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Rare Books Collection: European Explorers

Mount Saint Mary's University rare books catalog

European Explorers

Geramb, Ferdinano. Visit to Rome. Michael Kelly; Philadelphia, 1840.


Origin: Copy 1 was donated by a patron named H.K. Harti. The library has owned this copy at least since June of 1971 though from the handwritten label “Mount Saint Mary’s College Library” Mount ownership may be older.

Copy 2 came from the Mount Carmel Library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.


Material: Visit by Ferdinano Geramb is the account of a mid-19th century priest. Geramb’s pilgrimage from Lyons, France to Rome.  Geramb wrote about his adventures to Rome and included descriptions of cities and churches he visited on the way.  Geramb includes his own historical, religious, and philosophical views of Catholicism, the Pope and Europe in general. While not strictly a historical narrative, this book would be useful for any historian interested in studying 19th century European history.


Weaknesses: Geramb is a Catholic monk and views Europe through a pro-Catholic standpoint, which is made obvious to the reader early on. 


Hakluyt, Richard.A selection of Curious, Rare and Early Voyages. G. Woodfall; London, 1812.

Note: This book contains a variety of different languages other than English.


Origins: This book is of unknown origin though it appears to have been recently rebound by a book binding company in Washington which according to the history book on the company could have been bound either between 1758 to 1966.


Material: This book is a collection of manuscripts on the adventures of various European explorers, travelers and historians ranging from the 15th century to the 17th century. Each manuscript covers a topic from a history of the world based off of new discoveries in the Americas to accounts of sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Chapter titles:

  1. Galvano’s Discoveries of the World from their first originall, unto the yeere of Our Lord, 1555, corrected
  2. The Worldes Hydrographicall Discription by I. Dauis
  3. Voyage D’Outremer et Retour de Jerusalem en France par la Voie de Terre, pendant le Cours des annees 1432
  4. The Nauigation and Vyages of Lewes Vertomanus, Gentleman of the citie of Rome, to the Regions of Arabia, Egypte, Persia, Syria, Ethiopia, and East India, both within and without the ryuer of Ganges, in 1503
  5. A Voyage made by certaine Ships of Holland into the East Indies, who set forth on the 2d of April, 1595, and returned on the 14th of April, 1597.
  6. The Prosperous and Speedy Voiage to Iaua in the East Indies, performed by a fleete of 8. Ships of Amsterdam: which set forth from Texell in Holland, the First of Maie 1598, whereof 4 returned againe the 19 of July 1599, the other 4 went forward from Iaua for the Moluccas.
  7. Newes from the East Indies: or a Voyage to Bengalla, one of the greatest kingdoms under the high and mighty Prince Pedesha Shassallem, usually called the Great Mogull, with their detestable religion, mad and foppish rites, wicked sacrifices and impious Customes
  8. The Fardle of Facions, conteining the Aunciente Maners, Customes and Lawes of the Peoples Enhabiting the two partes of the Earth, called Affricke and Asie.
  9. The Conquest of the Grand Canaries, made this last Summer by threescore and thirteene saile of Shippes, sent forth at the Command of the States Generall to the Coast of Spaine and the Canarie Isles.
  10. The Historie of the West Indies, containing the Actes and Aduentures of the Spaniards, which haue conquered and peopled those Countries, published in Latin by Hakluyt and translated by Lok.
  11. Virginia richly valued, by the description of the Maine Land of Florida, her next Neighbour: out of the four yeeres continuall trauell and discouerie of Don Ferdinando de Soto and sixe hundred able men in his compaine, translated out of the Portuguese by Hakluyt.
  12. A Discovery of the Barmvdas, otherwise called the Ile of Divels: by Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Sommers, and Captayne Newport, set forth by Sil. Iourdan.
  13. A True Coppie of a Discourse written by a Gentleman, employed in the late Voyage of Spaine and Portingale: sent to his particular friend, and by him published for the better satisfaction of all such as hauing been seduced by particular report, haue entred into conceipts tending to the discredit of the Enterprise, and Actors of the same. 1589.
  14. The Omissions of Cales Voyage, stated and discussed by the Earl of Essex, from a Manuscript in the possession of the Marquis of Stafford


Weaknesses: Some of the treatises are in a foreign languages and are written in old English style, making it difficult for an inexperienced reader to understand what is going on.



Heber, Reginald.Narrative of a journey through the upper provinces of India : from Calcutta to Bombay. Two copies, Vol. 2. Carey, Lea and Carey; Philadelphia, 1828 and 1829.


Origins: Both these copies were from the Mount Saint Mary’s College Library Collection before being placed in the Rare Books Collection.


Material: Reginald Heber, the Bishop of Calcutta, wrote this account of his journey through the northern section of India. Heber recorded the various temples and religious ceremonies he observed, the people and animals that he met, as well as his own reflection on this section of the country. Heber’s account gives historians a first-hand account of India during the early 19th century with special attention given to the religious setting and practices of Hindu and Indian Islam.  Heber’s own attitudes regarding India appear at different points in the narrative, which provides interesting information regarding British attitudes to Indian practices.


Weaknesses: Both copies that are in the Rare Book Collection are Volume 2 of two volumes. Reading a copy of Volume 1 is necessary to truly understand Heber. Anyone reading for the description of Indian culture should remember that Heber has the biases of a early 19th century British cleric and views Indian culture through lens.


Hobhouse, John Cam. A journey through Albania and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, during the years 1809 and 1810. M. Carey and son; Philadelphia, 1817.


Origins: This book used to be part of the Seminary collection before becoming a part of the Mount Saint Mary’s College Library.


Material: This book is the collection of letters written by a John Hobhouse who visited the Balkan region and Turkey in 1809 to 1810. During his journey, Hobhouse met with different Ottoman leaders including Ali Pasha, an infamous Turkish general who controlled sections of modern Greece and Albania. Aside from retelling his meetings with the locals, he examines ancient Greek architecture and Greek Orthodox religious practices in addition to Ottoman culture and history. A historian interested in studying 19th century Ottoman history may find this work to be useful. 


Weaknesses: This book is fragile and should be handled with care. Hobhouse is a 19th century Englishman and viewed the Albania and the Ottoman Empire in such a manner. Anyone using this source for a history book should remember that he is prejudiced in his own way.

Irving, Washington. History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. 2 volumes. Carey, Lea, and Blanchard; Philadelphia, 1837


Origins: These books belonged to the Mount Philomathan Society before coming into the Library’s collection.


Material: Utilizing new accounts and letters about Columbus, Washington Irving attempted to produce a new account of Christopher Columbus and his adventures during which he traveled to the Americas. History begins with Columbus’s birth and continues to follow him through adulthood, his travels, his interactions with the Spanish Monarchs and eventually his death. It is a detailed account, providing the historical context of what Columbus faced in trying to get financial backing for his journey as well as some of the arguments made against his ideas. Volume 2 ends with an appendix containing a variety of different sources and areas of study such as the Colombo family lineage and the birth place of Christopher Columbus.


Weaknesses: It is clear that Irving thought highly of Columbus. From a 19th century perspective, Columbus would have been seen as a hero. A modern view of Columbus tells a vastly different tale. Any reader should remain aware of Irving’s bias.


Meares, John.Voyages made in the years 1788 and 1789, from China to the N.W. coast of America. Logographic Press; London, 1791.


Origins: This book was previously owned by Antione Lauyine though it is not clear when the Mount came into possession of this copy.


Material: John Meares wrote this book about his experiences while trading between East Asia and the West Coast of North America.  During the late 18th century, trade routes had developed between the North American West Coast, Russia and China which encompassed Christian missionaries, Russian fur traders, and Native American tribes such as the Chinook along the Columbia River. Meares is a part of this trade network and describes his interactions with different groups across the Pacific Ocean. His accounts would be useful for any historian doing research on pre-American West Coast history and Native American-European interactions.


Weaknesses: The cover of the book is falling apart and must be handled with care. Any reader should keep in mind that Meares is writing from the prespective of a 18th century European with his own biasises and beliefs. His interactions with Native American or other tribal groups throughout his narrative should be viewed with that understanding. 

Tuckey, James Hingston. Narrative of An Expedition to Explore the River Zaire. Krik & Mercien; London, 1818.


Origin: This book was given to the Mount Philomathan Society by a John Le Brute. Eventually, the book ended up in the hands of the Students’ Library here on campus.


Material: The Narrative of an Expedition is about a British funded expedition up the Zaire or Congo River in the early 19th century. Given the military and science background of expedition members there is a large amount of detail including Longitude and Latitude of their journey. The book is broken into three parts: The Introduction, Captain Tuckey’s Narrative and Professor Smith’s Journal. The introduction gives the reader the background of African history (as far as the British understood anyway) and justification for why such an expedition is necessary. The introduction concludes with a description of each member of the expedition.

            Captain Tuckey’s Narrative describes the African world into which they entered, with the emphasis on the progress of the ship, the people that they interact with, and issues that the crew comes across regarding the ship. Professor Smith’s account is to the point and exacting in detail. Smith focused on the scientific issues such as plants, animals and geography.

            The book includes a basic map of the Zaire River which helps readers unaccustomed to African geography understand where the expedition traveled.


Weaknesses: The writers of these three different parts maintain the same 19th century bias.  Africans are interesting to study but there is a clear feeling of superiority over the natives, even the need to civilize and educate them. Everything written, therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt. 



Winterbotham, William. An Historical, Geographical and Philosophical View of the Chinese Empire; Comprehending A Description of the Fifteen Provinces of China, Chinese Tartary; Tributary States; Natural History of China; Government Religion, Laws, Manners and Customs, Literature, Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, &c. Duning, Hyer, and Palmer; Philadelphia, 1796.


William Winterbotham’s account of 18th century China covers a wide range of topics from Chinese politics to everyday life. The author combined his own research of missionary accounts with reports written by members of the British Embassy to China.  A major section of the book covers each geographical region in China and the ethnicity of each province. Additionally, the account studies tributary states such as Korea and provides historical information regarding China’s relationship with the previously mentioned tribute states. Winterbotham ends the second volume with a detailed account of the British Embassy’s travels to China and activity once there.

 Geographical locations in China and tribute states are translated into English with different names, making it somewhat difficult to understand which particular region is being discussed. Additionally, as the editor notes at the beginning of the book, it is hard to verify the British diplomats’ reports so any extraordinary tales should be viewed with a grain of salt.

All in all, this account gives a perspective of 18th century China prior to the Opium Wars and European intervention. The goal of the book was to give a British audience information about a part of the world that remained a mystery. In this context, Winterbotham’s book would prove useful to any English historians studying a pre-Opium war Chinese nation.



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