John de Graff is publisher by special appointment (his own) to all sailors

April 28, 1968

Stealing a line from the arch and glamorous ladies on television who announce, "If I can sew, you can sew," Mary Blewitt begins her book on navigation with the statement, "I do not understand trigonometry, and for that reason there will be no mention here of sines or cosines." Since most authors of so-called books for beginners on navigation, a subject largely rooted in trigonometry, seem more eager to display their knowledge of the occult and the mysterious than to disclaim it, Miss Blewitt's approach to the study in Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen ($4.95) is radical indeed. The fact that it lives up to its promise is doubtless why John de Graff of Tuckahoe, N.Y. chose to revive this book published in England 18 years ago and reprint it for American readers.

Truly a book, as its author says, "written for beginners by a beginner," Miss Blewitt's volume manages to explain the inexplicable in less than 100 pages and thus to give the most timid yachtsman courage to plunge into a subject he might otherwise avoid. As such, it is a logical addition to the De Graff collection, which includes reprints on all manner of seagoing subjects from treatises on the merchant marine to a manual for crewing on small racing boats.

Although he publishes about two original books each year, most of the De Graff output consists of reprints from overseas. No other publisher in this country can match in variety the books he offers to sailormen. In addition to his publishing house, he runs an operation called Sailing Books Service that can procure virtually any book on the sea by any publisher. Not long ago, one regular De Graff customer remembered a book on commercial fishing schooners and urged De Graff to seek it out. The publisher finally unearthed a dog-eared copy at the commercial fishing exhibition at Expo '67, decided to republish it himself and, at latest count, has sold 1,000 copies.

Many of De Graff's customers make special trips to his publishing house in Tuckahoe to pore over the stock on hand, suggest new titles or just chew the rag. Says De Graff, "They come by plane, by train, by ship and by car—just to buy a book or two. I don't understand it."

He probably does understand it though, for John de Graff talks sailors' language and that may be why they buy his books. He doesn't own a boat himself, however, and doesn't intend to get one. That way he keeps out of arguments with his customers.

"Sailors," says John de Graff, "have damned strong opinions, you know."