Watson's Liverpool Telegraphic List of Ships' Names, 1838  

title page of an old book

Prior to the invention of the electric telegraph, ship identification and the transmission of basic messages involved vessels displaying flag signals on their masts. 

The Liverpool Dock Trustees set up the Liverpool to Holyhead Telegraph in 1826.  This was a series of signal stations stretching from Liverpool to Holyhead.  Ships approaching Liverpool would hoist their flags when passing Holyhead in Anglesey and this information would be passed to Liverpool where the Watson's Code book would be used to identify which ships were due to arrive.

This is an original copy of the Watson Code, which was unique to the Port of Liverpool and lasted until 1839 when it was replaced by Marryat's Code.  The code is still useful today and can be used to identify sailing ships in maritime paintings from the 19th century.

Archive reference 070.WAT/R