How to Explore Like a Real Victorian Adventurer

From this month’s The Believer, “HOW TO EXPLORE LIKE A REAL VICTORIAN ADVENTURER

Victorian adventurers rarely took a step into the wild without hauling a small library of how-to-explore books with them. Among the volumes Burton carried into East Africa was a heavily annotated copy of Francis Galton’s The Art of Travel: or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries. Originally conceived as a handbook for explorers, and sponsored by En-gland’s Royal Geographical Society, the book was required reading for any self-respecting Victorian traveler. Before rolling up his sleeves and getting down to the hard business of exploring, he could turn to page 134 to learn the best way to do exactly that:

When you have occasion to tuck up your shirt-sleeves, recollect that the way of doing so is, not to begin by turning the cuffs inside-out, but outside-in—the sleeves must be rolled up inwards, towards the arm, and not the reverse way. In the one case, the sleeves will remain tucked up for hours without being touched; in the other, they become loose every five minutes.

The amiably neurotic Galton left nothing to chance. His index is studded with gems like “bones as fuel” and “savages, management of.” If Burton couldn’t find the advice he was looking for in Galton, he could always consult one of the other books in his trunk that were written with explorers in mind.

I’m really into this stuff at the moment. As Trevor at Kalebeul has pointed out a million times, there is a ton of material like this to read over at Google Books.

See also: this Salon review of Wilfred Thesiger’s ‘Arabian Sands’ which is on my reading list RIGHT NOW. I’ll write more about exploration and travel soon.

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