Lieutenant Commander John Blake FRIN RN

Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation & Author and speaker on maritime history

HMS Belfast Pocket Manual (Osprey) - Titanic - A Passenger's Guide - The Sea Chart - Sea Charts of the British Isles - Charts of War - Sea Charts and Maps - Author’s background - Lectures - Contact

Résumé of writing and lectures


Signed copies of John Blake’s books can be ordered directly from the author: contact details below.
John’s books have also been published in French, German and in Australia and the United Sates of America.

HMS Belfast Pocket Manual (Osprey)

John’s fifth book HMS Belfast Pocket Manual was published in May 2018 by Osprey (part of the Bloomsbury Publishing Group) which tells the story, including personal anecdotes from those who served on board, of her concept, building, launch and operation during the 2nd World and Korean Wars and her subsequent decommission and institution as a museum ship on the River Thames in London.

Price £8.99 + P&P £1.83 (by Royal Mail)

Review by Tim Lewin, Vice President of HMS Belfast Association
"The result that John Blake, a former Naval Officer himself, has achieved is an exceptional little gem of a book. I am a vice-president of the HMS Belfast Association and had not actually heard any of these tales before so even for a hardened ship's supporter this book contains much new material. In this respect it stands above most of the many other books about this famous WW2 survivor, hearing from those who served "puts you there" making this book a must ..........."

Association of Royal Naval Officer’s Newsletter
"This fascinating book uses contemporary documents and first hand accounts to tell the compelling story of the ship, her wartime and peacetime service history and life on board."

Titanic - A Passenger's Guide

Titanic: A Passenger’s Guide is a unique guide to all aspects of the ship, incorporating authentic period literature – from sources including White Star Line themselves, Harland & Wolff shipyards, the International Mercantile Marine Company (White Star Line’s owners), a number of museum archives such as the British Library, National Archives at Kew, the National Maritime Museum, Bodleian Library Oxford, Liverpool Maritime Museum and others and from important publications from the 1910s such as The Shipbuilder.

It examines this famous ship from a refreshingly different angle.

Launched in May 1911, the triple-screw steamer Titanic was the pride of the White Star Line and at that time the largest passenger ship in the world. Built to carry passengers in comfort and luxury on the lucrative transatlantic route, her design, fittings and on board facilities epitomised the spirit of the age in terms of elegance and style. Titanic boasted a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, Turkish and Electric baths, and a verandah cafe. First class common rooms were adorned with ornate wood panelling, expensive furniture and other decorations.

Cuisine was advertised as the equal of Europe’s top restaurants, while libraries, state-rooms and cabins were decorated in a range of architectural styles to appeal to the tastes of the most discerning passenger. The world marvelled at this opulent ship, and White Star endeavoured to capture the public’s interest through the release of advertisements, brochures and other publicity material. In addition passengers were provided with a wealth of information to ensure they enjoyed the voyage to the fullest. The author has researched these cotemporary publications to produce a guide that could well have been given to a passenger on her maiden voyage.

Hardback £8.99 plus £1.83 p&p UK

Naval Review - Kevin Rowlands Commander RN
"In his Preface Blake admits that the guide is a conceit which he hopes would delight the reader. He has clearly set his stall and this reader, for one, found it a pleasure to flick through the elegant pages. The illustrations alone are worth the modest cost of the book. It is not a difficult read, it is not even a page turner, but it is good to dip into and a gentle reminder of how things used to be, or could have been to those with the right resources, a hundred years ago. It would make a fine gift."

Forces Pension Society

This book was a pleasure to glance through, compact in style, with clear arrangement diagrams and a number of pleasant colour sketches. It is not expensive and is recommended to those readers with an interest in maritime history.

Pembrokeshire Life Magazine
“… It provides a fascinating insight into what life would have been like for passengers aboard these floating palaces.”

Nautical Research Journal - Curator of Maritime Research & Technology North Carolina Maritime Museum USA
The book is a compilation and an entertainment. With text and illustrations drawn entirely from period sources, John Blake has imagined a book for embarking passengers that combines the story of the ship’s genesis with general information about her appointments and how to make use of them. The sources Blake selects are informative and nicely repackaged.


The Sea Chart 2nd Edition

John Blake’s first book “The Sea Chart”, with a foreword by HRH the Duke of York, was published in 2004 and was short listed for the British Book Awards in three categories and the Mountbatten History prize; it has been reprinted in the UK, and translated and published in Germany. In 2012 The Sea Chart was translated into Chinese and published in China and in 2013 included in Nauticalia’s Mail Order catalogue ( with a distribution of over 1½ million. Currently available is the second edition with a forward by Sir Ben Ainslie CBE, heading up the Great Britain America's Cup Challenge.


Hardback £25 plus £3.75 p&p UK


Extract from Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis - USAReviewed by Gregory R. Copley.
“The magnificent, enduring legacy which Lt.-Cdr. John Blake, RN, has bequeathed to the world is one of those astonishing volumes which changes lives because it transforms the way history is viewed. I was overwhelmed by the importance of this book, and the inspiration it provides, along with the greater understanding it gives to any historical studies.”

Traditional Boats and Tall Ships magazine – “In short, as an introduction to the history of the sea chart this book would be difficult to beat.”

The Times - Peter Davies – “Distance, speed, and above all, the problem of steering a course, are at the heart of John Blake’s illustrated history of charts. “

Classic Boat – “ … in this lustrous work, John Blake …. has assembled a mouth-watering collection with which to illuminate this history of cartography. For just £25 it’s a steal.”

Sea Charts of the British Isles

His second - “Sea Charts of the British Isles”, with a foreword by Admiral of the Fleet, the Lord Boyce (Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle) - was published in December 2015, and was selected by the RNLI for their mail order catalogue. 


£18.99 plus £2.75 p&p UK

Navy News – “The award for the most lavishly-produced book received at the Navy News offices this month must surely go to John Blake’s beautiful Sea Charts of the British Isles.”

The Hydrographic Journal – Geoffrey Haskins -  “John Blake is a competent interpreter of academic research for the enjoyment of a general readership, young or old.  … this follow-on is equally as fascinating and provides a clear insight into charting over the centuries.”

Gunline (Royal Fleet Auxiliary magazine) – “…is a  must for all students of navigation history, and will surely make a splendid Christmas present.”

Charts of War

His third book “Charts of War” has recently been published to critical acclaim in the UK and has been selected, inter alia, by the Book Club of America and The Military and Aviation Book Club. and also nominated for the Mountbatten Maritime History Award.   It has just been chosen for inclusion in Nauticalia Autumn 2008 mail order catalogue 

Was £30.00: Special offer price now £19.99 + £3.10 p&p UK
All books published by Bloomsbury Publishers (Osprey and Adlard Coles)

Geographical magazine - David Forrest - "This lavishly illustrated book .... some of the charts are works of art .... the book's range is impressive"

UK Hydrographic Office News – “ ... a fascinating, illustrated account of the role charts have played in planning, preventing, conducting and recording war at sea.”

The Times - Peter Davies - "From the Battle of Salamis in the 5th century BC to the Falklands campaign of 1982 ..... and many campaigns in between are illustrated in this exquisitely produced book .."


John contributed the official entry on Cartography for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Maritime History, published by OUP in January 2008, and he a contributor to Ship - A History in Art and Photography, edited by Professor Andrew Lambert and published by Conway Maritime in 2010. "Ship" brings together 360 of the most famous ships in history and fiction.

In 2006 John, in recognition of his authorship and contribution in the field of navigation, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation.

He is currently working on a handbook on the history and development of sea surveying and navigation and a further book on the history of the early sea explorers.

Signed copies by the Author with optional personal dedication available
Send cheque to Gryphon Enterprises

Browse through some of the Sea Charts and Maps here
£19.50 plus £3.50 p&p UK excluding starred items

Author’s background

                        John Blake served in the Royal Navy and in the Reserve for nearly 16 years as an executive and navigating officer, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  During his Naval time he served extensively in sea-going ships and qualified as a Navy underwater diver and a Naval air defence specialist.  On leaving the service he gained a business diploma and moved into retailing, opening three retail stores in Covent Garden, London; Boston, Massachusetts and later in Osaka, Japan, featuring exclusively British gift products.

                   In 1991 John Blake and his wife started an Intellectual Property Licensing Agency, Classics Licensing Company, and in 1996 initiated and ran the licensing of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office archives, producers of the Admiralty sea charts, as their Licensing Agent for six years under the brand name “The Admiralty Collection®”.

                   He is a keen maritime historian and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and writes regularly on maritime history for magazines such as Warship World, Marine Quarterly and others



John has been invited to speak at many venues over the last fifteen years

Topics include:

The great naval explorers: Captains Cook, Bligh and Vancouver
Nelson’s sailing strategies
The early history of charts and charting
Charts as a tool of maritime warfare
Charts as the key to world-wide exploration
The charting of the coast of the British Isles
The earliest charts - `the portolans’ 

Venues include, inter alia:

National Maritime Museum
Royal Thames Yacht Club
New York Yacht Club
Royal Southern Yacht club
Royal Lymington Yacht Club
Indian High Commission, London
Little Ship Club
Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers
Marlborough Summer School


The Coach House
SA70 7TH


Telephone 01834 871 452
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