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Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure (2016)

by Huw Lewis-Jones

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An absolutely beautiful and fun book! The entry for each of the explorers highlighted includes a brief bio and illustrations from their notebooks, along with comentary for each illustration. The color palate of the book is soft and so pleasing, the illustrations breathtaking in some cases, and the information presented, while not comprehensive, is just deep enough to provide full enjoyment. While the landscape format of the book will be difficult to shelve on a regular bookshelf, it actually feels really comfortable to hold. This is the perfect book to get lost in after a particularly stressful day and will serve to inspire the reader to flights of fancy of their own or to pursue further reading about the explorers in the thoughtfully provided "selected reading" appendix. ( )
  mudroom | Jun 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What a wonderful book. It has quickly become a favourite of mine. Over 60 explorers, mountaineers and and adventurers are covered - each individually; with some only getting a double spread and others a few pages depending on the breadth of their work. Some of your favourites may be missing but this is a book of those who put pen or brush to paper to make marks evoking the places, the people, the natural history and geology as visual art. It is well researched with an extensive bibliography for your personal follow-up. Within the pages of the sketchbooks there are consummate artists and more amateur attempts - each with its own delights or charm. Mostly quick pen and ink or watercolour sketches. However the illustrations are taken directly from the explorers sketchbooks, shown in situ, and are a fascinating insight into their experiences. We have men AND women exploring all the corners of the earth from the Antarctic to the Alps, from deserts to jungle, even the moon; from the 16th century to the present day, both famous names and the forgotten. The only thing better than reading this would have been to have written it and to have been able to leaf through the sketchbooks and journals oneself. Highly recommend for those who like the history of exploration and a great read for anyone interested in nature journaling. I'm quite bowled over by this one. Bravo to all those involved in its production. ( )
  CaptainPea | Jun 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I feel like Archimedes just rushed by me shouting "Eureka!"

As in, I just heard a lot of noise from someone saying he'd found something, but I have no idea what he found.

I'm very interested in exploration in the sense of mapping the world, so this book sounded very intriguing. But I find that its definition of "explorer" doesn't really match mine. Mine really is based on map-making: Going somewhere previously un-visited, at least by people who have a ways to disseminate the information widely, and disseminating it. So Roald Amundson or James Cook were explorers, but Edmund Hillary really wasn't, and Howard Carter and Charles Darwin certainly weren't.

Is that bad? Not necessarily. There are quite a few interesting people in here that I've never heard of. But note those words "quite a lot of." Because there are so many, there isn't really much space to devote to each. The typical entry consists of about four pages (in an oddly-shaped book that will not sit well on your shelf). One of these has a mini-bio of the "explorer" (naturalist, painter, mystic, whatever). The rest is reproductions of the notebooks the person kept. It will surely be evident that a one page bio isn't much help, and that the other three pages can't really cover the range of the person's work.

And then there is the organization: Alphabetical order. So Amundson comes first. Then John James Audubon, John Auldjo, and Thomas Baines. (Notice a missing name there? Perhaps you didn't think of George Back, who was one of the great explorers of the Northwest Passage. But I did, and he's not in there. Nor John Franklin. Nor Edward Parry. Nor James Clark Ross.) Alphabetical order perhaps encourages you to think about a whole bunch of interesting topics. But it makes it hard to look at the whole panorama of, to repeat my example, exploring the Canadian Arctic. (Not that there is a whole lot about the Arctic. Just Amundson, and Fridtjof Nansen, and Robert Peary -- who wasn't an explorer; he was a narcissist who lied about reaching the North Pole!) In the end, I was very disappointed.

Does that make it a bad book? Not on its own terms. It is probably a very good coffee table book for those who casually want to think about visiting strange places. And there are pages and pages of beautiful reproductions of hard-to-find writings. If you like that, this is a good book for you. But I really wish it had been possible to dig deeper on a few real explorers rather than skim through so many marginal cases. ( )
  waltzmn | Jun 20, 2017 |
Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert's Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure is a wonderful compendium that pays tribute to a wide array of explorers and adventurers and the journals, sketches, and artwork that document their journeys. The authors provide thumbnail biographical sketches of each with evocatively reproduced samples of their journals and sketchbooks, which enable the reader to more closely relive their adventures. While some of the explorers are well known and some are rather obscure, all are quite interesting. Interspersed throuhout the book are essays from some modern day explorers who lend insight into how their journeys have shaped them, and the everlasting value of journals. This is the type of book that will send you off to further investigate many of those profiled here, and the authors have indeed included a selected reading for just that purpose. ( )
1 vote ghr4 | May 30, 2017 |
Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure is a stunningly beautiful and fascinating book by Kari Herbert and Huw Lewis-Jones. This is one of those books you will fall in love with within moments and want to linger over. It will sit on your side table for months so you can pick it up and page through the illustrations and stop and look at one in great detail, while you imagine the explorer sitting in a tent at the end of the day, jotting down impressions of the day and perhaps sketching in a small illustration of something seen while trekking.

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.

★★★★★
http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/9781452158273/ ( )
2 vote Tonstant.Weader | Apr 13, 2017 |
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FOREWORD [by Robert Macfarlane]
One of the most remarkable stories in this remarkable book concerns the explorer-missionary David Livingstone.
Three billion miles from Earth, a robotic spacecraft offers the first glimpse of an icy world at the edge of the solar system.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 050025219X, Hardcover)

Despite dramatic advances in technology and equipment over the centuries, there is one vital piece of kit in most explorers' pockets that hasn't changed much at all - the journal. The sketchbooks and journals presented here allow us the opportunity to share, through their own eyes and thoughts, the on-the-spot reactions of around 70 intrepid individuals as they journeyed into frozen wastes, high mountains, barren deserts and rich rainforests. Some are well known, such as Captain Scott, Charles Darwin, Thor Heyerdahl and Abel Tasman; others are unfamiliar, including Adela Breton, who braved the jungles of Mexico to make an unparalleled record of Maya monuments, and Alexandrine Tinne, who died in her attempt to be the first woman to cross the Sahara. Here are pioneering explorers and map-makers, botanists and artists, ecologists and anthropologists, eccentrics and visionaries, men and women. A handful of living explorers, including Wade Davis, provide their thoughts on the art of exploration. Often battered and neglected, stored away and perhaps long forgotten, many of these sketchbooks have themselves awaited rediscovery. Now is the chance to open them again...Includes a foreword by Robert Macfarlane and essays by several living explorers, among them Ghillean Prance, Alan Bean and Wade Davis. Includes a foreword by Robert Macfarlane and essays by several living explorers, among them Ghillean Prance, Alan Bean and Wade Davis.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 18 Nov 2016 03:53:42 -0500)

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