Mystic Seaport is proud to announce the release of its latest book, L. Francis Herreshoff: Yacht Designer by Roger C. Taylor. The book is the first of two volumes to chronicle the life and work of the most remarkable yacht designer of his time.
Francis Herreshoff lived from 1890 to 1972, and, though not prolific, he designed yachts that will always be considered classics. Beginning his career in the shadow of his famous father, Nathanael G. Herreshoff, he emerged to become a designer who would come close to the perfection of form in yacht design. Despite his exquisite designs and wise, published writings on the subject, L. Francis never achieved the popularity of a John Alden or an Olin Stephens, yet his influence on yachting, now and in the future, deserves its place alongside those leaders. It is a purpose of this book to allow that possibility by presenting evidence of Francis Herreshoff’s genius for public judgment.
As a young man, Mr. Taylor was acquainted with Mr. Herreshoff. As the founder of International Marine Publishing Company, he published Herreshoff’s Sensible Cruising Designs and An L. Francis Herreshoff Reader. Taylor is a professional mariner with unusually wide experience, including a working familiarity with boats built to many of Herreshoff’s designs. He is the author of seven books on yacht design and seamanship.
Mystic Seaport commissioned Taylor to write Herreshoff’s biography and made available to him the L. Francis Herreshoff Collection at the Museum. Taylor’s research has been painstaking and thorough. He has studied the entire collection of plans and letters, has conducted dozens of in-depth interviews with Herreshoff’s relatives and friends and with owners of Herreshoff boats, and has consulted published yachting books and magazines.
“I feel so privileged to be given the time and space to develop a detailed biography of L. Francis Herrehoff. Getting to know him and his designs in depth has been a most rewarding experience, an experience I am delighted to share,” said Taylor.
In the book, Taylor brings Herreshoff’s personality to life, with its artistic and scientific genius, prejudices, omniscience, shyness, quiet friendliness, inward pain, and generosity. He presents a gallery of plans and photographs of Herreshoff’s yachts, with expert descriptions and commentary on the details of his designs. He shows how Herreshoff went about his work, what his daily life was like. He portrays Herreshoff as collector of fine art and antiques, as a master craftsman who made for his friends myriad distinctive objects in wood and metal. Taylor weaves into the story Herreshoff’s complex relationship with his famous father, based on the surviving correspondence between them, as well as interviews with the handful of Herreshoff’s friends who were close enough to him to be privy to his own account of that relationship. Taylor tells of Herreshoff’s many friendships with young and old of both sexes.
Because of the desirability of presenting plans, photographs, and detailed text on each one of Herreshoff’s complete designs, as well as telling a comprehensive story of his life, Taylor has broken the work into two volumes. Volume 1 takes the story up through the design of the J-boat Whirlwind, a contender for the defense of the America’s Cup in 1930, a definite turning point in Herreshoff’s life and work. Volume 2 will complete the story and will be ready for publication two years after Volume 1.
“We are very pleased to be able to help Roger bring this book to reality, and we believe L. Francis Herreshoff: Yacht Designer will be an important addition to yachting history and will be a fine exposition of one the primary collections of Mystic Seaport,” said Mary Anne Stets, the Director of Intellectual Property and Business Development for the Museum.