A post by guest curator Suzi Higton, School of Divinity
The books of intrepid travel writers whose adventures span from Jerusalem to Cairo feature throughout the collections at New College Library and in particular, those gifted to the library by William Fulton Jackson. A selection from this collection is now on display in New College Library.
Born in 1855, Jackson, recently uncovered as the donor of the W. F. Jackson (WFJ) collection, was the General Manager of the North British Railway Company. His interest in and passion for travel, particularly the Holy Land and Egyptology is reflected both in his numerous books on the subject and detailed photograph collection which is held by the Glasgow University Library Archives.
When selecting books from the WFJ collection to display, the eye is immediately drawn to the books’ beautiful cover designs, maps and illustrations. Rambles in Bible Lands stands out, not just for its intricate artwork but for being aimed at a younger audience. Written by the Reverend Richard Newton, it was published initially whilst he was editor of the American Sunday-School Union, and is based on a series of letters written to Sunday-School World and A Child’s World whilst travelling through Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.
It is the latter of these countries that sparked a lifelong interest in Egyptology for the journalist and novelist, Amelia B. Edwards who wrote A Thousand Miles Up the Nile following her visit to the country in 1873. Edwards’ account as a female travel writer, accompanied by a fellow female travelling companion is notable for its rich detail in the descriptions of the places and people she encountered.
The inclusion of maps in many of the books illustrates the journeys many travellers undertook through often dangerous and politically unstable regions. James Silk Buckingham’s Travels in Palestine maps his often perilous journey through the ancient countries of Bashan and Gilead. Robbed and left for dead in the Egyptian desert and subsequently forced to don a number of disguises to avoid further ‘plunderings,’ Buckingham was inspired to publish his travel writing ‘as a means of acquiring reputation,’ and ‘as the only way to avoid reproach’ for his travels!
Philip Henry Gosse, most widely known as a naturalist whose most notable works include The Birds of Jamaica and Omphalos, wrote Sacred Streams or The Rivers of the Bible to provide enjoyable reading on the day of the Sabbath. This book was selected for display not only for its beautiful cover artwork but also for its somewhat unconventional geographical depiction of the Holy Land.
For a truly unique perspective of the Holy Land, one need look no further than Henry M. Field’s account of his travels through the Holy Land…by camel! On the Desert: A Narrative of Travel through the Wilderness of Sinai to Palestine describes his travels across the Sinai Desert. Written during the British Occupation of Egypt, Field only narrowly avoided nationalist riots in Alexandria where a number of Europeans were killed, an event which took place only four months before his visit in February 1882.
This selection of travel writing is not only notable for beautiful cover designs, illustrations and maps but for their preservation of a truly different era of travel of which William Jackson Fulton was undoubtedly very fond.
Suzi Higton, School of Divinity