Travel Thursday – Taunt and the Thames

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

Taunt on his Boat House

Taunt on his Boat House

This week’s Travel Thursday focuses on adventure a little closer to home, with Henry Taunt’s ‘New Map of the River Thames’ (c.1878)  [Reserve 914.22 TAU]

An Oxford-based photographer, Taunt won great acclaim for the high quality and technical skill displayed in his work, and his photographs, sketches and maps helped to transform, ‘the popularity of the Thames during the Victorian era.’ (In the Boat Shed).

Sometime resident on the river, Taunt could often be spotted ‘in his nautical garb and yachting cap’ (Oxfordshire Blue Plaques) and was known to expertly capture the people and places along the river, providing, ‘an excellent record of late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, and town and rural life.’ (National Archives).

Book cover: Taunt's new Map of the Thames

Book cover: Taunt’s new Map of the Thames

Taunt’s ‘New Map of the River Thames’ of which we hold the 5th edition, was described by Taunt as a guide, ‘giving every information required by the tourist, the oarsman and the angler.’ Indeed it contains a wealth of insights into the canals and towns along the Thames during the late nineteenth century, including lock tolls and timetables, charts of distances along the canals, navigation advice, and even tips on preparing a water-tight sheet, (some good duck, boiled linseed oil and strong sewing skills required!)

Each place of note along the river is given a carefully sketched map alongside photographs of sites you may see along the way. This sketch of Reading for example, includes photographs of Caversham, Hardwicke House and Mapledurham.

Map of the Thames at Reading.

Map of the Thames at Reading.

The maps are accompanied by a description of some of the main tourist sites in each place. For Reading, Taunt, of course mentions the famous Huntley and Palmers’ biscuit factory, adding that you can pay it a visit, ‘by order obtained on application.’ However, he states that the greatest attractions by far are the Abbey ruins and the Forbury pleasure gardens. Taunt explains their long history and points to the unusual formation ‘of the “Queen’s Head” […] made by the combination of some of the broken walls seen through an opening in them.’ The ruins he declares, ‘form a

charming resting-place if a little time to spare in Reading.’

Father Thames Sketch

Father Thames Sketch

The advertising pages included at the front and back of the book are equally interesting. For example, you could visit ‘Lovejoy’s Library’ apparently the, ‘Largest Provincial Library in the Kingdom’ run by a Miss Langley on London Street in Reading or you could hire a boat from Arthur Henry East at the Kennet’s Mouth if you fancied trying out some of the routes sketched in the guide.

Meanwhile, the adverts at the front of the book boast the talents of Taunt himself, one giving a delightful sketch of his shop on Broad Street, Oxford while another features a fun cartoon of Taunt photographing an anthropomorphised ‘Father Thames’.

As a result of his fantastic survey and mapping of the River Thames, Taunt was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, (Oxfordshire Blue Plaques) and he is credited with sparking, ‘a national love affair with the river that remains to this day,’ (In the Boat Shed).



In the Boat Shed

National Archives

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques

Travel Thursday – Egypt and Nubia

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

David Roberts Series

David Roberts Series

This Travel Thursday post features the masterful landscape illustrations of Scottish painter and traveller, David Roberts. Presented in six volumes, both ‘The Holy Land’ and ‘Egypt and Nubia’ [OVERSTONE–SHELF LARGE 34I/07] were published between 1842 and 1849 by F.G. Moon. These hefty tomes contain detailed drawings alongside historical descriptions of various sites of interest in the Middle East. The prints, created by Louis Haghe, a prolific and renowned lithographer,  have “come to be regarded as the chef d’oeuvre of the tinted lithograph,” (Price).

In the early 19th Century, travel was both difficult and expensive so few people were able to venture beyond their own towns and while photography was beginning to develop, “printed books of landscape and travel drawings were for most people their only window to the outside world,” (Medina Arts).

Portico of the Temple of Edfou - Upper Egypt

Portico of the Temple of Edfou – Upper Egypt

However, even the artists creating such drawings tended to rely on inaccurate or incomplete descriptions from travellers when composing their landscapes of foreign locations. Roberts was one of the first professional artists to visit the Middle East and compose his landscapes ‘on the spot’. He believed that, “there would be a great market in England and Europe for images of such exotic subjects,” (Medina Arts) and with subscribers to his work including Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicholas 1 of Russia– Roberts was proved correct. His works continue to have importance today, giving a glimpse into monuments unseen by many and preserving some views that have been lost to time forever.

Setting out in 1838, Roberts sailed from Alexandria and travelled for eleven months up the Nile River, through Egypt and the Holy Land, recording “his impressions of landscapes, temples, ruins, and people in three sketchbooks and more than 272 watercolors,” (Metropolitan Museum). He also kept a journal of his travels, sections of which are quoted in the historical descriptions written by Reverend George Croly in the published volumes:

Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel

Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel

The ‘Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel’, which represent Rameses II, are described by Croly as being, “the most beautiful colossi yet found in any of the Egyptian ruins,” and he notes the vitriol Roberts showed in his journal toward the, “contemptable relic-hunters, who have been led by their vanity to smear their vulgar names on the very foreheads of the Egyptian deities.”

The height of these enormous statutes is recorded at over fifty-one feet yet despite their size, Roberts affords them minute and careful detail in his artwork. It is therefore no wonder that leading English art critic, John Ruskin is quoted as saying that Roberts’ drawings, “make “true portraiture of scenes of historical and religious interest. They are faithful and laborious beyond any outlines from nature I have ever seen,” (Metropolitan Museum).

However, it is perhaps clear that Roberts was motivated to produce such beautiful drawings as he was inspired by the beauty of the landscapes and objects themselves. In the description accompanying his drawing of the ‘Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak’ he is quoted as saying:

Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak

Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak

It is only […] on coming near that you are overwhelmed with astonishment: you must be under these stupendous masses – you must look […] to them, and walk around them – before you can feel that neither language nor painting can convey a just idea of the emotions they excite.

Indeed the introductory text to the collection celebrates the fact that, thanks to the efforts of previous explorers, “a visit to the Nile is not an adventure but an excursion.” The world of the Middle East had become more accessible and a journey there was more than worth the effort:

A voyage from Alexandria to Wady Halfa, will reward the traveller, by the emotions which the scenes and objects will excite, far beyond any power of promise.



Sources and Further Reading:

Metropolitan Museum

Medina Arts

David Walker Price

Thornton’s Books

BBC – David Roberts

David Brass Rare Books

Travel Thursday: Farthest North

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

In honour of Christmas and the annual travels of Santa Claus, this week’s Travel Thursday features an expedition to the North Pole!


The explorer in question is Fridtjof Nansen; scientist, adventurer and humanitarian who was awarded

Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen

the Noble Peace Prize in 1922.  Having previously survived a dangerous trek across the uncharted interior of Greenland in 1888, Nansen was keen to further explore the arctic regions and set out in 1893

with his strong and cleverly designed ship the ‘Fram’.  Sailing into the ice pack off Siberia, the Fram re-emerged 35 months later without its lead explorer.

Intending to reach the North Pole, Nansen and one companion had departed from the crew with, “thirty days’ rations for twenty-eight dogs, three sledges, two kayaks, and a hundred days’ rations for themselves,” (The Nobel Foundation, 1922).   Although they covered only 140 of the 400 miles to the Pole, they reached closer than anyone had previous achieved.

The two volume, “Farthest North : being the record of a voyage of exploration of

Arctic Landscape Painting by Nansen

Arctic Landscape Painting by Nansen

the ship “Fram” 1893-96 and of a fifteen months’ sleigh journey”, published in 1897 features Nansen’s personal diary of the journey, alongside his beautiful sketches of the landscapes and events along the way.


Nansen’s journal provides a fascinating insight to life in the far north, including descriptions of the beautiful aurora borealis, dangerous encounters with polar bears and a slightly more humorous first attempt at driving a dog sledge:


Having harnessed the dogs to the Samoyede sledge, the animals promptly took off at lightning speed and ran dizzying rings around the ship.


Nansen's sketch of his first sledge ride.

Nansen’s sketch of his first sledge ride.

I got out and tried to hold the sledge back, but was pulled off my feet and dragged merrily over the ice in my smooth sealskin breeches, on back, stomach, side, just as it happened.

In the end, Nansen loses the sledge seat, his whip, gloves, cap and his temper…not to mention his dignity…

I inwardly congratulated myself that my feats had been unobserved.




On Christmas Day, Monday 25th December, Nansen records a chilly temperature of -36 °F (-38 °C) and recounts how he took a beautiful moonlit walk – only to have his leg go straight through a crack in the ice -completely soaking him.  However, his Christmas dinner more than made up for the accident:

Christmas Dinner Menu

He ended his Christmas, with some card-playing, reading books and…

then a good sound sleep-what more could one wish?



Nansen, F (1897) Farthest North. Westminster : Archibald Constable

[Available on request from Special Collections – RESERVE–919.8-NAN Vol.1 & Vol.2]

The Nobel Foundation 1922

Travel Thursday: John Arrowsmith

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Born in 1790 in County Durham, John Arrowsmith moved to London at the age of 20 to work under the tutelage of his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith, a cartographer known for his outstanding accuracy.  Having learned the arts of map making, engraving, and printing, Arrowsmith set up his own business in 1824 and ten years later established his reputation with the ‘London Atlas of Universal Geography’.

A beautiful tome, hand-coloured and created with original materials, ‘The London Atlas’ was considered to be the best large scale atlas available at that time.  Below is a 1842 edition, which was designed with useful tabbed pages:


London Atlas Photo 25-11-2015, 16 42 18 (1)










The original atlas consisted of 50 plates of maps but Arrowsmith regularly added to the collection and as such there is no firm collation for any edition.  However, this does mean that the later editions are especially important as they include a greater number of maps, particularly of countries such as Australia.

Map of Australia (1835 edition)

Map of Australia (1835 edition)

Map of Australia (1842 edition)

Map of Australia (1842 edition)












In ‘The London Atlas’ Arrowsmith states that in the creation of the atlas he examined more than ‘ten thousand sheets of printed maps’, gained insights from surveys and also drew on the knowledge of travellers who ‘were particularly acquainted with the districts.’  Indeed, Arrowsmith was friend to a number of explorers and was often responsible for converting their sketched out drawings and surveys into more accurate maps.  This example from Livingstone’s ‘Narrative of the Expedition to the Zambesi’ shows a map created by Arrowsmith in 1865 that was based n the ‘Astronomical observations and skecthes’ of the explorer:

Photo 07-12-2015, 14 37 17

The explorers showed their appreciation of his work by naming after him mountains, plains, and lakes in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

(Baigent, 2004)

In 1830, Arrowsmith helped found the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded the society’s Patron Medal in 1862 for his outstanding contributions to the field.




Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Arrowsmith, John (1790–1873)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 7 Dec 2015]

Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Arrowsmith, Aaron, the elder (1750–1823)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 7 Dec 2015]

Arrowsmith’s Australian Maps

Crouch Rare Books

Travel Thursday: Wish you were here…

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

This week’s Travel Thursday feature focuses on postcards and in particular, the postcards in our John Lewis Printing Collection (Group XII 2)

postcard box

An early form of postcards were in circulation from the middle of the eighteenth century and the introduction of the penny postage stamp in 1840 made mail delivery easier and more affordable in Britain but it wasn’t until 1870 that the first official, plain postcard was issued by the Post Office, selling over 500,000 on its first day!

One Penny Stamp

One Penny Stamp

However a number of restrictions slowed the rise of the picture postcard in Britain and it wasn’t until the 1890s that regulations relaxed and privately published cards could be sent via the Post Office.  By 1902 the popularity of postcards was soaring and the British Post Office were the first to introduce the postcard design we are familiar with today; splitting one side for address and written message while leaving the other side free for illustration or photographs.



The postcards collected in our John Lewis Printing Collection span the globe, with images from New York, to Rouen to Cairo:

New York, Cairo, Rouen

New York, Cairo, Rouen

And although not technically postcards this little collection of photographs from Oxford are stunning:


The majority of postcards in the John Lewis Printing Collection were not intended for use and as such were never sent. However, we do have a couple of messages dating from the early 1900s:


Don’t you like the look of the lonely thatched cottage? I wish it was mine!


I have been awfully busy, will visit you from Colorado when all the rough weather will be over I hope.


Arrived safely on June 17th am leaving again July 14th. I trust you are well


While the postcard may have enjoyed its heyday in the first two decades of the twentieth century, they are still a highly collectable item.  Developments in digital photography and advances in communications technology have  superseeded this older method of sending greetings but postcards remain available for sale in many tourist destinations around the world, perhaps proving that, for holiday purposes, postcards remain a fun way to share a ‘I wish you were here…’



Brady, T.J. 1969, POSTCARDS AND HISTORY, History Today Ltd, London.

Art History Archive: The History of Postcards

Postcard Pages

Visit the Past: History of the Postcard

Travel Thursday – Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

On alternate Thursdays for the next few months we will be exploring some of UMASCS collections’ fascinating atlases, maps and travel journals.

To start us off, I present ‘Coxe’s Travels’, a three-volume journal account of ‘Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark.’

Book spine

Coxe’s Travels – Reserve Folio 914.8 COX

The author, William Coxe, a historian and Church of England clergyman, who was born in London on 6 March 1748, travelled frequently during the period of 1775 – 1788. His first trip, with the future eleventh earl of Pembroke, took place from 1775-1779 and formed the basis of this particular travel journal. Coxe is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as being:

…of medium height, erect and active, and was known for his genial character. In later years he became stout, and his love of good food was well known among his friends.


The books feature beautiful maps of each country, such as this one of Norway, alongside some interesting insights into local culture:


Wilf, a native of Norway, informs us, that the gentry and inhabitants of the principal towns, allowing for a few provincial expressions, speak purer Danish than is usual even in Denmark, not excepting Copenhagen… – p133

…many of the peasants pretend to be descended from the ancient nobles, and some even from the royal line: they greatly pride themselves upon this supposed descent…  – p134

In his ‘Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark’ Coxe also comments on such diverse things as geographical features, population statistics, royal families, tombs, and chance encounters… one such tale tells of the dangers of travel but also the kindness of strangers:


On September 11 – Having narrowly missed overturning their transport, Coxe and his companion arrive at their destination after midnight to find that the town of Fossum is only a small collection of villages with no obvious place for them to rest. Taking a chance, they knock at the nearest door and are happily received and welcomed by the inspector of the cobalt works nearby:

the gentleman, who had so kindly received us at so undue an hour, and without the least of previous acquaintance, was Mr Bornstein, a native of Germany, lately appointed inspector of the cobalt-works. – p164


Of course, Coxe does not neglect the rare books he finds on his travels, noting, “a most beautiful Cicero’s Rhetoric on Vellum, and a no less beautiful Virgil on vellum, of the eleventh century,” that he finds in the King’s Libraries in Copenhagen.


Volume II and volume III of this 1790 edition of Coxe’s work are located in our Store at Reserve Folio 914.8 COX. A later 5th edition of five volumes is located in our Store at OVERSTONE–SHELF 24E/3 1. Both are available upon request.



Knight, Jeremy. “Coxe, William (1748–1828).” Jeremy Knight In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, May 2009. (accessed November 5, 2015).