University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department



The voyage around the world came relatively late in the history of sea exploration, with the first circumnavigation by Ferdinand Magellan's crew in 1520-22. Voyages around the globe remained uncommon throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with notable accomplishments by Francis Drake (1577-80); Thomas Cavendish (1586-88); William Cornelison Schouten (1615-17); and the first circumnavigation by William Dampier (1679-91).

The eighteenth century, however, saw a dramatic increase in sea traffic circling the globe, becoming the golden age of circumnavigation.The list of important eighteenth century circumnavigations is lengthy, including voyages by William Dampier, Edward Cooke, Woodes Rogers, George Shelvocke, Jacob Roggewein, George Anson, John Byron, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Samuel Wallis, James Cook, Nathaniel Portlock, George Dixon, and George Vancouver.

Before 1800, voyages around the world were conducted for a number of reasons, but particularly for military and paramilitary expeditions, privateering ventures, and expanding influence and control over trade routes and markets. Exploration and discovery were often byproducts of other motives, with the exception perhaps of the voyages of James Cook. Circumnavigation in the nineteenth century began to see a shift in emphasis toward modern mercantilism, the scientific expedition, and the diplomatic mission. But by the time Charles Darwin ended his five-year circumnavigation on the Beagle in 1836, voyages around the world had become commonplace, and nearly every nineteenth century mariner could expect to make at least one tour of the world in his career.

William Dampier (1652-1715).
A New Voyage Round the World. Second edition corrected. London: James Knapton, 1697.

William Dampier, soldier, buccaneer, pirate, British navy captain, and hydrographer, was also among the most influential of travel writers. His clear and simple style served as a model for other eighteenth century travel writers, as well as for the novelist Daniel Defoe. John Masefield thought Dampier's works to be "the best books of voyages in the language." For Samuel Coleridge, Dampier was a chief source for poetic images.

Dampier completed his first circumnavigation between 1679 and 1691, in the course of which he was part of the first group of Englishmen to land in New Holland (Australia). His memoir of this voyage was published in 1697, and saw three more editions in less than two years. Dampier was given command for two more voyages, one to New Holland in 1699, and the other his second circumnavigation 1703 -1706, in the course of which he was present for Alexander Selkirk's voluntary abandonment on Juan Fernandez Island. From 1708 to 1711 Dampier made his third and final voyage around the world as pilot to the expedition led by Woodes Rogers. This last voyage is notable chiefly for the rescue of Alexander Selkirk, whose story became the inspiration for Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

Nicolas de Fer (1646-1720).
Carte de la Mer du Sud ... Carte do la Mer du Nord. . . ., Paris: J. F. Benard, 1713. 10 parts.

The ten sections of this world map depict the sea routes of several early voyages. This part shows California as an island, and includes portraits of early navigators and explorers, including that of William Dampier, an English sea captain and pilot who made three circumnavigations between 1679 and 1711 and was among the first Englishmen to land in Australia.

Edward Cooke.
A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World. London: B. Lintot and R. Gosling, 1712.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

Woodes Rogers (d. 1732).
A Cruising Voyage Round the World . London: Bell and Lintot, 1712.

Rogers was perhaps the most successful of English privateers. Between 1708 and 1711 he served as chief officer for two ships sent out by Bristol merchants on a marauding voyage around the world. Rogers commanded the Duke, while Edward Cooke commanded the Dutchess. Cooke also published a widely read journal on their return, entitled A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World. It was on this voyage that the experienced seaman and famous travel writer William Dampier, making his third circumnavigation, served as chief pilot for the Duke.

The expedition netted the greatest spoils of any privateering venture, and had a tremendous influence on the emergence of the English South Sea trade and the resultant formation of the South Sea Company. Even more important for world literature, the accounts of both Rogers and Cooke include relations of the rescue from Juan Fernandez Island of the castaway mariner Alexander Selkirk, the most famous of all the prototypes for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

George Shelvocke (1690-1728).
A Voyage Round the World. . . London: J. Senex, W. and J. Innys, and J. Osborn and T. Longman, 1726.

Between 1718 and 1722, George Shelvocke completed the last of the English buccaneer circumnavigations. His account of the voyage has achieved a place in literary history for its narrative of "a disconsolate black albatross" that followed the ship for several days and was considered by crew members as an ill omen and harbinger of the contrary winds they were encountering. Eventually, they shot the albatross to improve their situation. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was to make literary capital of the incident in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

Guillaume Delisle (1675-1726).
Mappemonde a l'usage du Roy.... Amsterdam: Jean Covens et Corneille Mortier [1741].

This map of the world shows the sea routes of several early voyages, including the voyage of Edmund Halley in 1700. Many eighteenth century voyage accounts include a world map of this type depicting the route described in the narrative.

Pascoe Thomas.
A True and Impartial Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, and Round the Globe ... Under the Command of Commodore George Anson. London: S. Birt, J. Newbery, and J. Collyer, 1745.

Between 1740 and 1744, after the outbreak of war between England and Spain, Commodore George Anson led six ships of the Royal Navy around the globe to raid Spanish ports and galleons, returning with only one vessel remaining, but with a million and a half dollars in booty an enormous sum at the time.

Although holding little geographic significance, accounts of the voyage flourished and were included in collections of travel literature. Thomas's version was popularly read, but it was the account by Chaplain Richard Walter that was officially sponsored by the Admiralty. Several other versions appeared in print, producing almost as many separately authored narratives as James Cook's circumnavigations.

Louise Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811).
Voyage Autour du Monde.... Paris: Saillant & Nyon, 1771.

The multi-talented Bougainville led the first French circumnavigation from 1767 to 1769. This highly successful voyage took him through the Strait of Magellan, to Tahiti and other little known or unknown Pacific islands, and back home by way of the East Indies and French Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

George Dixon.
A Voyage Round the World, But More Particularly to the North West Coast of America.... London: George Goulding, 1789.

A record of an expedition sent by the King George's Sound Company to develop trade with the native inhabitants of the American northwest coast. The leaders of the voyage, Captains Nathaniel Portlock and George Dixon commanding the King George and the Queen Charlotte, had accompanied James Cook's voyage of 1776-1780. They left England in 1785, explored and traded along the Pacific coast of Canada between Cook's River and Nootka Sound in 1786, and after selling their furs in China in 1787, they arrived back in England in 1788.

George Vancouver (1757-1798).
A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World. London: John Stockdale, 1801. 6 volumes.

George Vancouver, after whom Vancouver Island is named, sailed with Cook on his second and third voyages In 1791 he commanded a mission to take over territory granted to Great Britain by Spain under the Nootka Sound Convention, and to explore and survey the North Pacific coast. His survey produced the first accurate charts of the area, detailing the intricacies of Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and the western coast of mainland Canada. Vancouver went by way of the Cape of Good Hope, made new explorations on the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, visited Tahiti, and took possession of the Hawaiian Islands for the Crown, before arriving on the northwest coast of America in 1792 to begin his three-year survey. After returning to England in 1795, Vancouver began to prepare his account of the voyage, which was published posthumously in 1798 in a four-volume edition. The work is a landmark in the history of the geography of the northwest coast.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

Amasa Delano (1763-1823).
A Narrative of Voyage and Travels, in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres: Comprising Three Voyages Round the World... Boston: E. G. House, 1818.

Amasa Delano, an adventurous American ship captain, is perhaps best known as a leading figure in Herman Melville's Benito Cereno, which Melville based on Chapter 18 of Delano's Narrative. Delano explored much of the Pacific, including Hawaii, the Galapagos, Manila, Canton, New Guinea, Australia, and the East Indies. His account of the survivors of the Bounty (Chapters 5 and 6) was the first in book form to reach America.

Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799-1858).
Voyage of the United States Frigate Potomac. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835.

The American frigate Potomac, under the command of Commodore John Downes, circumnavigated the globe between 1831 and 1834. The primary purpose of this cruise was to punish Malay pirates at Quallah Battoo, Sumatra, who had recently attacked an American vessel. Downes landed his troops at Quallah Battoo in 1832, stormed the town, and destroyed a good part of it. This became the first American military action in the Far East. Downes was criticized at home for his severity, but received approval for his actions from President Jackson.

Carl Johan Skogman (1854-55).
Fregatten Eugenies Resa Omkring Jorden Aren 1851-1853. Stockholm: Adolf Bonnier [1854-55]. 2 volumes in one.

An account of the first Swedish circumnavigation, commanded by Captain Christian Adolf Virgin. Carl Johan Skogman, who served as a lieutenant on the Eugenie, was an astronomer on this trip and was selected to write the official account of the voyage. It includes a great deal of information on the Pacific, as well as on Australia and California.

Introduction South Seas Arctic Explorations Collections Personal Narratives Scientific Expeditions Fiction

for reference assistance email Special Collections
Return to list of exhibitions
Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page

This page is maintained by Special Collections

Last modified: 12/21/10
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014