Special Collections Department
TWO HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE THE MAST:
Sea Voyages of the Eighteenth
and Nineteenth Centuries
Curated by Max Yela
Checklist of an Exhibition at the
Hugh M. Morris Library
University of Delaware
February 24 -July 31, 1992
The quincentenary of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the western hemisphere has stimulated awareness, reflection, and reinterpretation of the importance and meaning of this event, producing much valuable scholarship on the Columbus expeditions and subsequent voyages of exploration. Sea voyages in the first two centuries after Columbus focused on the exploration, colonization, and commercialization of the Americas, and the discovery of a profitable trade route to the East, resulting in circumnavigations and arctic explorations of northwest and northeast passages. By the end of the seventeenth century, exploration by sea had revealed nearly all of the coastal regions of the western hemisphere. While voyages around the world and the search for the elusive passage through the Arctic Sea remained the objects of sailing expeditions, the focus and emphasis of sea voyages shifted to other objectives in succeeding centuries.
"Two Hundred Years Before the Mast" highlights sea voyages of exploration, adventure, and enterprise in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the second phase of sea travel following the two centuries of exploration after Columbus. Through published accounts and reports; printed and manuscript journals, logs, and memoirs; maps and charts; scientific and historical treatises; and fictional narratives, materials on display reflect various aspects of sea voyages and their impact on contemporary western society between 1700 and 1900, including collections of voyage accounts that preserved and interpreted documents relating to historical and contemporary sea explorations; voyages around the world; exploration of an arctic passage to the East; voyages to the south seas; scientific expeditions; narratives of personal adventure on the high seas; and fictional accounts and literary works inspired by contemporary sea voyages. Together these materials illustrate that three and four centuries after the opening of the age of exploration, navigators and sailors continued to earn their discoveries on the ocean frontier "before the mast."
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