University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


TWO HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE THE MAST

COLLECTIONS

Collected works of voyage accounts, reports, and journals have played important roles in preserving the body of literature documenting the history of sea exploration. Gathering several narratives into a single collection achieved a number of purposes: greater volume of work reached a wider audience; accounts of less well known voyage were saved from obscurity; descriptions of different voyages could be compared and contrasted; a comprehensive understanding of the progress of exploration in a particular area could be attained. The great collections of sea voyage narratives from the early centuries of exploration and discovery were compiled by Richard Eden, Richard Hakluyt, Peter Martyr, and Samuel Purchas. The importance of a narrative's inclusion in a collection can not be underestimated. It has been suggested, for example, that the achievement of arctic explorer William Baffin was overlooked for nearly 200 years because Samuel Purcbas failed to include the voyage in his influential collection of travels.

Collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century sea voyages, such as those by Thomas Astley, Daniel Coxe, Alexander Dalrymple, Johann Reinhold Forster, David Henry, John Knox, and John Pinkerton reflect the shift in emphases of exploration by sea namely voyages to the arctic, the South Seas, and around the world.


A New Collection of Voyages, Discoveries and Travels... London: John Knox, 1767. 7 volumes.

A collection of well-edited narratives of voyages and discoveries from Columbus to Anson.


Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808).
An Historical Collection of Several Voyages and Discoveries. London: A. Dalrymple, 1769.

Alexander Dalrymple's important collection of voyages relates entirely to the discoveries made between South America and New Guinea. Volume I contains translations from Spanish voyages beginning with Magellan in 1519 and ending with Quiros in 1606. Volume 11 consists of the Dutch voyages of Le Marie, Tasman, Schouten, Roggewein, and further explorations. Dalrymple was the first critical editor of discoveries in the East Indies and the South Pacific, and was the first to propose the name Australia. An avid mercantilist, Dalrymple theorized that the unexploited lands of the South Pacific would serve to augment England's expanding trade, and this collection was published to bolster the editor's claim to the advantages of securing trade in the South Seas.

Dalrymple narrowly missed the appointment to command the expedition that became James Cook's first voyage to the South Seas in 1768. This voyage was undertaken upon the recommendation of the Royal Society to George III for the purpose of observing the transit of Venus, and, as Dalrymple was a member of that Society and well versed in hydrography and astronomy, he was at first selected to head the expedition. But the Admiralty preferred to place a naval man in charge and offered it to Cook, then a lieutenant.

Dalrymple refused to serve in a subordinate capacity and so remained at home. He was a strong believer in the existence of the fabled Southern Continent and located it a short distance west of South America. Cook, however, disproved its existence by his failure to discover it on his second circumnavigation. Dalrymple was later appointed hydrographer to the East India Company in 1779 and became hydrographer to the Admiralty in 1795.


David Henry (1710-1792).
An Historical Account of all the Voyages Round the World Performed by English Navigators... London: F. Newberry, 1773-1774. 3 volumes.

The contents of this collection include the voyages of Drake, Cavendish, Cowley, Dampier, Cooke, Rogers, Clipperton and Shelvocke, Anson, Byron, Wallis, Cateret, Cook, Parkinson, Bougainville, Phipps, and Lutwidge. In 1775, another volume was added covering the voyages of the Resolution and the Adventure under James Cook, 1772-75. Another volume was added in 1776, making complete the record of Cook's three voyages.


Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-1798).
History of the Voyages and Discoveries Made in the North. London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1786.

A rare and important work, discussing in detail the voyages of Baffin, Bering, Cabot, Dobbs, Cook and others, and the discoveries made in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Hudson's Bay, Straits of Juan de Fuca, etc. The author, a renowned naturalist, had accompanied Cook on his second expedition. This work was first published in German in 1784.


Introduction Circumnavigations Arctic Explorations South Seas Personal Narratives Scientific Expeditions Fiction

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