New to the series, a few questions.

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New to the series, a few questions.

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jul 12, 2010, 7:13pm

I am new to the series-- well, I got about 100 pages into Master and Commander before it beat me into submission, but I am starting up again--and am curious what is the best edition to buy? I have seen the Folio society has a new version, but those are too rich for my blood. I have seen that there is the entire series in hardback from Norton, but those are apparently plagued with typos. Are the paperbacks the only way to go for an economic choice, or are there some other options out there? Note- I am not ultra-frugal, so please include whatever you feel it the best choice.

Also, what else should one have to maximize their enjoyment of the series? I have seen a lexicon and an almanac mentioned, are these printed resources or are they online? Any other great tips for a newbie?

Thanks folks!

jul 12, 2010, 8:12pm

I have the entire series in paperback, so I can't comment on the other editions, but I can talk about the supplements!

I have Harbors and High Seas which is the atlas, which has maps (usually more than one) for each book, A Sea of Words which is the lexicon (which also includes diagrams of ships), and (though I haven't read it yet The Frigate Surprise which is a beautifully illustrated (by the same artist who did the covers for the series) history of both the real and fictional career of the Surprise (apparently she was a real ship; O'Brian hands her off to Aubrey when she was decommissioned in reality.) Which one to prioritize depends on whether you're more baffled by nautical lingo or whether you'd rather have detailed maps available. Both of these are available in several editions; make sure you get the newest one or it will be incomplete.

The other companions I've heard of, but am not familiar with, are The World of Jack Aubrey and Lobscouse and Spotted Dog (a cookbook).

jul 12, 2010, 10:51pm

Another sort are various recordings of period music, some mentioned specifically by O'Brian and others likely to have been played or heard by Aubrey & Maturin.

I've enjoyed Musical Evenings with the Captain both while reading and alone:

I've read perhaps six of the titles, and not in order, and encourage you to soldier on: O'Brian is good about clarifying terms, but not always the first time he uses them. I like this approach, as it means I've had the pump primed, and also that he doesn't interrupt the passage just to explain a new term. When he does explain it, it is very much in keeping with the tone of the tale, seldom seeming like an aside or an interruption, or a forced "conversation" between two characters.

Clearly, these books benefit from repeated reading, so it's a bit beside the point to try to get it all in one go.

jul 13, 2010, 1:28am


Maturin is a good standin for the reader, especially early on, as the hopelessly clueless landlubber who knows no nautical terminology. But Maturin isn't always around, and isn't asking questions in the heat of battle or complicated maneuvering, so those explanations aren't always forthcoming when we might want them.

apr 19, 2012, 5:03pm

Thanks for the recommendations -- another new reader. I finished M&C last night. I've always meant to get around to reading this series -- figured I'd find the series along the way at book sales or some such. It just never happened. Then last month, I found two books at nearly the end of the series, and then on a trip I hit a thrift shop (no book stores in town) and found books 2, 3, and 4. Ordered M&C online and now I'm off. Ordering the Atlas soon. I do love a good atlas.

apr 19, 2012, 11:03pm

Welcome! Please come back and post about what you found useful, esp if something not already mentioned. I found the Don Seltzer chronology and the Butcher's Bill, both published as PDFs and available free online, as exceedingly helpful.

apr 20, 2012, 3:50am

i always keep my 'A Sea of Words' close by when i'm reading at home. however much of my reading time is spent before the mast, as it were (ie; at work), so it isn't always handy. i consider it the Signal Book to the O'Brian series. ;)
'Harbors and High Seas' is very useful too, and 'Lobscouse and Spotted Dog' is essential!

apr 20, 2012, 10:01am

I got A sea of words after I'd already read the series through a couple of times, and I find I've hardly looked at it - as elenchus says, it can be more fun to be left guessing for a while and just enjoy the sheer oddity of the language. But it probably depends on how much previous knowledge you have of nautical terms. I grew up with Swallows and Amazons and then C.S. Forester, so I already had a pretty good idea of the basics before starting PO'B.

Bewerkt: jan 12, 2013, 12:02am

I'm another reader who got the meaning of the nautical terms from context and guesswork. In my case, almost no nautical background, so it made for a lot of frustration and some amusingly wrong guesses. But it's how I learned most of my vocab anyway, and it works, eventually. I didn't find that it hurt my understanding of the story. The best part about reading this way is that even on the third re-read I was still getting a lot of new things from the books.

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