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All Sail Set dustjacket

All Sail Set

A Romance of the Flying Cloud

by Armstrong Sperry
Illustrated by Armstrong Sperry

John C. Winston, Chicago, 1935
David R. Godine, Boston, 1984, reprint


Newbery Honor Book, 1936

Dedication: "This book about a ship is inscribed to the memory of Captain Sereno Armstrong, by his great-grandson"



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From the dustjacket of the Winston edition (1935):

"The most beautiful ship ever to taste the water."

That is what men said of the Flying Cloud when she was launched. In this ship Dinald McKay, the master builder, had reached the full flower of his genius. The year was 1851, and big things were happening. The windships had accepted the challenge of steam. They adjusted their masts to a keener rake, and cracked on more and more sail to hold their own against the invader. Roaring days, those, of iron fists and sail triumphant. America's Golden Age on the sea.

In East Boston, Enoch Thacker had been born with the tang of the sea in his blood. When he was fourteen, circumstances forced him to earn his own living. In Donald McKay's drafting room the boy saw the first lift-models and mechanical drawings of the Flying Cloud.He fell completely under the spell of the beautiful clipper ship, as day by day she moved toward perfection. And like a knight of old he swore a vow: he would give to this ship the best that was in him; his life, if need be. There came a day when he was to remember that vow, and the quality of it was to be tested.

Here is a tale to quicken the pulse of every red-blooded person. A tale of those heroic years when ships were ships and men were men, and science had not yet driven romance from the swinging seas.

ARMSTRONG SPERRY was born and brought up in the rockey hills of Connecticut. But his gradnfathers were New England sea captains, and from them he inherited a love of far places. the lore of the sea, and the knowledge whereof he writes. Mr. Sperry is one of those fortunate artists who can explore the world and who has "known the wonder zone of islands far away."

It is extremely rare that writing ability such as Mr. Sperry possesses is combined with the remarkable artistic talent he displays in this book. He has drawn forty-six most unusual illustrations, capturing the full dramatic and picturesque possibilities of the story.

In All Sail Set -- A Romance of the Flying Cloud -- Mr. Sperry had told the story of a boy's start at sea against the epic background of the most colorful, thrilling, and romantic decade of maritime history. Donald McKay, the greatest naval architect of the day, never gave birth and being to anything that captured the imaginations and hearts of men so completely as did his clipper ship, the Flying Cloud. In this book the Flying Cloud lives again, the memory of a giant among giants.

WILLIAM McFEE says in his introduction: "The test of good fiction is that it shall produce the impression of truth and this test Mr. Sperry's story of Enoch Thacker's adventures passes triumphantly. There is a most wholesome atmosphere of realism and truth in this book.


All Sail Set (1984) coverFrom the back cover of the paperback Godine edition (1984), shown to the right:

Who can love the spread of canvas and the bend of oak and not thrill to the names of the great clippers built by Donald McKay: Great Republic, Sovereign of the Seas, Lightning, Star of Empire, and Westward Ho -- these names ring from an era when the windships were the queens of the ocean and sale was king. But the most famous, the one that most securely captured the hearts and imaginations of the entire nation, was McKay's masterpiece, the Flying Cloud.

Here is the story of Enoch Thatcher, a boy whose father lost his fortune at sea, whom McKay takes on during the lofting, building, and rigging of the Cloud, and who finally ships out on her for her maiden, record-breaking trip around the Horn, Accompanied by Sperry's wonderfully vigorous drawings, this realistic and riveting narrative will keep even landlubbers pegged to their seats.



This page last updated Friday, 04/03/09, by Margo Burns, margo@ogram.org
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