Travel Thursday – Frederick de Wit’s Atlas

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

In seventeenth-century Europe, no library would be considered complete without a pair of globes and the provision of up-to-date maps and atlases as a source of information on new discoveries, and at the University of Reading we are lucky to have not only a large map collection at the University Library, but also a number of early maps and atlases.

Perhaps the finest of these is a copy of Frederick de Wit’s Atlas, produced between about 1670 and 1707, and this beautiful volume is the subject of a new Featured Item on the Special Collections website.


Map of Europe by Frederick de Wit

De Wit was a prolific and skilled map engraver, publisher and seller who became one of the largest publishers in Amsterdam by the end of the seventeenth century. De Wit’s Atlas is one of a series of world atlases compiled by De Wit in numerous editions. Copies of the Atlas are held in a number of map and special collections libraries and private collections, and vary in content from 17 to 190 finely coloured maps.

As with many Dutch maps of the period, the maps in De Wit’s volume feature many elaborate and beautifully coloured decorative features, including illustrations of exotic beasts and even a winged sea monster.

The volume contains a number of maps by De Wit himself, together with maps by other important map-makers of the period including Nicholas Visscher I, Abraham Ortelius and Joan Blaeu, printed by De Wit from plates that he had acquired.

The Atlas is available to view at the Special Collections reading room on request.

Travel Thursday – The Great New York

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Front cover of The Great New York - Pennell (1911)

The Great New York – Pennell (1911)

One of the world’s top tourist destinations, New York has been attracting travellers for many years.  This week’s Travel Thursday looks at the Big Apple from two uniquely different perspectives; that of a poet and that of an artist.

Australian born critic and poet, W.J. Turner (1889-1946) moved to London to pursue writing in 1907 and alongside friend, Siegfried Sassoon, became a member of the Georgian poets group when his work was published as part of a Georgian Poet anthology (Hawkes, 2004).  Turner visited New York in the 1920s and penned a short travelogue detailing his time there, giving his thoughts on the city and all manner of related topics including, the wonderful character of American women, the Americanisation of Europe and advice on the perfect piece of luggage, the American trunk:

a trunk which stands upright, can be pushed along on rollers, fits in beside the driver of a taxi […] so easily accessible that he need never unpack during his whole journey.

American artist, Joseph Pennell (1857-1926) was an eminent etcher and lithographer, who championed and revived the art of print making in the early 20th Century (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016).  Although he travelled widely, Pennell lived in New York from 1918-1926 (Library of Congress, 2016) and created several beautiful drawings of the city.

For Pennell, New York was the ‘Unbelievable City’, a marvel of the modern world owing to its immense size and towering buildings, which are beautifully captured in his sketch of the city’s magnificent skyline.

New York Skyline by Pennell

New York Skyline by Pennell

Turner too is immediately in awe at the sight of New York on the horizon; on his arrival he proclaims:

There is no thrill at the end of any voyage upon this planet like the thrill at the first sight of New York rising like a bed of rock crystals out of the sea.

However, on closer inspection, Turner’s opinion of the city is not always the most enthusiastic, the smell he ascribes it for example is, “a blending of ice-cream and patchouli – a sickly mixture,” and he describes the general atmosphere as a terrifying mixture of noisy traffic and towering sky scrapers

Building a Skyscraper - Pennell

Building a Skyscraper – Pennell

that vomit, “from six to ten thousand people into the street,” all accompanied by a constant series of explosions caused by the underground work on subways and building foundations.  The heavy building programme in New York during the 1920s was also captured by Pennell, though instead of complaining about the noise he marvels at the speed at which the skyscrapers are completed:

The work goes on by night as well as by day. A few months will see a skyscraper in place, equipped and occupied.

Statue of Liberty - Pennell

Statue of Liberty – Pennell

Both men also differ on their views of the iconic Statue of Liberty; for Pennell it is an “effective feature,” which “greets the incoming ships from the sea” while for Turner, the statue is decidedly, “stumpy and ungraceful.”

Turner further complains about his subway journey, describing the carriages as, “small, cheaply fitted, sordid, and uncomfortable,” whereas Pennell praises the linked elevated railway as a “pleasant mode of conveyance outside the rush hours.”  However, despite his spirited complaining, Turner does give some interesting insights into the New York of the 1920s, for example although he dislikes the experience; he does explain how the subway system works:

The Elevated - Pennell

The Elevated – Pennell

To get quickly up-town it is necessary to take the subway.  You go underground.  There is an office where you can get change and then, putting in a nickel (five cents), you pass through clanging turnstiles on to the platform.  There are no ticket collectors nor porters.

and he provides this description of the newly implemented, modern marvel – traffic lights:

Red and green lamps are placed on pillars at these intersections and by them traffic is regulated.  In broad daylight up until 2a.m. these green and red lights are flashing in the streets.  All the accidents – as a taxi driver explained to me – take place after 2 a.m.

Also, according to Turner, one of the advantages of such a large city that swarms with people is the anonymity and indifference afforded to its visitors:

There is in New York no public opinion, no curiosity.  The complete impersonality of the big hotel and the big store where no one watches you to see that you spend something is very soothing.

Although only small details, you begin to get a vivid impression of a busy, crowded city that is full potential and growth.  It is a city of the future and indeed it inspired Turner to philosophise about progress and the future of cities and civilisation.  In his musings Turner even predicts the invention of mobile phones:

it is possible for me to predict that in much less than a hundred years from now one will be able to speak to any person in any part of the world by just taking a wireless receiver and transmitter out of one’s coat pocket.

Overall, regardless of its traffic and noise, both Turner and Pennell recognised that it is the architectural beauty of New York that really shines, it is a city designed to inspire and amaze and delight:

sketch of Cortland Street Ferry and the Brooklyn Bridge by Pennell

Cortland Street Ferry and the Brooklyn Bridge by Pennell

The sky-scrapers were slender pinnacles of light, across the river crawled in every direction ferry-boats that were just many-tiered electric palaces, and Brooklyn was one vast blaze netted with dark lines glittering beside the water.


  • Pennell, J (1911) The Great New York. London: T.N. Foulis [Reserve 917.47 PEN]
  • Turner, W.J. (1929) A trip to New York and a Poem. London: Mandrake Press [Reserve 821.912 TUR]
  • Jacquetta Hawkes, (2004) ‘Turner, Walter James Redfern (1889–1946)’, rev. Sayoni Basu, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 24 Aug 2016]
  • Library of Congress, (2016) Drawing (Master). Available from:
  • Encyclopedia Britannica (2016) Joseph Pennell.  Available from:


Travel Thursday: Thomas Thomson in Sweden

Sweden map smWritten by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

This week’s Travel Thursday takes us to Sweden with eminent scientist Thomas Thomson.  As the first teacher of practical chemistry in a British university and an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Morrell, 2004) it is no surprise that much of Thomson’s travelogue has a scientific focus.

In particular, Thomson devotes a considerable amount of his work to mineralogical observations and detailed descriptions of the mines he visits on his journey.  One such mine is the copper works at Fahlun, one of the oldest in Sweden, which Thomson describes as being 200 fathoms deep and constructed, “according to very scientific and sound principles.”  The maps accompanying his description are wonderfully detailed and were “copied from a very accurate set of charts of this mine, constructed by Baron Hermelin.”  Interestingly, the mine remained open until 1992 and is now a Unesco World Heritage site

Perpendicular section of the copper mine at Fahlun

Perpendicular section of the copper mine at Fahlun

(Falu Gruva, 2014) meaning travellers to Sweden today are still able to tour the mines as Thomson did over one hundred years ago!


Thomson’s scientific interests were also piqued during his time in the Swedish capitol, Stockholm.  In particular, he remarked that the Academy of Sciences, “deserves to be visited by every scientific foreigner who goes to Stockholm.”  It does indeed sound like a fascinating place with an interesting variety of objects. For example, among their collections could be found a piece of bread which in “some parts of Norway and the north of Sweden is made of the bark of trees.”

Elsewhere in Stockholm, Thomson also marvelled at the curious collections in the Arsenal, especially the “the clothes and hat worn by Charles XII when he was shot in the trenches before Frederickshall,” which remained bloodstained from the fatal wounds. He visited most of the churches the city had to offer but did “not consider it as worthwhile to give a particular description of them,” and finally found the perfect spot to view the city – a magnificent bridge joining the central island of Stockholm to the main continent:

When you stand upon this bridge and look south, the King’s palace immediately strikes the eye, a building of immense extent, and seen with peculiar advantage from the bridge.  Toward the east, the inlet of the Baltic stretches itself before the eye covered with ships, and thick scatted with barges plying from place to place under the direction of women; for the boats in Stockholm are all rowed by women.

stockholm map sm

Map of Stockholm, 1812

Again Thomson provides a beautifully detailed map to help illustrate his descriptions.  This map of Stockholm was copied from one published by Fr. Akiel in 1795 and although it had been updated and was considered one of the most accurate maps of the town, Thomson believed, “the style is somewhat blameable, as not sufficiently distinguishing between what is town and what fields.  His object seems to have been to swell the town as much as possible, and conceal its real dimensions from the eye.”  Thomson therefore made several corrections in his own copy.

Overall, Thomson travelled more than 1200 miles in a short seven weeks and though his descriptions of the sights and collections he encounters across Sweden are full of lively detail and interest, it is of course the human stories that provide the colour and character to the narrative; from the wily Olof Essen, a spoke-maker who treated Thomson very ungenerously “with regard to the rate at which he let us have horses from Lilla Oby to Oby;” to the group of English sailors in Stockholm who “had all got quite drunk and had fallen together by the ears, to the number of ten or twelve in the middle of the street, and raised a clamour that was quite diabolical.” Thomson was so mortified by this particular scene that he went so far as to claim:

In most Englishmen who travel, as far as I have had an opportunity of observing them, there is an unaccountable wish to let foreigners, with whom they associate, know that they despise them.

On a lighter note, one of my favourite pieces of the human story in Thomson’s travelogue comes at the end, in an appendix chart showing the population and professions of Sweden:


Total number of chocolate makers? One – but he is a master of his art!



Thomson, Thomas (1813) Travels in Sweden during the autumn of 1812. London: Robert Baldwin [Overstone 26F/23 – available upon request]

Jack Morrell, ‘Thomson, Thomas (1773–1852)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [, accessed 6 July 2016]

Falu Gruva (2014) Welcome to Fahlun Mine

Travel Thursday: John Todhunter Journal

Todhunter journal

Todhunter journal

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

John Todhunter (1839-1916) is best known as a poet and literary critic, but was also a doctor of medicine, painter, composer and traveller.

The University of Reading’s Special Collections Archive contains a fascinating Todhunter collection consisting of roughly 350 items including: personal and literary correspondence, (such as letters from John Butler Yeats, John Trivett Nettleship and William Michael Rossetti); typescripts and manuscripts of various literary works, and three travel journals.

One of these journals, titled ‘Journal of a Tour in Italy with D.L.T. 1880.’ details Todhunter’s travels in Italy with his new wife Dora Louisa.  In December 1879 the newlyweds had been recalled from an earlier trip in Florence as Todhunter’s father, Thomas, was taken ill.  After a rather “dismal winter” the couple were keen to escape back to Italy in the spring and their journey continued from March 1880 into the early autumn.  As might be expected, Todhunter’s journal contains notes on a plethora of typical tourist activities, such as his morning spent at Capitoline Hill in Rome,

Sat on steps, looked at wolves and Marcus Aurelius and then went into gallery.

He lists his favourite pieces from the gallery as including the Capitoline Venus and a “very beautiful Penelope and Telemachus.”  There are moreover, several interesting pieces of travel ephemera, including tickets for visits to archaeological sites of interest, such as this entrance pass for a tour of the catacombs of Rome and the Appian Way:

Photo 11-05-2016, 14 49 19

and a small collection of pressed plants.  One of these specimens was pressed between pages which mention a serendipitous walk through a garden in Rome.  Perhaps Todhunter kept the flower as a souvenir and reminder of the day:Photo 11-05-2016, 15 03 55

We went through a pleasant little garden full of flowers from which we had a splendid view of the Palatine, the best we had yet seen.  A very sweet place.

The travelogue also contains a number of fun anecdotes such as this note from Friday April 2nd:

We had found the caffe latte so bad that we resolved to take a foreign breakfast, and so had wine and an omelet.  Then to the Piazza del Durmo.

The entry for Wednesday May 12th is more celebratory as Todhunter notes it is his and Dora’s six month anniversary, an occassion they celebrated by going to a horse race ‘corsa dei cavalla’ in Rome.

Despite all of the interesting sights, pleasent gardens and new foods to experience, it is good to know that Todhunter did not forget his friends while travelling, on Monday April 26th he notes that he spent the morning “writing letters to Rossetti.”

You can find out more about the Todhunter Collection here, and how to access our archives here.

Travel Thursday – Great Western Railway

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Title page of 'The History and Description of the Great Western Railway' by J. C. Bourne - 1846

‘The History and Description of the Great Western Railway’ by J. C. Bourne – 1846

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was founded in 1833 and received an enabling Act of Parliament in August 1835 that allowed the company to provide a double tracked line from Bristol to London (Daniel, 2013).

Five years ago, no man had ever travelled from London to Bristol, even by the mail in much less than twelve hours; upon the opening of the railway the distance was performed in four hours 

(Bourne, 1846)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as the project’s engineer, determining the route, sections and estimates (Bailey, 2006).  He also designed a controversial broad gauge track in an effort to increase speeds and passenger comfort (Daniels, 2013).

Construction of the line finally began in 1836; initial stages saw work being completed between Bristol and Bath in the West, and Reading and London in the East with connecting lines and stations quickly following. (Daniels, 2013).  Upon completion in 1841, the GWR was considered such an outstanding achievement that it was dubbed ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’ by many (Trueman, 2016) and in 1846 John C. Bourne published “The History and Description of the Great Western Railway” with the express purpose of highlighting, the “constructive skill and general grandeur of appearance,” of the project.

Bourne’s work is a fascinating insight into an exciting period in the history of transport and travel; it gives a brief history of the political and economical challenges faced by the GWR, an overview of the scientific and engineering principles involved in the construction of railways and locomotives, and then presents an array of beautiful lithographs highlighting the remarkable construction and architectural work found along the tracks.

but the straightness of a railway, and the rapidity of the motion upon it, entirely shut out its far greater and more numerous works, and thus some of the most magnificent structures in the kingdom, though crossed daily by thousands, are actually seen by few.

(Bourne, 1846)

Highlights from among the lithographs include:

Paddington Station, London (Bourne, 1846)

Paddington Station, London (Bourne, 1846)

An early Paddington Station, the London terminus of the railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The railway leaves Paddington in cutting, but the Kensal-Green Cemetery, with its glittering temple, is seen on the right, and on the left an occasional view of the Vale of the Thames.

(Bourne, 1846)



The Wharncliffe Viaduct (Bourne, 1846)

The Wharncliffe Viaduct (Bourne, 1846)

The Wharncliffe Viaduct, the largest piece of brickwork along the railway and one of the first pieces of work to be complete.

The arches are elliptical, eight in number: the span of each is seventy feet, and the rise seventeen feet six inches.  The piers are composed each of two square massive pillars of brick, slightly pyramidal, and of a character somewhat Egyptian.

(Bourne, 1846)


The Engine House, Swindon (Bourne, 1846)

The Engine House, Swindon (Bourne, 1846)

The engine house at Swindon, which gives an interesting behind the scenes look into the operations of the GWR:

[It is]capable of accommodating about a hundred engines: these consist of the engines in actual use, of the stock of spare engines, and of those undergoing repair.  At this station every train changes its engine, so that from this circumstance alone, at least twice as many engines are kept here as at any other part of the line.

(Bourne, 1846)


By 1842, GWR and two other railways owned by the company had over 170 miles of line and in that year, conveyed 869, 444 passengers without a single casualty.


Great Western Railway Map

Great Western Railway Map

This fantastic map from our Eynsham Park Estate archive shows the

Detail of the Great Western Railway Map showing lines near Reading

Detail of the Great Western Railway Map showing lines near Reading

success of GWR roughly sixty-eight years later.  Lithographed by the well-respected W. & A.K. Johnston Ltd, and designed to be hung on the wall, the map highlights the reach of the GWR across the South of England with the red lines indicating GWR’s main lines, branch lines and running powers.


Great Western Railway Ticket designed by De la Rue.

Great Western Railway Ticket designed by De la Rue.

Our archives hold a number of other fascinating pieces of GWR ephemera including some beautiful photographs of Reading Station (c.1880 – 1930s), portraits of Railway Workers, and this lovely blank specimen of a season ticket printed by De la Rue c.1930.





  a work of mechanical art represents the united efforts of many generations

(Bourne, 1846)

Bridge Over the River Avon (Bourne, 1846)

Bridge Over the River Avon (Bourne, 1846)

You can find more on the Great Western Railway from our collections here  and information on accessing our archives here.







Sources and further reading:

Bailey, M. R. (2006) Briefing: I. K. Brunel: Engineer of the Great Western Railway. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Transport 2006 159:2, 57-61

Bourne, J. C. (1846) The History and Description of the Great Western Railway. London: David Bogue [Reserve Large Folio 47 – Available upon request]

Daniel, John (2013) Great Western history, 1835 – 1892.

Trueman, C.N. (2016) Trains 1830 To 1900.

Travel Thursday: Captain Cook and H.M.S Endeavour

Written By Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

This month sees the anniversary of the first European ship landing in Eastern Australia. Led by

H.M.S. Endeavour

H.M.S. Endeavour

British explorer, James Cook, the crew of the H.M.S. Endeavour reached Botany Bay at the end of April 1770.

The Special Collections Library has a number of volumes on the voyages of Captain Cook but the narrative in “An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of his Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere and Successfully performed by Commodore Bryon, Captain Carteret, Captain Wallis and Captain Cook in the Dolphin, the Swallow and the Endeavour,” by John Hawkesworth (1773), is perhaps one of the most detailed.  The reason for this is clearly explained by Hawkesworth himself in the preface to volume II:

The papers of Captain Cook contained a very particular account of all the nautical incidents of the voyage, and a very minute description of the figure and extent of the countries he visited […] But in the papers of Mr. Banks, I found a great variety of incidents which had not come under the notice of Captain Cook…

Mr. Banks, or Sir Joseph Banks, was an explorer, naturalist and president of the Royal Society who accompanied Cook as the lead scientist on the voyage.  Hawkesworth combines the journals of both Cook and Banks to give a thorough and detailed survey of the journey.

As the first scientific expedition to the Pacific (Villiers, 2016) the voyage had set out with two main goals; the first was to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun on 3 June 1769 at Otaheite (Tahiti):

The whole passage of the planet Venus over the Sun’s disk was observed with great advantage by Mr Green, Dr Solander, and myself.

The second aim was to find the theoretical southern continent ‘Terra Australis’.   So, on leaving Tahiti,

Map of Botany Bay

Map of Botany Bay

Cook opted for a route divergent to his predecessors, sailing south and southwest, (Villiers, 2016), a decision which led him to the discovery of New Zealand.  He and his crew spent several months exploring and charting the island before sailing on to Australia, where they made their first landing at Botany Bay:

The place the ship had anchored was abreast of a small village, consisting of about six or eight houses […] we intended to land where we saw the people, and began to hope that as they had so little regarded the ship’s coming into the bay, they would as little regard our coming on shore: in this however, we were disappointed; for as soon as we approached the rocks, two of the men came down upon them to dispute our landing, and the rest ran away.

They stayed at Botany Bay for eight days, and despite several brief encounters, the Captain and his crew were unable to make significant contact with the Aboriginal people, who were unsettled by the new arrivals, often throwing lances at the crew or running away in fear:

A lance was immediately thrown at him out of the wood, which narrowly missed him.  When the Indians saw that the weapon had not taken effect, they ran away.

Although Cook and his crew were unable to form any fruitful relationships with the people they encountered on this occasion, Mr Banks and his assistant, Dr. Solander, a Swedish botanist, were able to collect a wealth of botanical materials, earning the Bay its name:

The great quantity of plants which Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander collected in this place induced me to give it the name of BOTANY BAY.

The Special Collections Library holds a copy of ‘Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook’s Voyage Round the World in H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR in 1768-71’ by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Daniel Solander, (1900).  The two part work contains beautiful engravings of a number of plant specimens, including some of those Banks and Solander found at Botany Bay:

Plants collected by Banks and Solander at Botany Bay

Plants collected by Banks and Solander at Botany Bay

The success of the expedition for Sir Joseph Banks and his team helped to establish the tradition of sending scientists on naval voyages and inspired interest not only in the discovery of new lands but in the possibility of new discoveries in science, (Villiers, 2016).

Following this journey, Cook continued his epic sea voyages, his explorations eventually showing that, “a real Terra Australis existed only in the landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, and whatever land might remain frozen beyond the ice rim of Antarctica,” (Villiers, 2016).



Hawkesworth, J. (1773) An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of his Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere and Successfully performed by Commodore Bryon, Captain Carteret, Captain Wallis and Captain Cook in the Dolphin, the Swallow and the Endeavour. [Overstone Shelf 26 E – Available on request]

Banks, J., Solander, D (1900) Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook’s Voyage Round the World in H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR in 1768-71’ [Reserve Middle Folio 581.944 BAN – Available on request]

Alan John Villiers (2016) James Cook. Britannica Academic. Available from:

Sir Joseph Banks 2016. Britannica Academic. Retrieved 27 April, 2016, from

Travel Thursday – A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

IMG_9551‘A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter A.D. 1697’ was written by Henry Maundrell, a Church of England clergyman and chaplain to the Levant Company’s factory at Aleppo in Turkey.  Maundrell went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1697 and the journal he produced on his journey is described as being a ‘minor classic’ (Howell, 1964) in the world of travel writing.  Originally published in 1703 it reached its twelfth edition by 1810 and was translated into three different languages (Butlin, 2004).

The success of this particular travelogue is attributed to the precise, detailed and factual accounts given by Maundrell.  Howell (1964) describes this style of writing as being like that of, “a fine reporter, detached, cool and observant.”  Amusingly, in the preface to his uncle, Maundrell himself describes his style as ‘dry’, ‘tedious’ and ‘nauseous’; apologising for it profusely:

When you are tired with reading it, you may support your Patience as we did in Travelling it over, by considering, that what you are about is a Pilgrimage; that you need go it but once.

Despite Maundrell’s humility and reluctance to publish his work, his friends realised its potential and were able to persuade him otherwise.  Maundrell intended to submit the work with some corrections and amendments but by the time these arrived in Oxford, the first edition was almost complete.  Later editions, such as our sixth edition copy, printed in 1740, do however, contain the additions.

Temple of Baalbek

Temple of Baalbek

Maundrell’s observant and detached style is easy to illustrate, take this example from his description of the Temple of Baalbek in Lebanon:

The Body of the Temple, which now stands, is encompassed with a noble Portico, supported by Pillars of the Corinthian Order, measuring six foot and three inches in diameter, and about forty five foot in height, consisting all of three Stones a piece.

The detail with which Maundrell describes the Latin Easter in Jerusalem is equally staggering and moreover, provides a fascinating insight into the festival in 1697.  Confined to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Mount Calvary for three days, Maundrell explores every inch of the building, describing everything from the history, to the thirteen sanctuaries dedicated to the life of Christ and the various apartments for the reception of “almost every Christian Nation.”

The ceremonies begin on Good Friday (Nox tenebrosa) with a solemn procession around the church.  This begins in the dark with a sermon in Italian, then candles are lit and a large crucifix, “which bore upon it the Image of our Lord, as big as life[…]was carried all along in the head of the procession; after which the company follow’d to all the sanctuaries in the church, singing their appointed Hymn at every one.” This is followed by a symbolic re-enactment of the crucifixion and burial of Christ and a final funeral sermon in Arabic.

On Saturday Maundrell provides an interesting commentary on the pilgrims who have their, “arms mark’d with the usual ensigns of Jerusalem,” giving a detailed description of the tattoo process involving needles and ink made from gunpowder and ox-gall.

Finally, Easter Sunday was celebrated with a mass led by the ‘Father Guardian’ who was adorned in episcopal robes and mitre.  Maundrell (a little cheekily) suggests that the joy the Friars display on Easter morning perhaps has a little more to do with the end of Lent than their celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

Although Maundrell can be critical of the places and customs he describes, his writing is often witty and well informed,  it was valued by later travellers and moreover, remains an important account of the, “the life and landscapes of Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine” (Butlin, 2004) for today’s writers, travellers and historians.



 When you come therefore to any such Nauseous places in this Journal, you may please to pass them over with that Contempt which they deserve, but nevertheless with some indulgence to the Writer of them; for if this Vanity may be ever tolerated, Travellers are the Men who have the best claim to that Favour.


Maundrell, H (1740) A Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter A.D. 1697. Oxford: Peisley & Meadows [Available on request – Overstone 27/c]

Howell, D (1964) The Journey Of Henry Maundrell. Saudi Aramco World. Available via:

Butlin, R.A. (2004) ‘Maundrell, Henry (bap. 1665, d. 1701)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. [, Accessed 23 March 2016]

The Edinburgh Imperial Atlas: Ancient and Modern

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

The Edinburgh Imperial Atlas

The Edinburgh Imperial Atlas


The ‘Edinburgh Imperial Atlas: Ancient and Modern’ (1859) [Overstone – shelf large 34I/10] is a beautiful collection of maps developed from, what the publishers Gall and Inglis describe as, ‘The Best Authorities.’  Unfortunately, very little information is given as to who these authorities may be or which dates the historical maps reflect– indeed only two are named: Gerard Mercator and Strabo.


Strabo (c.64BCE – 21 CE) was a Greek geographer and historian whose work ‘Geography’ diligently describes “the whole range of peoples and countries known to both Greeks and Romans during the reign of Augustus,”(Lasserre.)   Strabo drew on his own travel experiences as well as the first-hand accounts of explorers such as Polybius and Poseidonius, and earlier geographers including, Artemidorus, whose book describing a voyage around the world provided Strabo, “with a description of the coasts and thus of the shape and size of countries,” (Lasserre).

Strabo's Map of the World

Strabo’s Map of the World

Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) was a Flemish cartographer who not only introduced the term ‘atlas’ for a collection of maps but also created “one of the most influential depictions of the globe,” (Molloy, 2015), in 1569, known as the ‘Mercator Projection’.   The map is often still used today; even Google Maps uses a close variant! (Molloy, 2015)

The Mercator Projection

The Mercator Projection

Mercator’s projection was highly useful for sailors and widely used for navigation charts as, “any straight line on a Mercator-projection map is a line of constant true bearing that enables a navigator to plot a straight-line course,” (Britannica.)  However, while the map is an excellent navigational tool, the inaccurate scale of various landmasses make it less helpful as a general map of the world. For example, Greenland is particularly distorted, appearing to be larger in size than South America or Africa. (Molloy, 2015; Britannica)

Although the remaining maps are without their creator’s name tags, they are beautifully rendered and contain a fascinating insight to the historical geography of the time.  I particularly love the details on this map which show the longest rivers and tallest mountains in the Western Hemisphere:

The longest rivers and tallest mountains in the western hemisphere.

The longest rivers and tallest mountains in the western hemisphere.

Based on this newspaper clipping from ‘The Glasgow Herald’ in December 1851, an earlier edition of the ‘Edinburgh Imperial Atlas’ was marketed as an educational resource.  These comparative maps of

The Glasgow Herald -December 1851

The Glasgow Herald -December 1851

ancient and modern geography were first compiled for classroom use by French Jesuit Phillipe Briet in

the mid-seventeenth century (Goffart, 2003.)  They usually mirrored the a Ptolemaic prototype, following the ancient map-makers’ focus on showing the outlines of different regions rather than providing glimpses of historical moments, (Goffart, 2003.)  The ‘Edinburgh Imperial Atlas’ is no different with regions being highlighted with beautiful hand-colouring.

Colouring of English counties

Colouring of English counties

A particularly interesting feature of the colouring of this Atlas is the

effect of the pale green colour on the paper.  Below is the reverse side of the map displaying Strabo’s view of the world.  This effect is caused by oxidation of the copper acetate used to create the green pigment

‘verdegris’ (Greek Green) and is usually a sign that the colouring is original and was applied when the map was printed. (Meijer, 2008)

The reverse of Strabo's map

The reverse of Strabo’s map


In his creation of a special collection of ancient maps in the late sixteenth century, cartographer Abraham Ortelius declared,“historiae oculus geographia, “geography (is) the eye of history,”” (Goffart, 2003) and in collections such as the ‘Edinburgh Imperial Atlas’ it is certainly possible to see the historical development of our understanding of the shape of our world.


Sources and Further Reading:

Goffart, Walter. Historical Atlases : The First Three Hundred Years, 1570-1870. Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press, 2003. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 2 March 2016.

Lasserre François –  Britannica: Strabo

The Glasgow Herald – 22 December 1851

The Edinburgh Imperial Atlas – digitisation

Britannica: Mercator Projection

Molloy, Antonia (2015) Gerardus Mercator: 3 ways influential cartographer changed the way we look at the world 

Meijer,  Boudewijn (2008) Antique Maps – Recognising the difference between old and modern colouring 

Baynton-Williams, Roger., Colouring on Antique Maps

Travel Thursday – Hungary and Transylvania

John Paget

John Paget

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Born in Leicestershire in 1808, John Paget studied medicine at Edinburgh University before travelling extensively on the continent (Czigány).  His travelogue, ‘Hungary and Transylvania: with remarks on their Condition, Social, Political and Economical’ published in 1839 was formed from his visits to the region during 1835-36 and was illustrated by George Hering, an artist who accompanied him on his journey.

The travelogue provides a plethora of careful insights, humorous accounts and details of historic interest.  It is considered to be of great cultural importance and achieved particular prominence during the Hungarian War of independence in 1848-9 where it was consulted as a reliable source of background information on the country (Czigány).  Indeed, Paget promises in his preface to the work to give an accurate picture of the countries he describes:

I know there are those who think, that “to write up a country,” a traveller should describe everything in its most favourable light; I am not of that opinion, -I do believe that a false impression can ever effect any lasting good.

And there is plenty of evidence that he held to his oath.  He holds nothing back, for example, when describing the poor social behaviour of some guests at a dinner party in Presburg :

a well-polished floor, on which, I am sorry to say, I observed more than one of the guests very unceremoniously expectorate.

Map of Hungary and Transylvania

Map of Hungary and Transylvania

While Paget gives the usual details of landscapes and buildings, he is very much a natural storyteller.  His writing is engaging, imaginative and beautifully descriptive; this passage evokes a sunset over the plains of Puszta–

It is just as the bright orb has disappeared below the level of the horizon; while yet some red tints, like glow-worm traces, mark the pathway he has followed; just when the busy hum of insects is hushed as by a charm…

Although he commended Hering for capturing “whatever might be distinctive, or curious, or beautiful,” on their journey, Paget’s writing is equally captivating – never more so than when he is recounting some of the myths and legends of the

Castle Csejta

Castle Csejta

region (sadly, nothing to do with Vampires).  For example, he recounts a gruesome true story on visiting Castle Csejta; describing the horrendous murders committed by Elizabeth Báthori in 1610.  Believing that bathing in a maiden’s blood would grant her eternal life, “no less than three hundred maidens were sacrificed at the shrine of vanity and superstition” with Elizabeth luring them through a secret passageway from the castle to the cottage of her two accomplices.

Paget’s describes his encounters with the local people with equal animation, honesty and a little bit of sarcastic wit; such as the old man posing for Hering, who, “allowed a limb to be replaced in its former position, when accidentally moved [… ] though he did not seem to have the slightest idea of what was going on,” Or his

Baths of Sliács

Baths of Sliács

experience at the baths of  Sliács, near Neusohl:

but conceive my horror, precise reader, when some very pretty ladies quietly informed me that they took their second bath in the evening and hoped I would join them!

(And join them he did, once he was properly supplied with an appropriate bathing-dress –  “I do assure you delicate reader, that, as far as I could see, nothing occurred that could shock anyone.”)

Paget later married a Hungarian Baroness, Polyxena Wesselényi, the estranged wife of a Hungarian magnate, Baron László Bánffy, and lived with his family in Transylvania at Gyéres.  He was granted Hungarian citizenship in 1847. Paget became a keen agriculturist and focused his efforts on improving his wife’s estate by applying new agricultural methods and using modern machinery: “A regular visitor to, and adjudicator at, international agricultural fairs, in 1878 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur at the World Exhibition in Paris,” (Czigány).


Sources and Further Reading:

Paget, J. (1839) Hungary and Transylvania. With remarks on their Condition, Social, Political and Economical. London: John Murray. [Available on request – Overstone 27A/13]

Lóránt Czigány, ‘Paget, John (1808–1892)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 [, accessed 17 Feb 2016]

John Paget Biographies

Diary of John Paget

Travel Thursday – The Voyages of the Alceste

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

This week’s Travel Thursday follows the voyages of the ship Alceste as recounted by the ship’s surgeon,

Captain Maxwell

Captain Maxwell

John McLeod in his ‘Voyage of His Majesty’s Ship Alceste to China, Corea, and the Island of Lewchew with an account of her shipwreck’ (3rd ed, 1820) [Reserve 915.1].  Under the command of Captain Murray Maxwell, the Alceste was one of the first British vessels to visit Okinawa Island (Lewchew), the largest of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

The purpose of the voyage was to transport Ambassador, Lord Amherst to the court of the Chinese Emperor at Peking, in an attempt to open trade with China.  The Alceste sailed in 1816, travelling via Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope to China.  Once the Ambassador and his delegation had disembarked, the Captain and crew continued on to explore the region.

Unfortunately, their visits were not always welcomed by the local people, particularly off the West coast of Korea:  “The natives here exhibited, by signs and gestures, the greatest aversion to the landing of a party of ships, making cut throat motions by drawing their

Chart showing the track and discoveries of the Alceste

Chart showing the track and discoveries of the Alceste

hands across their necks and pushing the boats away from the beach.”

It seems as though the Korean people had been forbidden from welcoming strangers to their shores, for when the crew did make land, a chief they had befriended at sea,”clasped his hands in mournful silence; at last bursting into a fit of crying” then seemed to “intimate that in four days […] he should lose his head’’ and refused to welcome them beyond the beach.

They had a more friendly reception on the Island of Lewchew (Okinawa) where, after a cautious introduction, some officers were invited ashore and hospitably entertained, “Many loyal and friendly toasts, applicable to both countries were given and drank with enthusiasm.”

The crew spent several months with the island people, learning about their language, customs and traditions.  McLeod reports for example on the nature of their dance: “The mode of dancing of these people may, strictly speaking, be termed hopping” but the crew did their best to join in forming “a grotesque assembly”.

'Lewchewan' Chief

‘Lewchewan’ Chief

The surgeon also reports on the medical practices of the islanders, noting that when Captain Maxwell injured his finger, the island people were keen to help, sending for one of their surgical professors…“The injury having being examined […] a fowl was killed with much form, and skinned, and a composition of flour and eggs, with some warm ingredients about the consistence of dough, was put around the fractured part, (Which had the effect of retaining it in its position) and the whole enclosed in the skin of the fowl.”

One of the happiest occasions occurred on 25th October when the people came together to celebrate the anniversary of the coronation of George III.  The islanders, “sent on board the ship a great number of coloured paper lanterns, for the purpose of illuminating her at night, in honour of our King.” McLeod states that the day was so remarkable that it would, “often be recalled with delight by all who witnessed the pleasing scene of two people […] harmoniously united in hearty good will and convivial friendship.”

Shortly after, the Alceste left the island and returned to China to collect Lord Amherst, whose delegation had been an unfortunate failure.  From there, the crew’s return journey was fraught with a number of difficulties; not only were they shipwrecked and

Fort Maxwell - the fort built after the Alceste was shipwrecked, named for her captain.

Fort Maxwell – the fort built after the Alceste was shipwrecked, named for her captain.

attacked by ferocious Malay pirates but their rescue ship, the Caesar, also caught fire!

The voyage home further saw the arrival of two interesting passengers when they made port at Batavia, “a snake of that species called Boa Constrictor; the other an Ourang-Outang.”  McLeod recounts the occasion of them feeding the snake a goat with great fascination, explaining that, “the whole operation of completely gorging the goat occupied about two hours and twenty minutes.”  The ship’s officers also encountered Napoleon Buonaparte at St Helen’s.  Of the French military officer, McLeod states: “Whatever may be his general habit, he can behave himself very prettily if he pleases.”

The crew finally reached home in the autumn of 1817 after a journey of twenty months (Beijing Center).  McLeod published his account of the voyage shortly after his return; a popular work, second and third editions were later released in 1819 and 1820 respectively, (Beijing Center).



Beijing Center – Voyage of His Majesty’s Ship Alceste

Office of the Historian – Lew Chew

Naval Military Press