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Analysis of Journeys over Land and Sea

The screenshot is from the website of the Smithsonian libraries which support the Smithsonian Institution, a museum founded in 1846 to collect a ‘diverse body of objects that reflect the nation’s intellectual awakening and growing interest in exploring and understanding the universe The screen shot is part of an exhibition, Voyages, described by its curator as ‘an exhibition spanning five centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art and artefacts from the Smithsonian Institution libraries

The site can be viewed at:   http://www.sil.si.edu/exhibitions/voyages

Journeys over Land and Sea

In every age, pioneers pushed beyond their own boundaries to chart new lands and observe exotic plants, animals, and peoples. Their tales of discovery, along with new and better navigational tools, compelled others to pursue the unknown farther from home.

Although nations undertook the great voyages of exploration primarily to expand their territories, scientific and artistic discoveries abounded. Voyagers returned with specimens from the natural world, which scholars cataloged and organized. By the early 1600s, learned societies and mercantile groups launched expeditions solely for scientific and commercial purposes. The specimens they collected and recorded are now housed in natural history museums around the world.

  • Scientists and artists were essential partners in these expeditions. They collaborated with writers and printers to record and depict the expanding world, producing lavishly illustrated volumes of great beauty. Their work forms an important body of literature of unparalleled value to historians, ecologists, scientists, and many others.

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

The Smithsonian Libraries collections of travel voyages document the ever-expanding world view of humankind. Among the earliest works are maps, republished in the Renaissance, that were originally prepared for the Greek and Roman geographers/naturalists Ptolemy and Pliny. Star charts, bestiaries, and herbals, often copied from manuscripts or gathered from travelers' stories, contain pictures and descriptions that provide evidence about life in earlier centuries. Other books in the collections express the anxieties of the earliest travelers, who journeyed into the unknown fearful of monsters, savage weather, and plummeting over the edge of the map. More recent works, which range from explorations of the American West to fictional accounts of space travel for children and adults, reveal their authors' wonder at the unusual, whether real or imagined.


Curator’s Assertions:


Voyages of discovery of many kinds:

Physical journey to unknown place

Mental exploration of new of familiar territory

New episode of creative thought.

This part of the exhibition reveals the world as imagined, seen and recorded by Europeans and Americans during the past five centuries.




  Graphics,   Two features:

 a mythical  sea monster threatening a boat.


This graphic depicts the fears of most sailors in ancient and medieval times of monsters that threaten their safety.  As the web site states:Other books in the collections express the anxieties of the earliest travelers, who journeyed into the unknown fearful of monsters, savage weather, and plummeting over the edge of the map”.

The image of the monster towers over the boat as if about to devour the sailors.


A symbolic representation of the universe.

  1. Book 2: cosmology, astronomy and meteorology


The images are imaginary and representational, suggestive of mankind’s attempt to conquer not only earth but the universe.  The sun appears perturbed about the dominance of humans?.

The four elements, earth, air, water and fire are all depicted.  The spherical shapes indicate that Pliny was aware of the earth’s probable shape?



Layout:   Arrangement of Page:


On the website the two illustrations are on opposite sides of the page, while in the BOS booklet they are both on the right hand side with the text on the left.



Mostly language of information:

Formal register of language. No familiar colloquialisms.


Impersonal statement; The writer tries to be objective and refrains from colouring one’s ideas and imposing them on the reader. Pronouns are They, them, one, whoever.......

A neutral  tone or attitude.  Little emotion or temperament.


emphasis on clarity of expression rather than complexity. Short sentences.

explicit rather than implicit.

word order Subject, transitive verb,  object.


The passive voice keeps the writer detached, removed and aloof maintaining an impersonal tone without any hint of the writer’s attitude.


However, there is also evidence of loaded language with overtones of emotive persuasion:


Compelled – people are driven by intrinsic needs to discover new areas.

Lavishly illustrated – a value loaded statement

General tone of passage is upbeat and promotional.

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