a fist fight or duel.
megrim: an acute headache.
Mehemet Ali: refers to Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas’ud ibn Agha (d. 1849), an Albanian commander of the Ottoman army and a pasha of Egypt and Sudan from 1805 to 48; he openly expressed his desire for autonomy from the Ottoman Empire in the late 1830s but acquiesced when he was given dynastic rule of Egypt and Sudan.
MELAMPUS, HMS: a 36-gun, 141-foot-long man-of-war with a main-mast to 169 feet tall and a complement to 264; it was launched in 1785 and was sold in 1815; it served in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
melancholia: a general name for various mental ailments, as depression and schizophrenia.
Melancholy Walk: also Pocock Street; a short road in the borough of Southwark roughly one-half mile west of Marshalsea Prison.
Melanesia: a South Pacific archipelago off the coast of northeastern Australia.
melanistic: a deep-black skin color that is caused by an abundance of melanin.
Melbury Lodge: a large house roughly 20 miles east of Portsmouth that Aubrey and Maturin rent during an extended shore leave.
Meleda: also Mljet; a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea on the Dalmatian coast.
mêlée: French for rout or skirmish.
meliorative: to make better or improve; tending to relieve.
melismata: the singing of a syllable across numerous musical notes.
Melkite: refers to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, an Orthodox Catholic sect that was founded in the fifth century CE.
mellifluous: a smooth and rich flow of sound.
Courtesy of Brian Fowler.