Graphical version

National Maritime Museum

Signals: Foreign


Reference code(s): GB 0064 SIG/C

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: Signals: Foreign

Date(s): [1687]-1885

Level of description: sub-fonds

Extent: 1 1/2ft: 45cm

Name of creator(s):


Administrative/Biographical history:


Scope and content/abstract:

Signals: Foreign. Over half the signal books in this category are French; the other nations represented are Spain, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Sweden and Turkey. There are eighteen volumes, 1754 to 1885, the majority of which are printed with manuscript annotations. Of the French volumes, the earliest is a signal book kept in 1754 by the pilot of LA ROSE, in the squadron of Le Comte de Gallissoniere (1693-1756). The volume has a thumb index of coloured flags and is illustrated with watercolours of fleet manoeuvres.

There is also an English translation of the signal book issued by the Comte D'Ache (1700-1775) to his fleet while in the East Indies in the ZODIAQUE, 1757 to 1759; a signal book issued by the Comte D'Orvilliers (1708-1792) in 1779; and a printed signal book of 1787 issued by the Marquis de Nieul, in which the names of the vessels in the squadron have been scratched out, but the twenty flags and ten pendants have been coloured. The Revolutionary War period is represented by three signal books issued for the navy of the Republic in 1799 and 1801. Only one has actually been issued and gives a key to the flags. In addition, there is a handbook for a coastal semaphore between Bayonne and Flushing; published in 1807, the system was invented by an artillery officer named Depillon and built c 1803. The category also includes two signal books for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; one was issued in c 1784 by John (later Sir John) Acton (1736-1811), the other in 1816; a Spanish book of signals and instructions printed in Cadiz in 1765 and issued by the Marques de la Victoria; another Spanish volume for 1781 for the fleet of Don Luis de Cordova; and two Swedish volumes, 1795 and 1796. The Turkish signal book is naval, 1885, and the format is similar to a French or an English volume. There is also a Dutch volume of flags rather than signals which was compiled c 1687; it is described on the title page as 'The Flagbook of Captain Paulus van der Dussen' (1658-1707).


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:



Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2010-08-26

Naval affairs | Military affairs | Military science | Social sciences

Personal names
Acton | Sir | John Francis Edward | 1736-1811 | 6th Baronet | Prime Minister of Naples

Corporate names

Sicily | Italy | Western Europe | Europe
Spain | Western Europe | Europe
Sweden | Northern Europe | Western Europe | Europe
Turkey | Middle East