The Mercantile Navy List (MNL) was published annually from 1849 to 1977 and, from 1857, provides a complete list of all British registered vessels afloat at that time, with their official number and port of registry. Apart from the early editions, the lists also show brief details of the vessels and their owners. For more details of MNL, see here: Mercantile Navy List
The CLIP image viewer accesses images from several sources, so you can browse through one edition of MNL, move to a different section (sail, steam or motor), change to another year, or change the name of the vessel to search for. You can search for the entries for a particular ship, and browse through page-by-page. For editions after 1870, MNL was divided into two sections - steam and sail and, from 1921 onwards, a section for motor vessels was added.
If you are not sure about whether the ship you are looking for was a steamer, a motor vessel or a sailing ship, choose steam to start with and you can easily swap to another section if that is not right. One clue is that steamers were often prefixed or suffixed with 'SS' (Screw Steamer, or Steam Ship) or 'PS' (Paddle Steamer), while motor vessels were identified by MV. The composition of the crew may also help - firemen and stokers mean a steam ship. Ships which had auxilliary power may appear in more than one section. Steam engines were sometimes converted to sail and vice-versa, so appear in different sections in different years. To be sure, look for the ship in all available sections.
There are more details about using the viewer in a help file on the image display page.
We are most grateful to the Digital Archives Initiative at Memorial University, Newfoundland, and to the Vaughan Evans Library at the Australian National Maritime Museum for permission to link to images from their sites.The CLIP images which form part of this set have been made from copies of MNL held at the Maritime Collection at Southampton Central Library, the Bartlett Library at the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall in Falmouth and Gwynedd Archives Service, Caernarfon. We are most grateful for the kind assistance of the staff of these repositories for their help in making the images.