Lieut. Matthew Fontaine Maury's treatise Navigation was first published in 1836. It was revised in 1843. It replaced Nathaniel Bowditch's New Practical Navigator, which had replaced John Hamilton Moore's Practical Navigator
THIS volume, from an officer of our Navy, and a Virginian, strongly commends itself to notice. The works at present used by our navy and general marine, though in many respects not devoid of merit, have always struck us as faulty in two particulars. They aim at comprising a great multiplicity of details, many of which relate to matters only remotely bearing upon the main objects of the treatise -- and they are deficient in that clearness of arrangement, without which, the numerous facts and formulae composing the body of such works are little else than a mass of confusion. The extraction of the really useful rules and principles from the multifarious matters with which they are thus encumbered, is a task for which seamen are little likely to have either time or inclination, and it is therefore not surprising that our highly intelligent navy exhibits so many instances of imperfect knowledge upon points which are elementary and fundamental in the science of navigation.
We think that Mr. Maury has, to a considerable degree, avoided the errors referred to; and while his work comprises a sufficient and even copious statement of the rules and facts important to be known in the direction of a ship, he has succeeded, by a judicious arrangement of particulars and by clearly wrought numerical examples, in presenting them in a disembarrassed and very intelligible form. With great propriety he has rejected many statements and rules which in the progress of nautical science have fallen into disuse, and in his selection of methods of computation, has, in general, kept in view those modern improvements in this branch of practical mathematics in which simplicity and accuracy are most happily combined. Much attention to numerical correctness seems to pervade the work. Its style is concise without being obscure. The diagrams are selected with taste, and the engraving and typography, especially that of the tables, are worthy of the highest praise.
Such, we think, are the merits of the work before us -- merits which, it must be admitted, are of the first importance in a book designed for a practical manual. To attain them required the exercise of a discriminating judgment, guided by a thorough acquaintance with all the points in nautical science which are of interest to seamen.
There are particulars in the work which we think objectionable, but they are of minor importance, and would probably be regarded as scarcely deserving criticism.
The spirit of literary improvement has been awakened among the officers of our gallant navy. We are pleased to see that science also is gaining votaries from its ranks. Hitherto how little have they improved the golden opportunities of knowledge which their distant voyages held forth, and how little have they enjoyed the rich banquet which nature spreads for them in every clime they visit! But the time is coming when, imbued with a taste for science and a spirit of research, they will become ardent explorers of the regions in which they sojourn. Freighted with the knowledge which observation only can impart, and enriched with collections of objects precious to the student of nature, their return after the perils of a distant voyage will then be doubly joyful. The enthusiast in science will anxiously await their coming, and add his cordial welcome to the warm greetings of relatives and friends.
 Maury’s Navigation, under a general order signed September 4, 1844, by Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason, largely replaced Bowditch’s work as the standard textbook for midshipmen of the Navy and was so used for many years.
Source:Matthew Fontaine Maury, Scientist of the Sea, p.110 Frances L. Williams, (1969) Template:ISBN 0-8135-0433-3