Encyclopedia of Exploration 2: Reviews
The Book Collector, Volume 55 Number 4 Winter 2006
Article reproduced here with their kind permission
Review by John Hemming
In 2003 Raymond Howgego amazed everyone involved in the history of discovery and travel with his Encyclopedia of Exploration up to 1800. Singlehanded, he had produced a definitive study that would normally have been the product of teams of specialists. A mere two years later, he continued this feat by taking the story forward to the mid-nineteenth century.
Howgego's first volume embraced many nationalities, from the classical world to Muslim, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese voyagers. But the second volume is dominated by northern Europeans. It was a glorious half century, when learned societies were springing up everywhere, a new reading public was avid for information about the world and its scientific wonders, there were still blanks on the map, and scientific collectors had almost virgin territory in so many realms of nature.
This volume is even more efficient than the first, with more consistency of style in its 732 entries - although I missed the occasional quirkiness of the earlier encyclopedia. Howgego tells some anecdotes, such as Johann Kraft being mocked because he said that he had seen snow on top of Mount Kilimanjaro on the Equator, he but misses some others. He tells us about Richard Lander's canoes on the Niger but not his extraordinary portable iron boat (now in the Exeter Maritime Museum); Joseph Hooker gets an entry, but not his father William who really founded Kew Gardens; and Charles Waterton is not credited with being this country's first ‘green’, the first to praise tropical forests or to sue a polluting factory owner. There is no mention of discoveries named after Alfred Russell Wallace or his friend Henry Walter Bates: the Wallace Line (the total difference in fauna between Borneo and Sulawesi); and Batesian Mimicry (in insect camouflage). In fine entries on Robert Schomburgk, there is no word of his remarkable circuit in 1838-9 up the Uraricoera, down the Orinoco-Casiquiare and Negro, and up the Branco headwaters of the Amazon - a feat never repeated since, one that would earn an RGS medal to this day; and there is nothing about Schomburgk's racier younger brother Richard, who later introduced wine vines to South Australia. In four excellent studies of Sir John Franklin, it does not emerge strongly enough that his was the greatest disaster in the annals of British exploration, the role of his widow Jane in organizing searches is undervalued, and it might have been added that the search for the remains of his ships and men continues unabated every summer.
Every entry has a bibliography. These are more consistent and up-to-date than in the earlier volume, and they are a most valuable resource in their own right. The entries are arranged alphabetically. But from time to time there is an essay about a place or region, and these can be unexpected and inconsistent: such are Ascension Island, Central America, Iowa, Namibia and Namibia Missionary Activity, Falkland islands (a brilliant summary that would have been helpful at the time of the Falklands War), Yukon and many others. There is no index of these essays: the reader just stumbles across them. Indeed, there is no index of places just of people, and of ships), which is a drawback in so geographical a book. Maps might also have made it easier to use.
These are trivial criticisms of a monumental book, one that can be opened at random and read with pleasure. It inspires awe, at both the achievements and gusto of the explorers, and the research by Raymond Howgego. It is handsomely produced, and for me this series does for exploration what Grove did for music. This really is an essential work of reference. Every library should have it.
The Book Collector, Volume 55, Number 4
Review by Dr. Milton E. Osborne
Article reproduced here with their kind permission
Exploring For Empire
Hard on the heels of the widely acclaimed first volume of Raymond Howgego’s Encyclopedia of Exploration to 1800 comes this second volume, carrying the compilation to the middle of the nineteenth century. Once again, a reader cannot fail to be impressed by the energy and scholarly achievement of Raymond Howgego, who has turned the exact skills acquired in his training as a physicist into the meticulous scanning of literally thousands of sources in order to provide this overview of one of the great periods of travelling and exploration.
As he points out in his introduction, the compiler has not chosen the fifty-year period from 1800 to 1850 simply on the basis of chronological convenience. Rather, he shows how the first half of the nineteenth century represents a distinct period in the history of exploration. These fifty years saw a renewed British interest in the search for the Northwest Passage, the consolidation of European control over the territory of the continental United States, and a steady extension of exploration into South-East Asia and the Pacific.
Of the greatest interest for Australian readers is the fact that this volume covers some of the most important expeditions that charted this country’s interior and found that much of its territory was inhospitable to settlement. The great explorations of central Africa undertaken by such famed figures as Burton, Speke, and Livingstone came after the cut-off point of this volume, though details of Livingstone’s early African travels do receive attention.
As was the case with the first volume, a reader will find pleasure in this compilation in a variety of ways. Dealing solely with Australian exploration, for example, there is the expected information to be found about such well-known figures as Matthew Flinders, the Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson trio, and Charles Sturt. But, just as importantly, detail is provided on less familiar figures.
Short of specialist knowledge, many readers will, like this reviewer, be grateful for the information provided on men like the Anglo-French surveyor and engineer Francis Luis Barralier. In 1802 Barralier, accompanied by four soldiers and five convicts, set out to cross the Blue Mountains. Whether he did, indeed, reach the summit of the Great Dividing Range remains uncertain, but the importance of his expedition has been overshadowed by the later successful crossing achieved in 1813.
Other names associated with Australian exploration that do not trip lightly off the tongue but receive due attention include the German geologist Johann Menge, who established the presence of South Australia’s mineral riches and assisted in the settlement of the Barossa Valley, and the Scots botanist Charles Fraser, who not only laid out the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney by was also involved in the exploration of both the Swan and Brisbane rivers.
South-East Asia and the Pacific occupy a much more important place in this second volume than its predecessor. Although the interior of New Guinea remained unexplored, the smaller islands of the Pacific were visited frequently, while Burma now became a target of imperial rivalry and Thomas Stamford Raffles took the momentous decision to establish British settlement in Singapore.
Almost inevitably, in a work of remarkable scholarship compiled by a single person, readers with their own specialist knowledge will find, or think they have found, the omission of a name or an expedition. The only example this reviewer offers is the understandably obscure French missionary priest Charles-Emile Bouillevaux (1823-1913), who travelled to the ruins of Angkor in December 1850. It may well be that Howgego has opted to include a refernce to Father Bouillevaux when he provides details of the sustained exploration of the temples at Angkor that began with, and followed, the visit to them be the much better known French naturalist Henri Mouhot in 1860.
Of Particular value are the extensive bibliographies, dealing with a number of broad topics, such as European contacts with China and Indo-China, Portuguese expeditions in Central Africa, and lesser travellers in South Africa, to mention only a few. As with its predecessor, this volume has been produced to the highest standards of publishing with excellent paper stock, clear print, solid binding as befits a reference book and, infrequently seen nowadays, the provision of no fewer than three silk page markers.
This reviewer will be one of the many readers looking forward to the next volume, which will take up the story of the heroic expeditions that occurred in the second half o the nineteenth century. As before, this is a book for travellers, whether actual or from their armchairs. No less than its predecessor, the appearance of this volume is a publishing event of real consequence.
Review by Merrill Distad, University of Alberta
“The Pacific Circle”, Oct. 2005, Bulletin No. 15
Scarcely two years after the appearance of the first volume of Ray Howgego's Encyclopedia of Exploration, we are now treated to the second volume, which covers the period 1800 to 1850. Like its predecessor, this is a massive volume. It contains 732 major articles, covering more than 3,000 voyages and expeditions, undertaken aboard more than 1,000 ships, and it cites more than 10,000 published sources, both primary and secondary.
During the first half of the nineteenth century the map of the world took recognizably modern form; after 1850 only limited regions remained terra incognita, principally the interiors of Central Africa and of Australia, and much of the North and South Polar regions, which makes 1850 a suitable cut-off date. Moreover, with the major exception of David Livingstone, few of the explorers active during that period carried on into the second half of the century, thus making them fit tidily into the chronological span of volume two.
This era also witnessed a vast proliferation of travel literature and the beginnings of widespread tourism. The former fed the curiosity of an increasingly literate and affluent audience of readers, while the latter seemingly instilled "every traveler who set foot outside their native land...[with] the need to commit his or her experiences to print" (p. vii). From the ranks of amateurs emerged a class of professional travel writers and compilers of guidebooks. Howgego has therefore excluded travelers who ventured no further east than the Levant or eastern Anatolia, or further south than Africa's Mediterranean coast. He nonetheless substitutes a number of regional articles on travel and tourism. The parallel increase in periodical literature, including scores of journals published by geographical societies and governments, has led Howgego to enrich volume two's bibliographies with a huge number of explorers' accounts that appeared in these more ephemeral venues.
While the organization of volume two is substantially the same as its predecessor, biographies of "companion" travelers, who accompanied an expedition, are appended to the major articles in which their names first appear. This, the author explains, avoids "the frustration of constant cross-referencing." There remain, nonetheless, a very large number of helpful cross-references. Once again, the names of persons and ships are separately and thoroughly indexed, but there is still no indexing by geographical areas of activity or by nationality. While a contents table is often, quite understandably, omitted in alphabetically arranged books, the inclusion of a simple list of rhe major articles would have been helpful. The omission of maps of any kind, perhaps for reasons of space and cost, may be excused by the readers' presumed ability to consult historical atlases.
As in volume one, major articles include bibliographies of primary narratives, translations, later editions, and reprints, followed by biographies and general works for background reading. A series of regional, bibliographical summaries are appended to a number of major articles, personal, geographical, and corporate (a bibliography of whaling, attached to "Enderby Company: voyages in the Southern Ocean"). Thus, the article "United Stares to the east of the Mississippi" is followed by a bibliography of travelers' accounts that runs more than eight, double-column pages, while still omitting many tourist journals. More than 100 articles deal with the exploration of the American West, though the author defers to Hafen's massive Mountain Men and the Fur Trade and Thrapps Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography as more exhaustive sources. Two future American states were nonetheless selected for major articles: California (understandably) and Iowa (somewhat curiously), while the bibliography for Texas-already admitted to the union in 1845-is appended to the article on Stephen Austin. General bibliographies for Oregon and for Western Canada are respectively, appended to articles devoted to John McLoughlin and James Douglas. Quite apart from their arbitrary and sometimes puzzling placement, their coverage of general works is quite wide, rendering them useful bibliographies of settlement and development, as well as of exploration.
Pacific voyages are the subject of more than 100 major articles-primarily those that produced at least one, book-length, published narrative-while for lesser endeavors, mentioned only in passing, the author refers readers to sources such as Ward's American Activities in the Central Pacific and the many works of Glynn Barratt. Although no work of such immense scope can claim to be exhaustive, Howgego's maintains, and with the periodical literature even extends, the standard of bibliographic coverage he established in volume one. It is therefore surprising to find Helen Rosenman's fine translations of the journals of Dumont D'Urville's expeditions (1988) unaccountably absent. More troubling still are numerous typos, misspellings, inconsistencies, and omissions in titles, particularly evident in the bibliographic citations. More than once, for example, John McLoughlin's name appears as "McCloughlin," though happily it is not misspelled in the index of names. Small details, perhaps, but irksome nonetheless, and hallmarks of a book too hastily rushed into production. Let us hope that, having taken such pains to produce these magnificently handsome and scholarly volumes, the publisher will take more time to proof the succeeding volumes. In reviewing volume one I described Howgego's brilliant and Herculean achievement as "monumental and now indispensable" (see Bulletin 11, October, 2003). Volume two is no less so, and should earn the respect and gratitude of all who consult it.
Review by Choice Magazine USA
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections.
No subject encyclopedia on the history of discovery and exploration is comparable to this work. With 2,327 entries and nearly 20,000 bibliographic citations, it is a tour de force of descriptive, biographic, and bibliographic documentation. Howgego thoroughly documents both well-known and less familiar explorers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, primarily by explorer name, and articles and bibliographies on thematic issues are scattered throughout the work; for example, the article "Haiti, the French in St-Domingue" follows "Hagenaer, Hendrick".
Occasionally, bibliographies follow prominent explorers of a region; for example, the entry "Supplementary Bibliography of French Louisiana" follows the entry for "Le Moyne D'Iberville, Pierre". Although the work has indexes of persons and ships and each entry has dates and place names, there are no good chronological or geographical access points. A table of contents listing each of the separate thematic articles and bibliographies would be useful. Handsomely bound with three bookmark ribbons, the book's physical appearance is consistent with its rich content. For novices and advanced researchers alike.
S.R. McEathron, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rare Book Review May 2005
Article reproduced here with their kind permission and that of the author
By Colin Steele (Australian National University)
AROUND THE WORLD IN 700,000 WORDS
The follow-up to a massive encyclopedia on world travel was worth the wait...
Raymond Howgego has been termed “the Michael Palin of academic travel scholarship” in that he combines an enthusiasm for travel with an ability to convey that enthusiasm to a wide audience. Howgego, a remarkable polymath, has not been affiliated with any academic institution nor apparently any academic research granting bodies. Yet he has managed to produce two massive reference volumes, with a third to come, on the history of world exploration, travel and colonization.
The first volume, published in 2003, covering the period up to 1800 was acclaimed by reviewers around the world, including Alberto Manguel who named it as one of his books of the year for The Spectator magazine. The second volume, covering the period 1800 to 1850, runs to 704 pages, with 732 articles, and contains some 700,000 words. Howgego’s author and thematic approach is supplemented by comprehensive indexes of over three thousand travellers and a thousand ships.
The period 1800 to 1850 is clearly a much shorter period than that previously covered. Entries are necessarily more condensed because far more travel was undertaken during this period. Thus for example, in 1787 the fleet commanded by Arthur Phillip took the better part of nine months to sail from England to Australia. By 1850 that voyage could be done in weeks. The introduction of steam-powered engines was clearly a major reason behind the increase in exploration. But this expansion was also brought about by educational and financial improvements in society, and Western colonial expansion. Travel literature was also on the up. Steam-powered printing presses made it easier and cheaper to publish books about explorers’ voyages. Howgego notes in his introduction that we even begin to see the embryonic emergence of the professional travel writer.
In his review of the first volume published in the Rare Book Review (then ABR) in 2003 Peter Robb concluded with the observation that ‘the promised sequel will be a very different book. By 1800 the world was mapped and most of it was spoken for by the imperial powers. The thrill was gone, and so was a little of the horror.’ The second volume is very different. Whilst it largely covers primary sources, Howgego has had to be much more selective. He has had to adopt stricter criteria as to the geographical boundaries of the traveller. Thus, Howgego omits any traveller, for example, who travelled no further than the Eastern borders of modern Turkey, Syria or Palestine or who kept to the Western side of the Caspian Sea, concentrating rather on ‘those who penetrated the upper reaches of the two Niles.’ However, as in the first volume, the depth and breadth of Howgego’s research is astounding. He has managed to include a large number of little known travellers including military men, tradesmen, and scientists.
A third volume covering 1850 to 1920 is expected to be published in the relatively near future. The Encyclopedia of Exploration is a truly global production in that it is written in England, published in Sydney, Australia, typeset in Scotland, printed in China and distributed around the world. No research library worth its name should be without a copy of this massive reference work, a topographical feature in itself.
Howgego, noted in the first volume that he had introduced one deliberately erroneous article in the text and his publisher, the Hordern House, offered a case of champagne to anyone spotting it. There is no such teaser in the second volume but by last month no one had claimed the prize. It is very difficult indeed to challenge a polymath.
The Weekend Australian Travel Section, December 4, 2004
Review by Brian Turner
Hardcore armchair travellers are familiar with Raymond Howgego’s Encyclopedia of Exploration. The first volume (from antiquity to1800), published in 2002 is an Everest among books weighing in at three kilos with 1.2 million words containing 2,327 articles, 4,000 references and 7,500 index entries. Handsomely designed, printed and bound the tome has three stitched-in silk ribbon bookmarks to help readers navigate their way. The price - about the same as a low-season Sydney to Christchurch ticket - $295.
Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Exploration drips with erudition, panache and wit and is the first port of call for research on exploration and travel up to 1800. But beware, there is a trap; with a nod to spurious travel books and travel liars, the author has seamlessly imbedded a bogus traveller, so carefully camouflaged that not even the copy-editor nor the publisher have been able to unmask the impostor. Not surprising, considering some of the astonishing genuine travellers who could have come from the far side of travel fiction.
Take for example Welsh missionary John Evans, Spain’s improbable last Conquistador. Evans explored the upper Missouri River in the 1790s for the Spanish crown, while also searching for the legendary tribe of Welsh speaking Indians. In 1699 German artist Maria Merian, accompanied by her teenage daughter, spent two years in the savage jungles of Dutch Guiana (Surinam) creating exquisite paintings of caterpillars, moths and butterflies. Mongol Crusader monk Rabban Bar Sauma, like Marco Polo in reverse, set out from northern China in 1278 on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he diverted to Europe and visited the Pope in Rome and King Phillip IV in Paris. What chance does a fictional traveller, even Gulliver himself, have of being noticed in such company?
Hordern House has released the second volume of Howgego’s prodigious Encyclopedia of Exploration, also of Himalayan proportions and priced at $245. This covers the period 1800 – 1850, a time when white Australians believed in a vast Inland Sea - a shimmering freshwater Australian Caspian - near the centre of the continent. Sturt and his men plodded off towards the Simpson Desert, dragging a whaleboat they planned to launch, Union Jack fluttering, onto its reedy waters. In 1848, Ludwig Leichhardt set out to cross the continent from east to west and vanished into mirage and mythology, only to return over a hundred years later to haunt us again, as Patrick White’s impossible Voss.
Raymond Howgego was in Sydney recently and we spoke over breakfast among the backpackers of a Potts Point café. The soft-spoken physicist turned-travel-scholar speaks and speed reads every European language (except Basque and Finnish) plus Arabic, and has translated into English many travel narratives himself. Howgego is also a serial traveller; he has stood at the same spot as Speke at the source of the Nile, sailed through the Straits of Magellan, and followed the tracks of Conquistadors through Bolivia. In 1994 Howgego and his companions were the first Europeans to cross the Tourgart Pass from Kyrgyzstan into China since the Russian Revolution. Minutes after his jeep had crossed an unstable section of Pakistan’s precipitous Karakoram Highway, the road collapsed into the Indus. Ray has also voyaged down most of the world’s great rivers, including the Niger in flood, when neither bank was visible. His favourite destination? ‘Kashgar is my centre of the Universe’ and favourite country? ‘Iran; the Zoroastrian monasteries of cental Iran fascinate me and the Islamic architecture of Isfahan is heart-stoppingly beautiful.’
Howgego’s favourite traveller is the Scottish naval officer John Dundas Cochrane, an extreme pedestrian who walked from Calais across Russia to the Pacific coast of Siberia. He also has a soft spot for explorer Captain George Sadleir, who in 1816 wearing full military uniform was the first European to cross the Arabian Peninsula.
Volume three, covering 1850-1920 will be published next year. A truly global venture the Encyclopedia of Exploration was written in England, published in Sydney, designed in Bowral, typeset in Scotland, printed in China and exported worldwide.
Publisher Hordern House promises a case of champagne for the reader who denounces the impostor explorer. The maverick publishers deserve an award themselves – for daring to go where no publisher has gone before.