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2007-03, 353, Book Reviews, Colin Steele

Book Review- Encyclopedia of Exploration

Encyclopedia of Exploration 1850 to 1940

by Raymond John Howgego. (Sydney. Hordern House) 724 pages.

ISBN 1 875567 41 0. A$245

Raymond John Howgego’s Encyclopedia of Exploration has, in the five years since publication of the first volume, established itself as a major, if not the major reference work, of exploration, travel and colonisation. Howgego notes, in the Introduction to this third volume, that he had originally intended to complete his work in one volume but the required “degree of thoroughness” meant that more volumes were required than originally anticipated.

The first part covered the period to 1800 and the second 1800-1850. Both volumes are still available from the publisher, Hordern House (www.hordern.com). This third part 1850-1940 is subtitled The Oceans, Islands and Polar Regions, while a fourth part, scheduled for 2008, will be subtitled Continental Exploration and will deal with continental and land exploration from 1850-1940.Howgego, an independent scholar, who has gained the acclaim of many of the world’s leading historians in the history of travel and colonisation for this series, could be termed a ‘renaissance man’, combining training as a physicist with a reading knowledge of every European language except Basque and Finnish.

In the period 1850-1940 it was clear to Howgego that most explorers and travellers restricted their journeys to specific parts of the world or climatic regions. He notes, “those who chartered the world’s oceans rarely ventured far onto dry land, while others who explored the interior of the larger islands hardly ever penetrated the continental mainland”. The cut-off date of 1940 also allows the flights of pioneer aviators to be included but ensures exclusion of the plethora of tourist accounts after that date.

Howgego believes in completeness. Thus “every expedition to Antarctica has been documented in detail, and with respect to the Arctic, little or nothing is missing”. The current volume includes a large number of articles devoted to particular islands or regional groups. Antarctica, the Arctic, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are specifically highlighted by Howgego as being particularly strong in coverage and citation. He believes that the coverage contained in the articles on New Zealand, from this and previous volumes, “would alone constitute probably the most comprehensive account of New Zealand exploration ever written”. In this context, when Howgego’s magisterial reference work is completed, the availability of such linked material via the web, perhaps on a pay for view basis, would be invaluable.

Howgego follows the pattern familiar to readers of the first two volumes, namely an alphabetical approach to individuals, topics and places. Every expedition is placed within an historical context with cross references linking articles of similar content. In all, the volume contains 521 articles in about 700,000 words, with the bibliographies citing more than 14,000 works of reference. The indexes provide links to nearly 3,000 travellers. Scholars, librarians and booksellers will avidly continue to travel with Howgego and Hordern House to this journey’s triumphal end.

Colin Steele

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