News and Events
Travel and Exploration
February 5, 2009
An extensive collection of books, manuscripts and maps relating to travel and exploration contains many valuable items that shed light on changing views of the world since the 17th century. Mercator's Atlas Minor (1628) features 143 engraved maps and the original vellum binding. Herman Moll's Atlas Minor (1736) includes 62 maps "in which are shewn all the empires, kingdoms, countries, states, in all the known parts of the earth."
Early published accounts by explorers make up another significant category of the Library's holdings. These include A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784), the first printed account of Captain James Cook's expedition undertaken from 1776 to 1780. Published in four volumes, this work contains numerous charts and maps. Captain Cook's Three Voyages to the Pacific Ocean (1797) is abridged from the quarto editions and includes a biography of Cook. A 1955 edition of The Journals of Captain James Cook is a reproduction from the original manuscript containing 58 plates in portfolio. A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific, and Round the World, a six-volume set by George Vancouver (1801), recounts his exploration of the North Pacific from 1790 to 1795.
The fate of William Bligh and his ship, the Bounty, is documented by numerous items in the collection. A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty by William Bligh (1790), Bligh's own account of the mutiny, is illustrated with plates and maps. Bligh presents his story of the entire journey in A Voyage to the South Sea (1792). A later volume by Bligh, An Account of the Dangerous Voyage Performed by Captain Bligh, With a Part of the Crew of His Majesty's Ship Bounty, in an Open Boat (1817), includes a report from the captain of the American ship which discovered the survivors of the Bounty mutiny on Pitcairn Island.
Other items of interest include the original manuscript of the novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Hall, a first edition of Nordhoff and Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), and Pitcairn's Island by Nordhoff and Hall (1934).
Notable volumes pertaining to the Lewis and Clark expedition are also among the Library's holdings. History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark by Nicholas Biddle (1814), in two volumes, is the first authentic published history of the expedition. Travels in the Interior Parts of America (1807) is the first British publication of the message from President Thomas Jefferson to the U.S. Congress, detailing discoveries made by Lewis and Clark in exploring the Missouri, Red River and Washita. This collection also features a 15-volume History of the Expedition printed from the original manuscripts in a limited edition of 200 copies on hand-made paper (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1905), the first complete publication of the journals of Lewis and Clark.
Special Collections also offers numerous books documenting the exploration of the American West, many in first editions. Of particular note are the first three volumes of Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1851-1857), containing especially fine plates and maps. Another influential reference work is the six-volume Mapping the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861 by Carl Wheat. The Library's set was published by the Institute of Historical Cartography between 1957 and 1963, and is one of a limited-edition printing of 1,000.
Among the most significant manuscripts in the collection is the account by Roald Amundsen of his discovery of the Northwest Passage in 1905. This handwritten journal, the only copy in existence, was sent to Collier's Weekly from Eagle City, AK. Albert Lee 1887, managing editor of Collier's, donated it to the Academy.
Also of note are original logbooks of ships sailing between 1853 and 1869. These include the logbook of the ship Surprise (from San Francisco, bound for Shanghai and from Shanghai to New York, 1853-1854) and the logbook of the bark Two Brothers, detailing a whaling voyage made from 1858 to 1863.
The travel and exploration collection is represented by a number of valuable maps as well, some of which are framed and on view in the Special Collections rooms. Maps date from 1607 to 1799 and include a hand-colored map of Asia attributed to the atlas of Abraham Ortelius (Antwerp: 1607) and a hand-colored map of America by Jodocus Hondius (Amsterdam: 1630).