Archives and Rare Books, University of Cincinnati

Travel and Exploration in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries:
A View of the World through the Art of the Explorers


Images for this exhibit were taken from the rare books collection in the Archives & Rare Books Department.   Travel books are one of the collection's strengths, including recent reference materials and rare books as early as 1552.


This exhibit focuses primarily on 18th century volumes, but delves into the 19th century when 18th century works were unavailable for a particular region of the world.   The images retain the character and condition of the originals, such as crease lines being visible from foldout images, or the shadow of the text on the preceeding or following page still being visible.

As the title indicates, this is a visual trip around the world, using the art of the explorers — their renderings of the landscape, the peoples, the flora and fauna, which they encountered on their journeys — to tell the story of exploration.   They also include maps, which in some cases was a result of an assessment by the explorers for the possibilities of later colonization by Europeans.   The trip begins in Europe, and embarks from there to Africa, Asia, the arctic regions, Australia, and the Americas.

By the 18th century, a great deal was known of the world. Columbus had already discovered America and circumnavigation of the globe had occurred. However, for European peoples, though they had traveled round the earth, the inhabitants, customs, creatures and more of the new places they'd encountered remained a mystery.  And, never a group to let what they saw as a good opportunity slip by, Europeans were eager to discover what new goods there were to be had — both for personal pleasure and economic advancement, not to mention fame and glory.

The information brought back from these voyages served as the basis for later exploration and scientific investigation, fueling the imagination of the as yet non-traveling public.   We can only imagine what the average European thought of the newly discovered world upon viewing the fantastic images created by the explorers.


If, after seeing this exhibit, your own imagination has been fueled to explore further, there are many more volumes to choose from in the department's holdings concerning travel and exploration from all parts of the globe, which can be found by searching the University Libraries online catalog, UCLID.

View the Exhibit