"There's just something about a book in your hand" went to another level today as I read through a 1784 printing of A Voyage Towards The South Pole and Round the World by Captain James Cook.
I had to be extremely delicate with the pages, since the leather binding was extremely brittle. Thanks to the Guttenberg project, the entire book is available to read online for free. But going through the physical printing of Captain James Cook’s Voyage to the South Pole and Round the World helped me feel the 18th century in Cook's words. Frankly, it read like many other travelogues I've come across. Good weather, bad weather, intentions, outcomes, lively characters along the way. Like its leather cover, the prose was a little dry. BUT this was printed two hundred and thirty four years ago!!!
Readers' minds must have been blown by the descriptions of the people he met with, chiefs, the tropical shores, seas filled with ice, the exotic foods. Cava? What? (How many people TODAY don't know what cava is?)
If you are into modern travel stories you might want to take a look at the writings of the old explorers as well. Shackleton, Cook, even Mark Twain and The Innocents Abroad (one of my all time favorites). It’s amazing how evergreen some of the descriptions are, of the places but also of the experience of travel itself.
The drawings are by William Hodges, who made them during the voyage and accompanied Captain Cook on several adventures.
Thanks to the Athenaeum of Philadelphia for once again letting me hold a ridiculously cool piece of travel history!