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.
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.
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.
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.