This is a truly magnificent tome. For people who enjoy travel writing, a dash of history, and may have travelled themselves, this is magic. The compilers of these articles say in the Introduction, that a reader can take off “On a fresh excursion, each and every day of the year”. It is true, these stories are to be savoured a few at a time.
The introduction again states that we have our own journeys every day. In the past it was mainly the wealthy who wrote accounts of their travels, although some of the less “Well heeled” accounts are also included. The stories move from “Day to day and back and forth, through five centuries of travel , in the company of missionaries, pilgrims, foot soldiers, ordinary seamen, pioneers, colonists, botanists , diplomats….”
Each day of the year is shown and has one or two entries for that day. They range in time, and cover most of the countries in the world. There is a diary entry from the ship Batavia, on its voyage from England to Tasmania. This is followed by a letter from a rustic retreat in Gretz, where “the bedrooms are not always innocent of fleas….”In 1863 John Mayne wrote about “A day in the Louvre”, and this recount is followed by a letter penned in a pub at Brighton.
There are photographs and illustrations included. The one at Easter Island, taken in 1722, is quite amazing, in the segment “First European sighting of Easter Island statues” one cringes a little when the author talks about chipping away at the statue. There are other reminders of cultures and times when we read “In the case of most British visitors to the continent during this period.. only Count Dracula could possess a greater fear of garlicky food”.
This book would make the most marvellous gift, or a book to keep on the coffee table forever. There are so many fascinating tales and stories to read and marvel at. To be able to compare a place as it is now and as it was in the past is a great thing to do.
At the back of the book the compilers have included sections on Contributors. This gives a brief description of the author of the letter or story, and is fascinating reading in itself. Next comes a Bibliography of names and the books or articles that they have written. There are also details of the illustrations and photos shown, beginning with a drawing from Robinson Crusoe’s own book.
In completion, an Index of places mentioned in the articles is listed. Any place you wish to read about in the light of the past, or your own travels, will probably be there.
The research and selection of these stories must have been a labour of love, and must have taken years to organise. This is not just any book on traveller’s tales, but will be one to be passed down and kept in families.
It is as rare and special as the old family Bible, and will be treasured by those lucky enough to own it.
|Author||Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison|
|Publisher||Frances Lincoln (Adult)|