A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922
The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a remarkable 18th-century history of the Age of Discovery, featuring abundant maps, charts and illustrations, and a dramatic 19th-century work about an around-the-world excursion, which was written by the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe.
A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1745)
This four-volume tour de force details nearly all aspects of the Age of Discovery. Its subtitle proclaims it to include:
every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, with respect to the several Empires, Kingdoms, and Provinces; their situation, extent, bounds and division, climate, soil and produce; their lakes, rivers, mountains, cities, principal towns, harbors, buildings, &c. and the gradual alterations that from Time to Time have happened in each: also the manners and customs of the several inhabitants; their religion and government, arts and sciences, trades and manufactures; so as to form a complete system of modern geography and history, exhibiting the present state of all nations…
The work introduces the Age of Discovery through the explorations of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Ferdinand Magellan:
But no sooner had Columbus demonstrated, by the quick Discovery of the West Indies in 1492, that the Ocean might contain many Continents and Islands, unknown to the Europeans, than all were of a sudden seized with a violent Desire of making Discoveries; and seemed ready to abandon their native Countries in Quest of new Worlds. Our Henry VIII, who had so lately but coldly received the Petition of that Father of Navigation, now readily listened to the Proposal of John Cabot, for attempting a Way to the East Indies by the North-west; and the Portuguese, ashamed to have been lingering near fourscore Years, without getting beyond the Western Coast of Africa, ventured to pass the Cape of Good Hope, which had been discovered eleven Years before, and was by most deemed the Ne plus ultra of their Navigation.
The Spaniards seemed to have had no Thoughts of interfering with the Portuguese in their East India Trade,…when it came into the Head of Magellan, a disobliged Portuguese, to propose to the Emperor Charles V the finding out a Way to the East Indies by the South-West, which he effected in 1519, by passing the Straights that bear his Name; and tho’ he was slain in the Voyage, yet his Ship, for the first Time, encompassed the World, and proved the Earth, by Experience, to be globular.
The 3,000+ pages of this massive 18th-century tome encompass everything its subtitle promises and more, including numerous maps, charts, and illustrations.
A Voyage Round the World (1834)
By James Holman
The passion for traveling is, I believe, instinctive in some natures. We have seen men persevere in their enterprises against the most formidable obstacles; and, without means or friends, and even ignorant of the languages of the various countries through which they passed, pursue their perilous journeys into remote places, until, like the knight in the Arabian tale, they succeeded in snatching a memorial from every shrine they visited.
Undoubtedly James Holman possessed just such a passion. In addition to the obstacles and perils faced by all globetrotters, Holman was also traveling blind. In fact, he was known as the “Blind Traveler.”
Holman was born in Exeter, England, in 1786; he joined the Royal Navy in 1798 and in 1807 was appointed lieutenant. In 1810, he became ill, finding himself at the age of 25 completely blind and suffering from both debilitating pain and limited mobility. In 1832, Holman—the very definition of perseverance—became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe.
Holman shares his exciting experiences in this multi-volume compendium. One such encounter occurred while he was traveling with a British anti-slavery patrol along the west coast of Africa. He writes:
There is a superstitious ceremony performed at the Bonny river, about once in three years, which consists of offering the most beautiful virgin they can find, as a sacrifice to their Jhu Jhu, whereby they hope to propitiate the evil spirit, and avert the dangers to which vessels are liable in crossing the bar. The victim is taken in a boat to the mouth of the river, where, after a preparatory ceremonial, she is made to walk to the extremity of a plank, from which she is precipitated in the water, where in a few seconds she is devoured by sharks. The mind of the poor wretch is prepared for this fate: which indeed, appears to be a source of pleasure, rather than of terror, from the idea that she is going at once to Paradise, to become the wife of Jhu Jhu; and towards the conclusion of the ceremony, it is not uncommon for the victim to display extravagant transports of joy.