Special Collections Exhibitions
Enlarging the prospects of happiness
  Great cities of Italy
  Pompeii & Vesuvius
  Philosophy of travel
  The picturesque
  England & Scotland
  Ireland & Wales
  Women travellers
  North & South America
  Travel publishers
  Twentieth-century travel writing
  Check lists

Africa was the least visited of the contiguous continents through 1800. As late as 1733, Swift could assert that

So geographers in Afric maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps;
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns. ('On Poetry: A Rhapsody', ll. 179-82)

Although the Moll map has no elephants or castles (also frequently found dotted across deserts), it does label Ethiopia as 'country unknown'. Access by land or sea required extensive resources, while journeys to the interior were complicated by climate, disease, and armed confrontations.

Moryson's itinerary

Moryson's account depends for its success on an unusually forthcoming narrator. Perhaps because he is visiting unknown places he can be more circumstantial and personal without appearing egotistical. Certainly the cultural sensitivities required to visit these places (and careful consideration of the practicalities of shipboard life) lend his story an attractive complexity sometimes lacking in other travel narratives.
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Africanus' descriptions

This small book is too tightly bound to be displayed open, but its small size belies its influence. Translated first into Latin and French from Italian in 1556, the work reached English readers by 1600 and by 1632 the Elzevir firm, associated with publishing of classical texts, put out this handsome pocket-size volume.
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An African adventure story

Bruce's story remains one of the quintessential African adventure stories, and was eagerly expected by contemporary readers. Bruce took sixteen years to publish his account, by which time Mungo Park and others had brought back further information and survived even greater hardships, but it was still a success even in its large, 5-volume format.

This particular edition is an abridgement of the 1804/5 Edinburgh second edition. It was printed in 1964 by the same printing firm, T. & A. Constable, that printed the original. It would be nice to think that the success of Bruce's story at the beginning of the nineteenth century put the firm on the sound footing that ensured its future. Certainly there was still a demand for Bruce's account more than 150 years later.
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The Holy Land

This beautiful set of books provides a fascinating visual and textual introduction to the Middle East and North Africa. This image of the Sphinx, with its mellow shadowing and tiny human figures for perspective, conveys the stark awe of Europeans encountering Egypt.
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Detail. Bruce, James, 1730-1794.Travels to discover the source of the Nile. Edinburgh : University Press, [1964].109 Leith St:Bliss + OT3/B

Detail. Bruce, James, 1730-1794. Travels to discover the source of the Nile. Edinburgh : University Press, [1964].
109 Leith St:Bliss + OT3/B
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