This essay explores how William Falconer's A Universal Dictionary of the Marine exemplifies the “rhetoric of the sea,” which operates according to an inclusive approach to maritime knowledge, which maritime authors adopted in an effort to translate into writing a unique, physical practice at sea. Since maritime practice involved diverse processes in an environment that could not be controlled, maritime and navigation books thereby contained diverse styles and forms, from poetry, to criticism, to illustrations, to definitions, in an effort to reflect the diversity, and experience, of the sea itself. This essay places Falconer's Dictionary (1769) into a longer history of maritime and navigation books, especially dictionaries, including John Smith's Seaman's Grammar and Dictionary (1626), and the development of specialized dictionaries in English. Building on developments in “blue ecocriticism,” this essay concludes by suggesting that the eighteenth-century rhetoric of the sea provides us an understanding of the semantic and physical power of the world's oceans.

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