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Month: May 2016

Celebrated Travels and Travellers – Volume 2

Celebrated Travels and Travellers - Volume 2 by Jules Verne

Celebrated Travels and Travellers – Volume 2 by Jules Verne

This volume, entitled “The Great Navigators of the 18th century”, forms the second of three volumes under the general title of “Celebrated Travels and Travellers”. The first volume of the series, “Exploration of the World”, covers a period in the world’s history extending from B.C. 505, to the close of the 17th century, and the third volume gives an account of “The Great Explorers and Travellers of the 19th Century”

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Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. I.

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. I. by John L. Stephens

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. I. by John L. Stephens

The year is 1838. The scene is the dense Honduran forest along the Copán River. Two men, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, are about to rediscover Mayan civilization. Their guide, slashing through the rampant growth with his machete, leads them to a structure with steps up the side, shaped like a pyramid. Next they see a stone column, fourteen feet high, sculptured on the front with a portrait of a man, “solemn, stern and well fitted to excite terror,” covered on the sides with hieroglyphics, and with workmanship “equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians.” Stephens records these discoveries and also his travels in Central America, where he had been sent by President Van Buren as special ambassador to the ill-fated Republic of Central America. The republic being engulfed in civil war when Stephens arrives in Guatemala, he finds himself dodging revolutionary armies while he hunts for a “legitimate government” to which to present his credentials. Catherwood, meanwhile, directs his immense artistic talent to illustrating views of Mayan architecture. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan was a best seller in its day and has been called an “Indiana Jones” saga by modern reviewers.

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The Land of Little Rain

The Land of Little Rain by Mary Hunter Austin

The Land of Little Rain by Mary Hunter Austin

The Land of Little Rain is a book of sketches which portray the high desert country of southern California, where the Sierras descend into the Mojave Desert. Mary Austin finds beauty in the harsh landscape: “This is the sense of the desert hills–that there is room enough and time enough. . . The treeless spaces uncramp the soul.” Her story begins with the water trails that lead toward the few life giving springs–the way marked for men by ancient Indian pictographs. Life and death play out at these springs. Rabbits fall prey to the coyote; buzzards hang heavily in the sky above. She then writes of individuals who eke out their living in this land of scarce resources–an itinerant gold prospector, a sheepherder, a blind Indian basket maker. Austin’s spare prose creates unforgettable vignettes: “Choose a hill country for storms. . . I remember one night of thunderous rain made unendurably mournful by the houseless cry of a cougar whose lair, and perhaps his family, had been buried under a slide of broken boulders . . .” Anyone who sees beauty in the Southwestern deserts, or who just enjoys good nature writing, will savor The Land of Little Rain.

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Young Americans Abroad

Young Americans Abroad by J.O. Choules

Young Americans Abroad by J.O. Choules

It’s 1851 and the Crystal Palace Exhibition is on in England. English American the Reverend Dr. Choules leaves Newport, Rhode Island with three teenaged students – James Robinson, George Vanderbuilt, and Weld French, who are forced to leave the fourth member of their blue-blooded quartet at home – and all four travelers promise to write to “Dear Charley”, Charles Duston, of later fame. The boys meet the Duke of Wellington, travel down the Rhine, and meet many friends along the way. While the letters are filled with some prejudice against the Catholic religion, they are a product of their time – a sometimes ignorant, but often dazzling, period of our history.

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United Empire Loyalists

United Empire Loyalists by W. Stewart Wallace

United Empire Loyalists by W. Stewart Wallace

Volume 13 of The Chronicles of Canada Series. This volume sheds light on the often misunderstood Americans who chose to remain loyal to the Crown of England during and after the American Revolution. While the vast majority of American writings which detail the Revolution paint the Loyalists (sometimes called Tories) in the most negative fashion, this volume explains the reasons behind their election to flee to Canada (and other countries) rather than remain on American soil. While no exact numbers exist of Loyalists who fled to Canada in 1783-1784, the estimates of John Adams and others of the time period range in the vicinity of one third of the population, which places that number at about a million. These were not people who fled in fear, rather they were generally people who felt the benefit of support from the British Crown outweighed the support they would receive from the unproven social, financial, and political structures which had yet to be formed. Some were opportunists in search of free land. But all were a brave people who chose to leave the comfort of their homeland to help settle uncharted territories of what we now know as Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia; a people who held their heads high as they settled a largely untamed land.

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Station Life in New Zealand

Station Life in New Zealand by Lady Barker

Station Life in New Zealand by Lady Barker

Station Life in New Zealand is a collection of cheerful and interesting letters written by Lady Mary Anne Barker (nee Mary Anne Stewart) that is a New Zealand “classic”. These letters are described in the Preface as “the exact account of a lady’s experience of the brighter and less practical side of colonisation”. The letters were written between 1865 and 1868 and cover the time of her travel with her husband (Frederick Broomie) to New Zealand and life on a colonial sheep-station at their homestead “Broomielaw”, located in the Province of Canterbury, South Island of New Zealand. Although these letters are written with great humour and fine story telling, her life was marred by tragedy while in Canterbury through the illness and eventual death of her baby son.

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The Book of the National Parks

The Book of the National Parks by Robert Sterling Yard

The Book of the National Parks by Robert Sterling Yard

Robert Sterling Yard was an American writer, journalist, and wilderness activist. Born in Haverstraw, New York, Yard graduated from Princeton University and spent the first twenty years of his career in the editing and publishing business. In 1915, he was recruited by his friend Stephen Mather to help publicize the need for an independent national park agency. Their numerous publications were part of a movement that resulted in legislative support for a National Park Service (NPS) in 1916. Yard worked to promote the national parks as well as educate Americans about their use. Creating high standards based on aesthetic ideals for park selection, he also opposed commercialism and industrialization of what he called “America’s masterpieces”. In 1935, he became one of the eight founding members of The Wilderness Society and acted as its first president from 1937 until his death eight years later. Yard is now considered an important figure in the modern wilderness movement.

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