Tag Archives: travel

“And then I spent two years wandering the Sahara Desert before being rescued by a wandering trio of exiled German princes who brought me along as their entertainment… a court jester, if you will…”

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By Margueritte Peterson

Personal confession: normally I am a proponent of all types of blogging. Though I believe the (not-so-old) adage “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” – I also find the internet to be a most useful place for information. Some of it genuine… some of it not quite so genuine… some of it kind, some of it negative. In any case, the internet is a fount of information. And I do use it – boy, do I use it! 

However, that being said, there is one thing that I cannot make up my mind on how I feel about it. The internet is partially responsible (in my own humble opinion) for making one particular genre of published book not quite as popular anymore.

Travel Writing.

Nowadays, just about anyone can and does post just about anything they want online. They went on a hike with their girlfriend and found a killer “secret” camping spot? Let’s tell the entire online world! (Not so “secret” anymore – so much for skinny dipping!) Did you travel to Versailles with your parents and take pictures of every single item of gold you saw? Post them to Facebook! Gone are the old days where someone went on adventures that others might never experience and went home to write colorful and descriptive tales about their travels. Travel writing had to be good enough, exciting enough and gripping enough to spend money to publish it – it had to appeal to the masses. Now don’t get me wrong – I love to travel and always want to write about my “adventures” – but I would rather write them down for a book than blog about them online! Perhaps it is old fashioned of me, but I think that this is a genre that we ought to bring back.

Try this 1879 1st edition on for size! See it here>

Try this 1879 1st edition on for size! See it here>

Travel Writing began as early as the 2nd century, when Pausanias wrote his Description of Greece and when Gerald of Wales wrote Journey Through Wales and Description of Wales (does it count as travel writing if you are reporting on your own hometown? Apparently so if it was written in 1191 and 1194). Travel writing was also a fairly common genre in medieval Arabic literature, with the travel journals of Ibn Jubayr (d. 1214) and Ibn Batutta (d. 1377) being the most well-known examples of this genre. In medieval China (the end of the Song Dynasty, in particular, 970 – 1279) travel literature was also widespread, and belonged to a genre the Chinese named “youji wenxue” or “travel record literature.”  Authors in medieval China wrote narratives, essays and prose that extensively focused on geographical and topographical information – authors like Fan Chengda and Xu Xiake are two of the most celebrated writers of this period’s genre – and their descriptions are valuable and amaze academics to this day! Even other nationalities were interested in describing Ancient and Medieval China… Venetian traveler Marco Polo, for example, wrote extensively about his travels and adventures when he reached China in 1271. His writings sparked other adventurers for centuries after his death in 1324 (be they authors or not, such as explorer Christopher Columbus).

Going further down the chronological ladder of history, in 1589 an English writer known for promoting the settlement of North America by the British, Richard Hakluyt (d. 1616) published his text The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation – a book (which ended up as 3 volumes) that detailed lands around the world and was based on as many eyewitness accounts as Hakluyt could find. His texts are widely accepted as the foundations of the “modern” travel literature genre.To this day, the London-based Hakluyt Society publishes scholarly editions of travels, adventures and voyages.

The 1700s is where things become, if I may interject my own personal feelings about it (which I never fail to do)… fun. In 18th century Britain, most of the most famous authors worked in the travel literature genre and once published would travel widely (imagine that) and give lectures about their books and their anecdotes. Captain James Cook’s diaries published in 1784, for example, were unbelievably well-known and were some of the most exciting publications to ever be made available to a literate public. Entering into the 1800s, Charles Darwin detailed the HMS Beagle’s journey and findings – a combination of travel writing, scientific study and natural history/geography. Not all authors of the period combined science with their studies – some interspersed humor with their anecdotes… authors like Mark Twain and (even our main man) Charles Dickens are good examples of other travel writers in the 1800s.

Our Richard Halliburton Archive, complete with letters about his daring voyage (which would be his last) aboard a Chinese Junk Ship attempting to cross the Pacific ocean.

Our Richard Halliburton Archive, complete with letters about his daring voyage (which would be his last) aboard a Chinese Junk Ship attempting to cross the Pacific ocean. See it here>

Travel writing remained popular through the 20th century, with a higher emphasis on adventure tales, as travel was becoming more and more possible with the advent of different types of transportation – the car and the plane, in particular. Adventurers and authors like Richard Halliburton made their name by performing acts of bravery (and/or stupidity) and experiencing highly unlikely scenarios.

Humans have not lost the yen to travel and experience… so why has this type of narrative fallen a bit away from its original intent? Because times change! Though this is not a bad thing and who knows… perhaps one day I will end up writing my own travel blog… I still yearn for the days where one could read the “Royal Road to Romance” and see the adventure and the distant lands in our minds alone – without seeing a 3D movie about the same things! Who’s with me?


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

Summer is officially underway, and the season is synonymous with family vacation, road trips, and carefree adventures. Though the ways we travel have evolved over time, the thrill of the journey endures.


Since the beginning of time, humans have been obsessed with flight. At first, their attempts were based on the way birds flew. Next the hot air and hydrogen balloons gave us a means of navigating the skies. But it was two bicycle manufacturers from Dayton, Ohio who would introduce the airplane. The Wright brothers revolutionized travel, war, and commerce with their invention.

The Call of the Clouds

CAll-Clouds-GallaudetEdson Gallaudet formed the first aircraft engineering office in 1908. Two years later, Gallaudet Engineering Office had begun building planes under contract. The company was reorganized as the Gallaudet Aircraft Corporation in 1917 and offered its first product, the Curtis floatplane, the following year. This rare trade catalogue, The Call of the Clouds, presents the Gallaudet Chummy Flyabout Sport Model–which sold for the low price of $3,500. We’ve found no evidence that this plane was ever actually produced, making the catalogue a fascinating record of a machine that could have been.

Pilot’s Flight Operating Instructions

Pilots-Flight-ManualsOur collection includes three pilot’s’ flight operating instructions for Army planes, published in 1945. These flight manuals address both American and British planes used during the World War II era, such as the P-51 and B-29. They incorporate numerous charts and graphs for pilots, along with a few annotations from the original owner. For those interested in aviation or military history, this collection of documents are quite fascinating.


AeroplanesA rare early aviation trade catalogue, Aeroplanes presents models manufactured by Aug. C. Gomes & Cie, with specifications, illustrations, and performance records for Henry Farman, Sommer, Bleriot, Tellier, Voisin, Antoinette, Maurice Farman, REP, and Hanriot models. A powerplant section follows, and the catalogue concludes with a variety of other aircraft accessories and components. The company even offers hangar facilities for some airplane models. We’ve found no listing for this particular catalogue in either OCLC or KVK.


As early as 1550, roads with wooden rails were built in Germany to make it easier for horse-drawn carriages to move. These wagonways, as they were called, were the precursor to the modern railroad. Two centuries later, iron had replaced wood. But the railroad truly became an efficient means of transportation with the introduction of the steam locomotive. Today, trains evoke the romance and nostalgia of leisurely travel.

Baldwin Locomotive Works Photographs

This photo album apparently belonged to SM Vauclain, locomotive designer and eventual president of Baldwin Locomotive. It’s possibly unique, with 18 pasted-in albumen prints of various Baldwin locomotives. Identified models include “Nacional Mexicano,” “Northern Pacific,” “Companhia Paulista,” “EFOM,” “Ramal Dumont,” “WNY & PRR,” and “Estrada de Ferro Central do Brazil.” The photo quality is very good to fine.


War of the Gauges

IWar-Gauges-Railroad-Erie-Pennsylvanian December, 1853, the city of Erie and its neighboring township Harborcreek waged an interesting battle against rail travel. They tore up tracks of the Erie and North-East Railroad, wherever the tracks intersected the public highway or city streets. While their actions were ostensibly promulgated by a debated over track width, it indicated an underlying struggle for economic advantage. For two months, rail travel between New York and the West was interrupted, but the inconveniences lasted a full two years. The War of the Gaugesis the first book publication documenting this exciting time in Erie history, complete with court testimony and individual statements.

The Union Pacific Railroad

Union-Pacific-Railroad-BrochureThis Union Pacific Railroad brochure served as both a progress report and a promotional brochure. Because the railroad fell under the auspices of the federal government, it issued regular updates for Congress. Issued in 1868, this one includes information through December, 1867. It outlines the progress of the railroad west of Omaha, Nebraska, which resulted in an unbroken line from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The report’s frontis features a “Map of the Union Pacific Rail Road and its connections.”


Though Henry Ford is widely credited with inventing the automobile, the machine’s history is actually much more complex. Back in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci created designs and models for vehicles that foreshadow the modern-day automotive. Many suggest that Karl Benz actually invented the first true automobile, and it was his wife, Bertha, who undertook the first road trip to demonstrate the road-worthiness of her husband’s invention.


LocomobileFounded in 1899, the Locomobile Company manufactured small, affordable steam cars for only four years before offering only internal combustion-powered luxury cars. This brochure, one of the first the company issued, notes the demand for “a self-propelling vehicle that will combine the qualities of lightness, speed, economy, and ease of operation.” It describes the advantages and attributes of the vehicle and includes images of several models. The last, Model 6, is billed as “the Fastest Racing Machine in the World.” OCLC records only three institutional holdings of this item, making it uncommon in the trade.

A Joy Ride of 1911

Joy-Ride-Chalmers_1911Generously illustrated with both photographs and postcards, “A Joy Ride of 1911” is a charming amateur account of one family’s Chalmers automobile trip through New Jersey up through New England. Their objective is to reach the White Mountains. Recorded by the anonymous wife/mother of the family, the vacation is engagingly chronicled.

1936 Report of Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Runs

JB Jenkins Robinson made a typewritten report to HC Bougey, Chief Chemist of General Motors, detailing the results of sponsored speed runs in 1936. Their aim: “To establish Worlds’ speed records with a view of utilizing results for advertising and sales promotion.” Over four testing periods, 19 speed records were set. Seven carbon copies of Robinson’s report exist; this one is bound in a manilla folder along with a facsimile log-sheet for Jenkins’ 24-hour run (Sept 21-23) and 16 captioned black-and-white snapshots.


 As we look back in time at the history of transportation, we wonder what the future holds. What mode of transportation will be next to captivate the world with its promise of adventure?