Since plans of these early ships rarely exist, the discovery of any information is an occasion for celebration. Here, a single document uncovered in archives in Paris provides 17 general dimensions of the ship in the French measurements of the time. Just as rarely, we have the name of the shipyard's master carpenter, Honoré Mallet, and his son Pierre, who probably designed the Belle. Both hailed from Toulon, where shipwrights relied on ancient Mediterranean methods of hull design. In Rochefort, the Mallets married these antediluvian techniques with methods characteristic of the Atlantic shipbuilding tradition.
Photos: courtesy of John de Bry, Center for Historical Archeology.