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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Maps as Travel Writing

Maps, Antiquarian Maps
This detail from the Spitsbergen map, above, shows the Seamorce, or walrus.
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Antiquarian Maps as Travel Writing

Seamorse

Thinking more about the stories antiquarian maps tell. This map of Spitsbergen, 1625, is illustrated with scenes of whaling as well as bear and walrus hunting. The detail below shows one of the illustrations--a Seamorce, or, as we would say, a walrus.

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Book Review: Greater Nowheres

Greater Nowheres: A Journey Through the Australian Bush
By Dave Finkelstein and Jack London. Foreword by Philip Caputo. Harper & Row, 1988, 313 pp.

The challenge of traveling in the Australian bush is written in the names of its locations: “Skeleton Point,” “Disaster Bay,” “Foul Point,” “Disappointment Bight,” “Useless Loop,” “Point Torment.” Inhabited by lethal snakes and insects, afflicted by weatherly extremes, endowed with a landscape typically described as desolate, bleak, and stark, and so underpopulated that the unprepared traveler risks dying unaided, Australia’s vast Outback is not a destination for the frivolous tourist.

Undaunted by the challenge, Dave Finkelstein and Jack London, two “middle-aged dropouts”—the first a former lawyer and China specialist turned sometime journalist, the second a former college instructor turned fisherman—set out to tour the bush.  Read More 

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Antiquarian Maps

Barentsz map

I've just returned from the Miami Map Fair, and I've been thinking about how antiquarian maps, which are based on journeys, represent a pictorial kind of travel writing.

This is the so-called "Barentsz map" of the arctic. It's a beautiful map--my favorite in my husband's extensive arctic collection. (I especially love the sea monsters.)

This map is claimed to be based on charts drawn by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, containing information gained from his three voyages to the north in 1594, 1595, and 1596-7 in search of the Northeast Passage. In the last of these voyages, Barentsz and his crew were trapped in the ice and forced to overwinter in Novaya Zemlya, where they fought off polar bears and struggled to survive. In the long retreat south in the spring, Barentsz died.

There are powerful stories in these old maps.
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