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Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure Hardcover – March 28, 2017
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From the Publisher
The Art of Discovery
From frozen wastelands to high mountains, barren deserts to dense rainforests.
A Note from Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert
For many, rather than being a record of despair or distress, writing in a notebook was a moment of pure happiness: a chance to describe a beautiful view, or sketch something memorable, like taking a photograph, an image to last, a discovery to be visualized and shared. Obviously many of the journals here were kept in the good times, when weather was favourable, perhaps painting under clear skies, when the day's march was done and water boils in the billy for tea, or, in the case of William Burchell, as the sun sets and hippo steaks sizzle on the fire. These notebooks can also speak of delight and enjoyment.
This is a visual compendium celebrating many adventurous and inquisitive travelers and our choices are deliberately eclectic. We feature famous names as well as many that deserve to be better known. Much of what is included has never been published before. From history through to the present day, we explore with remarkable and intrepid individuals who spent their lives journeying deep into barren desert and rich rainforest: pioneering explorers and map-makers, botanists and artists, plant-hunters, ecologists and anthropologists, eccentrics and visionaries, men and women, all curious to see and record what might lie beyond the horizon.
"This compilation of excerpts and facsimiles of 70 notebooks belonging to explorers throughout history is as educational as it is visually enticing. Readers will lap up John James Audubon's Carolina Parakeet drawn in June of 1811, Charles Darwin's 1837 "tree of life" sketch, and Alexandrine Tinne's self-portraits at a ball in 1855 and in a Bedouin tent a year later, among many other illustrations. However, this collection proves to be as much about words, for the writing is exemplary. The exquisite, informative reproductions are supported by hearty and wistful quotes from the explorers and by the authors' detailed captions... Lewis-Jones and Herbert's introduction and essays by four living explorers, most notably Wade Davis, raise the form high. Brief biographies contribute finely crafted, economical rhetoric as well as well-researched material and sound opinions. This bountiful book provides delicious discovery in itself, albeit from the comfort of a chair by the fire."
A Book of the Year "But for pure unchallenging delight, I most enjoyed an astonishing collection of works of art created by explorers and adventurers down the centuries. It is a beautiful multi-edited sort of album, entitled Explorers' Sketchbooks...If it were not such a sumptuous volume it would be glorious for reading in the bath."
Starred Review The intersection of adventure, art, and memoir doesn't get any better than this title, edited by polar guides and husband-and-wife team Lewis-Jones (Face to Face) and Herbert (Polar Wives). This delicious oversized sampler of illustrated field notes offers alphabetically arranged excerpts from the notebooks of 70 naturalists, ethnographers, scientists, and mountaineers, famous and obscure, from John White's 1585 depictions of Algonquin Indians to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean's paintings of rock collecting on the moon. A brief biography of each person, with highlights from their travels, accompanies high-quality illustrations: not only landscapes and wildlife but also portraits of long-vanished people, architecture, and customs, plus journal ephemera-sure to please sketchbook lovers. Most predate the mid-20th century, so predictably, few women and even fewer nonwhite artists are featured; issues of colonialism and appropriation are touched on, but these are not in-depth studies. Rather, they are tantalizing vignettes of those who took up pencil, paints, and paper to communicate firsthand the wonder of their discoveries."
Top 10 travel books "This magical book celebrates the artwork of explorers, bringing together more than 400 beautiful sketches and paintings produced by 70 explorers from the 16th century to the present. The book is compiled by historian and polar guide Huw Lewis-Jones and writer-photographer Kari Herbert - daughter of the polar explorer Sir Walter "Wally" Herbert - who have had the enviable task of diving into the archives to find work from Captain Scott, Charles Darwin and Abel Tasman, as well as lesser-known explorers, such as Adela Breton, who recorded Mexico's Maya monuments."
-The Guardian (UK)
Best Travel Books of the Year
-Financial Times (UK)
-Scientific American, April 2017
"An inspiration and resource for nature study, history, or geography. Or, just page through the book, pretending to be an explorer from a day gone by."
About the Author
Huw Lewis-Jones is a historian and author who travels regularly to the Arctic and Antarctica as a polar guide. Kari Herbert has written several books on exploration and is the daughter of polar explorer Sir Wally Herbert. Huw and Kari are married and live by the sea in Cornwall, England.
Robert Macfarlane is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the author of numerous books about exploration, travel, and landscape.
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Top Customer Reviews
Before Go-Pro, iPhones, and tablets, people who traveled wrote down what happened in notebooks, capturing their impressions, making sketches, even pulling out watercolors to illustrate the more glorious fauna and flora.
These notebooks are tattered and torn, thick with usage, their pages wrinkled and covered with ink and stains. There is romance just in looking at them, these slender books full of adventure, science, and wonder. Consider the word of Ghillean Francs, “Notebooks are the essential part of my exploring kit. Other things of course are important in a practical sense…and each might mean the difference between life and death in the jungle. But, in terms of making a genuine contribution to knowledge, the careful marks that you make in a journal will be the things that outlive you.”
And Kari Herbert and Huw Lewis-Jones have collected a book sampling from seventy of these explorers. Each explorer is presented with a quote, a short biography, and a few illustrative pictures or in a few cases, photos of the stacks of their journals. I also love the inclusion of relatively unknown explorers like Olivia Tonge who at the age of fifty decided to travel to India and explore and no one could stop her. Her illustrations are exquisite and bizarre, with two frogs sharing their page with a pair of earrings that hold a forehead chain and a large, intricate nose ring.
Of course, this book fascinated me from the outset with a comprehensive selection of Arctic and Antarctic explorers including Robert Falcon Scott, shown above on the left. Scott is a special favorite of mine for his eloquent writing, his commitment to science above all, continuing to sledge with his samples even though they probably contributed to his death. He was headstrong and perhaps foolish, unwilling to sacrifice dozens of dogs to reach the Pole. The map on the right is of John Speke and James Grant’s trip from Zanzibar to the Nile, identifying Lake Victoria as the headwaters.
In addition to illustrations from the sketchbooks and the biographies, the authors added a list of recommended books to read about each of the explorers featured. It’s a reading list full of books I want to read.
I love this book. I look at the pictures and imagine when they were made, I look at the journals and picture paraffin or whale-oil illuminating their tents piled with furs for warmth or open to catch a cool evening breeze at an oasis in the desert, in the jungle, on a mountain…challenging the elements by day and capturing the experience before resting for the night. Their own handwriting, their own sketches bring them alive in my imagination. And then there is the language. Some of them are so poetic. Like Colin Thubron who wrote, “Sometimes a journey arises out of hope and instinct, the heady conviction, as your finger travels along the map: Yes, here and here…and here. These are the nerve-ends of the world.” Doesn’t that make you want to know more about him?
I also think it is an ideal present. After all, who will love this book? Artists, historians, science lovers, travel and adventure lovers, armchair travelers, naturalists, geologists, botanists, anthropologists, lovers of the unknown and mysterious. Who in the world will not love this book? That is the harder question.
If you like me love to read about Explorers biographies and adventures this is a must buy book.