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.’
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. http://www.oxforddnb.com.idpproxy.reading.ac.uk/view/article/6540 (accessed November 5, 2015).