Lloyd’s Registers Data



Lloyd's Register as a source

One thing that stands out is how little the format of Lloyd's Register changed between 1776 and 1860. The basic information on each vessel was set out in exactly the same order. Although the 1776 volume lacks headings, each entry shows the name of the vessel and its rig; the name of the master, the tonnage, the place where built; the date when built; the name of the owner; where the vessel was surveyed and its use; and the classifications of its hull and stores. The only changes were the disappearance after 1833 of the column showing the vessel's draught (between owner and survey port) and the appearance from 1834 of columns indicating the port of registry (between owner and destined voyage) and the number of years since first assigned a particular classification from 1834.

From Lloyd's Register 1776From Lloyd's Register 1860

The prevalence of abbreviations was another enduring feature, although they did become somewhat more consistent over time. Vessel names were usually spelled in full, though not always. Vowels and duplicate letters were often left out of long names of masters and owners. Place names were usually abbreviated. In the 1776 volume only the last two digits of the date of build were given.

An obvious change over the period was the decline in the number of corrections to the original text. Until 1851 subscribers could submit their volumes for corrections and additions every week, and the Registers contained extensive supplements with vessels added during the year. In 1776 many entries were crossed out and new information either stamped or handwritten in the text. The number of these amendments fell during the 1840s and early 1850s, though it might simply be a quirk of the particular exemplars used in the reprint edition. The decline in corrections is reflected in the length of the supplements, which fell from a thousand or more vessels in the early 1840s to less than twenty in the late 1850s.

Improvements in printing technology made the text of the 1860 volume sharper and better aligned than that of the 1776 volume. The 1776 page shown here was one of the more distinct. Typography had also changed, notably in the disappearance of the f-like letter "s", as in the ship names Karen Kioston, Kelso and Kerrison.

About Lloyd’s Registers

The Society for the Registry of Shipping and its printed Registers mark the apogee of a trend toward documenting ships. Its impetus begins with Edward Lloyd, born about 1648, who arrived in London in the early 1680s and established a coffee house soon to be frequented by merchants, sailors, brokers, and others concerned with maritime ventures. By January 1692, Lloyd was publishing a weekly broadsheet containing shipping arrivals and departures; in September 1696 he started Lloyd’s News, which published shipping and commercial news. These publications are the antecedents of Lloyd’s List, a semiweekly started in the mid-1730s and still published today. At some point Lloyd’s or some customers also started to gather lists of ships that, as noted in 1884, ‘were written by hand and contained an account of vessels which the Underwriters who met at Lloyd’s Coffee-house were likely to have offered to [them] for insurance’. Early historians suggested that such lists already existed in the late seventeenth century and that they may have first been printed in the 1720s or 1730s, but no copies survive from before the 1760s.

The Society for the Registry of Shipping and its printed Registers mark the apogee of a trend toward documenting ships. Its impetus begins with Edward Lloyd, born about 1648, who arrived in London in the early 1680s and established a coffee house soon to be frequented by merchants, sailors, brokers, and others concerned with maritime ventures. By January 1692, Lloyd was publishing a weekly broadsheet containing shipping arrivals and departures; in September 1696 he started Lloyd’s News, which published shipping and commercial news. These publications are the antecedents of Lloyd’s List, a semiweekly started in the mid-1730s and still published today. At some point Lloyd’s or some customers also started to gather lists of ships that, as noted in 1884, ‘were written by hand and contained an account of vessels which the Underwriters who met at Lloyd’s Coffee-house were likely to have offered to [them] for insurance’. Early historians suggested that such lists already existed in the late seventeenth century and that they may have first been printed in the 1720s or 1730s, but no copies survive from before the 1760s.

Before 1760, it is not clear who prepared and distributed these shipping lists, but in that year the Society for the Registry of Shipping, a collective of subscribers, was established. Although Lloyd’s Register had an institutional history separate from that of Lloyd’s insurance market, its membership in the early 1780s included many insurers from Lloyd’s, including John Julius Angerstein, the broker who in 1771–1773 helped to fund New Lloyd’s Coffee House and to lease rooms for the House in the Royal Exchange. Underwriters clearly felt the need for accurate shipping information, and indeed they dominated the lists of subscribers to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, but it is important to note that the Registers are not lists of ships insured by Lloyd’s, as several historians have stated. They are simply lists of ships that might be candidates for insurance.

The Registers compiled shipping information supplied by surveyors based in major British and Irish ports and updated entries from members’ contributions. The ‘Surveying Ports’ changed over time, but always included London, Liverpool, and Bristol, Britain’s three largest ports, as well as Dublin and Cork, Ireland’s largest. By 1789 the other vessels surveyed were docked in Belfast, Cowes, Dartmouth, Exeter, Greenock, Hull, Lancaster, Leith, Londonderry, Lynn, Maryport, Poole, Portsmouth, Waterford, Whitehaven, Workington, and Yarmouth. In the late 1770s, 38% of all ships listed had been surveyed in London, with Liverpool accounting for another 11%, Cork for 10% and Bristol for 8%.

In London, clerks collated, alphabetized and printed the information provided by the surveyors. The printed Registers were then posted to subscribers, many of whom updated their lists. If subscribers returned their corrections to the Society, new information was inserted and the revised Registers posted back. This updating service seems to have been available on a weekly basis and was not cheap—the annual subscription in 1760 was 12 guineas. Additions and emendations were made in two ways. First, for ships already listed, outdated information was crossed out and new information was stamped in between the lines or in the margins in a similar typeface. Second, newly surveyed ships were entered, non-alphabetically, in supplements corresponding to letters of the alphabet.

The pre-1800 Registers with their green covers became known as the ‘Underwriters’ Registers’ or ‘Green Books’ to contrast with a rival publication, The New Registry of Shipping, published first in 1800 with a red cover, and known as the ‘Shipowners’ Register’ or ‘Red Book’. The New Registry was issued by a ‘Society of Merchants, Shipowners, and Underwriters’ who became dissatisfied at the way the Green Book classified the build and age of vessels, two criteria that impacted upon a ship’s value. The Shipowners’ Register added as survey ports Exmouth, Falmouth, Plymouth, Starcross, Teignmouth, and Topsham. The Green and Red books coexisted until 1833 when, after negotiations beginning in the mid-1820s, the two organizations merged. The two Registers followed the same columnar format, and initial research suggests that there is little difference in the shipping information contained in the two books.

In their decision to create a rival Shipowners’ Register, the first editors of the Red Book acknowledged the value and purpose of the Green Book. In 1799, they stated that the underwriters’ register

was at length arranged in a manner that gave general satisfaction; and having continued above twenty-four years to be the record of the age, burthen, build, quality, and condition, of vessels and their materials, marked according to the opinion of skilful and diligent Surveyors, (employed by the Society in all the principal ports of the kingdom), had become a Book of Authority, and, in a great degree, governed the Merchant, the Ship-Owner, and Underwriter, in their opinions of the quality of Ships for the purpose of freighting goods or insuring, and consequently, in a great measure, regulated their value.
Writing in 1799, the editors thus dated the authority of the Green Book to 1776—24 years earlier—focused on the skill of the surveyors, and noted the influence the books exerted on insurance and freight rates. The editors created the rival shipowners’ register to redress, in their minds, the under-rating of vessels from British outports, hinting that the Green Book’s surveyors may have inaccurately gauged a vessel’s year of construction. But we have few other clues about the comprehensiveness or accuracy of the range of shipping information contained in either the Green or Red books. To assess the usefulness of Lloyd’s Registers of Shipping as a source for maritime historians, one needs to compare the Registers’ information with shipping data found in individual ships’ registers, muster rolls or commercial gazettes.

The information in the database comes exclusively from the Green Books.

For further reading on the Lloyd's Registers, see:


Acknowledgements

This database and website have been created thanks to a grant from Lloyd's Register Foundation and with the support of Vesalius College, Brussels and NUI Galway, Ireland. We acknowledge the support at NUI Galway of the Whitaker Institute, the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit, and Duanaire: a treasury of digitial data for Irish economic history.


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