Possession & Extrapolation: Herman Moll & Charles Wilkes

Herman Moll, Enlightenment Geographer

"Carolina" map from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21328328270001021"><i>Modern History, or the Present State of All Nations</i></a>, by Thomas Salmon, G 114 .S17, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“Carolina” map from Modern History, or the Present State of All Nations, by Thomas Salmon, G 114 .S17, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Working as a printer, engraver, and geographer in London, Herman Moll made the acquaintance of some of the leading thinkers of the English Enlightenment, including John Locke, Robert Hooke, and Jonathan Swift. The Dutchman’s contemporaries held his works in high esteem for both their accuracy and their aesthetic.  The Dutchman’s contemporaries held his works in high esteem for both their accuracy and their aesthetic. Moll must have admired their work as well, for he seems to have adopted an Enlightenment attitude towards the land he mapped that is particularly conspicuous in the extrapolated features of “Carolina.”  This particular map, pictured above, appears in the Burns Library book entitled Modern History, or, the Present State of All Nations.

The traditional historiography of the Enlightenment has stressed the intellectual optimism of the period. Two recurring traits in Moll’s body of work that also appear in “Carolina” suggest that he, like Locke, Hooke, and Swift subscribed to a progressive notion of human knowledge and power: an emphasis on the rightful British possession of the region depicted and an idealized, resource-oriented view of nature. But it is Moll’s willingness to extrapolate from imagination, amplified in those regions of the Carolinas whose topography Europeans were yet to chart in detail, that offers the clearest link between his work and the Enlightenment.

Although few Englishmen had ventured as far west as the Appalachian Mountains, Moll confidently arranges them in neat rows and columns so as to provide a natural basis for the division of British and “Charakey” settlements. The Carolinas’ rivers, according to Moll, make uniform bends as they carry the European explorer deeper into the continent; even their tributaries seem to be conveniently arranged to offer clean water and ease of transportation to every region on the map. This apparent cartographic optimism mirrors similar Enlightenment attitudes in politics, science, and literature.

Represented by their names and a single fort-shaped stamp, the English coastal settlements signify a form of extrapolation of their own kind: the overemphasis of urban density. Moll’s cartographic confidence seems to have been so strong as to have given him license to extrapolate in even those regions inhabited by the English. Again, the Enlightenment’s conceptual influence on Moll comes across in his extrapolation in “Carolina.”

  • Peter Haskin, BC Class of 2016 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

 The Wilkes Expedition

Map of Antarctica circa January 1840 from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21360033880001021"><i>Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842</i></a> by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848,  General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Map of Antarctica circa January 1840 from Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842 by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1844, Charles Wilkes published a volume of travel accounts titled Narrative of the United States Exploring Expeditions during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842.  These travel accounts covered the entire United States Exploring Expedition between 1838 and 1842 which was led by the author of the travel accounts, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes.  As the Lewis and Clark Expedition between 1804 and 1806 was significant in mapping the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific North West, the U.S. Exploring Expedition (or “The Wilkes Expedition,” as it has been called) that occurred thirty-five years after Lewis and Clark was equally monumental as it was the first government-funded circumnavigation by the United States.  Wilkes was told by the government that he was to conduct an expedition “for the purpose of exploring and surveying the Southern Ocean as well to determine the existence of all doubtful islands and shoals, as to discover, and accurately fix, the position of those which [lay] in or near the track of our vessels in that quarter, and [might] have escaped the observation of scientific navigators.”

A map of the Fiji Islands circa May 1840 from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21360033880001021"><i>Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842</i></a> by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848 General, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

A map of the Fiji Islands circa May 1840 from Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842 by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848 General, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Some forms of possession occurred before the mapping of possessed lands. Spaniards did not map Mexico until roughly one hundred years after the supposed military “conquest.” But the maps for the Wilkes Expedition reveal a different approach. In this case, a map publication itself made the claim of possession. Though the Wilkes expedition mapped the Islands of Fiji, the continent of Antarctica, and the Oregon Territory, only the last was a U. S. possession.  And yet the travel accounts and the mapping of Antarctica and Fiji claim otherwise. In the travel accounts, Wilkes mentions that his crew was easily able to overpower and overwhelm the indigenous people of Fiji when a battle ensued and only two crew members were lost while eighty Fijians were killed.

A map of the Oregon Territory circa April of 1841 from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21360033880001021"><i>Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842</i></a> by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

A map of the Oregon Territory circa April of 1841 from Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842 by Charles Wilkes, 1844, 11-000025848, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

And while no country owns Antarctica, some countries have made territorial claims recognized by other nations. Unfortunately the United States was not one of those countries originally when they landed in the same area of Antarctica that was previously explored by the British in connection with their then territory of Australia. Upon arrival in Antarctica, Wilkes claimed and renamed the British territorial claim “Wilkesland.” As the Wilkes Expedition reveals, possession can occur both before or after the actual mapping of an area. In some cases, possession is not an action but a claim made on paper.

  • Joe Bushee, BC Class of 2014 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Ordering the Unknown:  The European Mapping Tradition from 1600 to 1860, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Sylvia Sellers-Garcia’s Spring 2014 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.  

 

Posted in Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, HS600 Posts, Rare books, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accuracy & Extrapolation: Maps of the Caribbean, Ireland and Madagascar

Mapping and Mercantilism in the Caribbean

Detail of Angel from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21332300660001021"> <i>The West-India Atlas</i></a> by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Detail of Angel from  The West-India Atlas by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Cartography in Britain, and much of Europe in general, revolved around naval commerce and travel during the early modern period.  Cartographers like Thomas Jefferys (1719 – 1771) created these maps within a competitive economic context, which eventually came to be known as mercantilism.  Jefferys, working within this ideological context, developed The West-India Atlas in the late eighteenth century to help facilitate mercantilist-influenced trade in the Caribbean.

"Jamaica" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21332300660001021"> <i>The West-India Atlas</i></a> by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“Jamaica” from  The West-India Atlas by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Cartographic accuracy lay at the heart of early modern Europeans ambitions to navigate across land and water. Accuracy covers a broad spectrum of topics when it comes to mapping, from depictions of landmasses to calculations of depth measurements.  Because of this, accuracy in mapping subsequently serves another purpose: the development of global economics and exchange around the world. With the growth of commercial exchange and naval commerce beginning in the fifteenth century, development of these maps became a crucial trade tool.  In the colonial Caribbean, a land of narrow waterways, tropical jungles, isolated sandbars, and erratic ocean currents, this accuracy became even more critical for success by merchants.  Ships, large and small, with cargo holds full of sugar, tobacco, rum, gold and silver, became the means of conveyance for this trade in the Caribbean and around the world.

"The Windward Passage" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21332300660001021"> <i>The West-India Atlas</i></a> by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“The Windward Passage” from  The West-India Atlas by Thomas Jefferys, G 1600 .J4 1794, Williams Oversize Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In Jefferys’ atlas, he takes care to refer to currents, places where ships could anchor and take on water, and depth measurements to assist the captains of these ships.  However, Jefferys goes beyond these elaborations and even makes references to the climate and inhabitants of the region to provide insights into the lifestyle of the Caribbean.  He indicates the dominance of the Caribbean sugar plantations, making sure to note their property borders and comment on the sugar production for almost every island.  The West-India Atlas truly embodies the context of mercantilism, and while it makes no specific arguments for the ideology, it goes to an extreme length to ensure the success of the system through accurate mapping.

  • Benjamin J. Shapiro, BC Class of 2016 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

 Creating Certainty in Turbulent Times

Map of Ireland from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21321484140001021"><i>The Traveller's New Guide through Ireland</i></a> by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Map of Ireland from The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland was published in Dublin in 1815. The book’s illustrations are from engravings and sketches done by J. Taylor. This book was originally created to provide travelers to Ireland with a correct guide of the country, but its scope was expanded as an effort to enliven the work and to make it invaluable to businessmen and local people.

 The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland was published when Ireland was still under the control of England and a mere 15 years after the 1800 Act of Union was signed and 17 years after the rebellion of 1798. This was a particularly important time in the history of these two regions because the Irish rebellion had been largely unforeseen and represented a larger French threat to the British Empire.

Detail of Dublin from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21321484140001021"><i>The Traveller's New Guide through Ireland</i></a> by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Detail of Dublin from The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

This map of Ireland is specifically touted as “new and correct” regarding the roads in Ireland. Roads are important militarily because they provide access from the coastal regions to the interior regions of the island and between the villages. Some of the roads depicted were even constructed for military use to provide a means of communication and shelter. It was strategically important to have accurate maps to know the best way to mobilize troops, where resources were, and through what terrain the roads would lead. Maps like this one would if possible show if a route went through friendly or hostile areas and if the roads were near any resources. Whether or not troops had access to resources or were exposed to politically friendly residents had the potential to dictate victory or defeat and so accurate maps were essential for the military.

Table of Fairs from  <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21321484140001021"><i>The Traveller's New Guide through Ireland</i></a> by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Table of Fairs from  The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland by John Cummings, DA 975 .T73 1815, Irish Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Other instances of the concern over accuracy can be seen in the precision with which measurements are taken of the road distances and the exact geographic location of the island. The Traveller’s New Guide through Ireland also carefully documents when and where local fairs and markets took place. This scrupulous cataloging of such events further demonstrates the role that accuracy occupied in cartography.

Allen’s New and Correct Pocket Map of Ireland and the charts of local fairs and markets contained in The New Traveller’s Guide exemplify some instances of the importance of maps during military and political uncertainty and transition. The concern with accuracy also reflects the political concerns of the era in which this book was produced.

  • Katherine Clark, BC Class of 2015 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

 Heights and Depths in Flacourt’s Madagascar

Plants of Madagascar from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21386337120001021"> <i>Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar</i></a> by Étienne de Flacourt, DT 469 .M31 F5, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Plants of Madagascar from Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar by Étienne de Flacourt, DT 469 .M31 F5, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1642 the French East India Company was granted a charter to establish a colony on the Southeast corner of Madagascar.  After six unsuccessful years in establishing a prosperous trading outpost in this new French colony of Fort Dauphin, Étienne de Flacourt was appointed new governor of the colony.  His original mission was to establish a trading network with the local Malagasy population, but lack of cooperation from the locals and France’s inadequate support of the colony caused Flacourt to abandon this mission.  He turned instead to documenting and mapping the island around him.  And so Flacourt published Historie de la Grande Isle Madagascar , a 354-page work that gave the first European in-depth account of Madagascar.  Included in this volume are several maps of the island and many sketches of the local Malagasy people and the distinct plant and animal life in Madagascar.

"Map of the Carcassonne Valley" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21386337120001021"> <i>Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar</i></a> by Étienne de Flacourt, DT 469 .M31 F5, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“Map of the Carcassonne Valley” from Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar by Étienne de Flacourt, DT 469 .M31 F5, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

For example, Flacourt maps this section of current Southeast Madagascar using extrapolation.  The mountains that Flacourt plots are particularly uniform in height—this is not a coincidence, but showcases one idea of cartographic extrapolation in heights and depths.  With little accurate information of the true topography of this region, Flacourt replaced this knowledge gap with an invented and uniform topography.  Flacourt populates this map with mountains, each of nearly equal height and shape.  When compared to accurate topographical depictions, this method of height and depth extrapolation seems senseless.  This extrapolation, however, allowed Flacourt to create a sense of order and familiarity with a completely foreign and distant land.

  • Mirko Kruse, BC Class of 2014 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Ordering the Unknown:  The European Mapping Tradition from 1600 to 1860, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Sylvia Sellers-Garcia’s Spring 2014 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.  

Posted in Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, HS600 Posts, Irish Studies, Rare books, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Housekeeping in 19th Century America

Recipe and household instruction manuals from the Burns Library's General Collection, from top to bottom: <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21361188130001021"><i>The House Book</i></a> , <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21361367800001021">The Young House-keeper</a> , <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21366983680001021"><i>Mrs. Putnam's Receipt Book</i></a> and <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21363905970001021"><i>The American Woman's Home</i></a>.

Recipe and household instruction manuals from the Burns Library’s General Collection, from top to bottom: The House Book , The Young House-keeper , Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book and The American Woman’s Home.

As the season changes from Thanksgiving to preparations for holiday festivities, cooking, cleaning and all things of the home are brought to mind.  Four 19th century books in the Burns Library’s General Collection offer fascinating glimpses of middle and upper-class  American home life.  These recipe or “receipt” books and household manuals sought to instruct young house-keepers and newly married women in the art and science of cultivating a thriving home and family.

 

Title page from Mrs. Putnam's Receipt Book, TX 715 .P962 1858, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book, TX 715 .P962 1858, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book is a cookbook, provider of menus, and dispenser of advice. The first part of the book is dedicated to recipes, followed by menu options for small or large families made specific to the season. The last section offers advice on how to run a household and manage servants.  The recipes in Mrs. Putnam do not follow contemporary cookbook format with ingredients listed first, followed by instructions. Instead, each recipe provides ingredients and directions together.  While more complicated recipes are fairly detailed, simpler recipes seem to presuppose some familiarity in the kitchen on the part of the cook. The recipes are followed by a collection of menus offering different meal options for small or large families, in summer or winter, or at the children’s table.  The focus is on combinations and seasonal appropriateness: there are several lists which provide a guide to what foods are best in what month. The final section offers advice specifically to young or new housekeepers, mainly on the management of servants and how to establish order and economy within the household. The tone of this book is practical and accessible though it seems to favor a middle-class audience.

"Recipes for Plain Cooking" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21361367800001021">The Young House-keeper</a> by William A. Alcott, TX 145.A355 Y73 1838, General Collection, John J. Burns Library.

“Recipes for Plain Cooking” from The Young House-keeper by William A. Alcott, TX 145.A355 Y73 1838, General Collection, John J. Burns Library.

William Alcott’s book, The Young House-Keeper, advocates for a mainly vegetarian diet, the importance of chewing food well and thoroughly, the dangers of serving food that is too hot, and the importance of the housekeeper as a moral educator within the house. His main argument is that housekeepers are mothers and how they fulfill their role in the home has the ability to shape society as a whole. Chapter by chapter, Alcott lists the benefits and ills of various types of foods. Alcott warns against using meat as anything except a condiment and proposes a diet of plain food. This section is followed by several chapters on how to implement these changes in diet and household economy. The book ends with a recipe section entitled “Recipes for Plain Cooking.” Alcott suggests that housekeepers should invent their own recipes following his guidelines. He also admits that his recipes take varying skill levels and he counsels women using his book to choose recipes that suit their abilities in the kitchen. The recipes that follow are remarkable for their absence of spices or flavorings; the recipes are also all vegetarian.

Preface and table of contents from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21361188130001021"><i>The House Book</i></a> by Miss Leslie, TX 167 .L47 1845, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Preface and table of contents from The House Book by Miss Leslie, TX 167 .L47 1845, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The House Book by Miss Leslie explains the proper care of a house from the furniture to the laundry. The author explains that the book is written for families of comfortable means and is intended to help a woman train her domestic help. The instructions that follow explain all aspects of caring for and entertaining in an American home in 1845.  Sections on how to serve various meals also occasionally include recipes though this book, unlike the others, is not primarily concerned with food preparation. The House Book ends with “Hints on Dressmaking”, a chapter that outlines the making of various garments and their proper care. This book emphasizes the wide range of duties and responsibilities housekeepers and their staff had in the nineteenth century.

Title page from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21363905970001021"><i>The American Woman's Home</i></a> by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Esther Beecher, TX 145 .B415 1869, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from The American Woman’s Home by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Esther Beecher, TX 145 .B415 1869, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

As the title states, The American Woman’s Home explores domestic science, using scientific information to focus on the health of the individual and the home. Scientific illustrations of the lungs, stomach, skin, brain, and nervous system illustrate chapters devoted to health, exercise, and proper ventilation in the home. A wide variety of topics are covered in the book including cooking, clothing, the care of children, servants, and the ill, as well as domestic systems and healthy house construction. Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and her sister, The American Woman’s Home is less of an instruction book and more of a treatise on the physical and moral responsibilities of a housekeeper. The authors intended the text as a training manual as they write in the introduction:

Women’s profession embraces the care and nursing of the body in the critical periods of infancy and sickness, the training of the human mind in…childhood, the instruction…of servants, and most of the government and economies of the family state. These duties of women are as sacred and important as any ordained to man; and yet no such advantages for preparation have been accorded to her, nor is there any qualified body to certify the public that a woman is duly prepared to give proper instruction in her profession.

If you would like to take a look at these books, then they are available for your perusal in the Burns Library Reading Room.  To learn more about recipe and housekeeping related materials at the Burns Library, read these past blog posts or view this Flickr album, featuring materials from the Spring 2014 Burns Library exhibit, Are You Being Served?  Historical Menus from the Archives.  If you have any questions, contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Rachel Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Ph.D. student in the Department of English
Posted in Featured Collections & Books, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mapping and Legitimizing New Spain

The Mapping of New Spain

"Peak of Orizaba" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21317679310001021"><i>Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain</i></a> by Alexander von Humboldt, F 1211 .H9, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“Peak of Orizaba” from Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain by Alexander von Humboldt, F 1211 .H9, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

When Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist widely considered one of the brightest scientific minds of his era, set off on a voyage to South America, the Spanish colony of New Spain (modern-day Mexico) was not high on his list of priorities. Upon witnessing the geographical and biological diversity in the region, he quickly rearranged his proposed journey of circumnavigation in favor of a comprehensive study of the social and geographic landscape of New Spain. The results of that labor, recorded in his Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, comprise nearly 2000 pages of statistical analysis and some of the most comprehensive cartography in the Americas to date.

Map of New Spain print

“Map of New Spain” from Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain by Alexander von Humboldt, F 1211 .H9, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

As a child of the Enlightenment, Humboldt projects into his science and cartography a strong belief in the need for a total understanding of the environment that he studies. As he explains in the personal narrative resulting from this journey, “it would hinder the advancement of the sciences to postulate general ideas by neglecting particular facts.” To that end, the Political Essay, and his “Map of the Kingdom of New Spain” in particular, includes an astonishing breadth of information about a variety of significant aspects of colonial life. Because of Humboldt’s understanding of the volume of information yet unknown about New Spain, he found himself driven to advance a scientific understanding of an important part of the Spanish Empire by observing and categorizing a vast quantity of data about life in the region.

In the “Map of New Spain” in particular, Humboldt reveals the deeply human priority of his scientific perspective. By including elements of the human landscape (cities, churches, and towns), the economic landscape (mines and military posts), and the scientific landscape (astronomical observations and mountains), Humboldt seeks to fully encompass the essence of New Spain, to understand the ways that people interact with their environment. Proceeding from the Enlightenment perspective that nature can be fully understood with the application of logic and human reason, Humboldt’s attempt to map the unknown comes in the form of broad and far-reaching scientific calculation.

  • Daniel Quick, BC Class of 2016 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

 Legitimizing New Spain

"New Map of North and South America" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21315614140001021"><i>The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America</i></a> by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“New Map of North and South America” from The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas was the royal chronicler of Spain and is famous for his historical account of the Spanish conquest of the Americas in what is commonly referred to as The Décadas. These maps and engravings appear in John Stevens’ translation of that work and act as reference tools for the reader. The “New Map of North and South America” is used to show much of the region that is described in The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America.

"Hidrographical Draught of Mexico" from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21315614140001021&quot;"><i>The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America</i></a> by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

“Hidrographical Draught of Mexico” from The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The “Hidrographical Draught of Mexico as it Lies in its Lakes” is a map of the Aztec capital of Mexico, Tenochtitlán. This particular map originates from a Spanish traveler named Carlos de Sigüenza Góngora who reportedly copied it from a Native American mapmaker.

In writing a historical account of this crucial era in Spain’s history, one of Herrera y Tordesillas’s tasks was to justify the conquest of an entire population of people in which Spain claimed possession of all of Mexico and Central America. One way of justifying their actions was by portraying the native people as savages or even subhuman creatures. Perhaps the most effective way of doing that was by describing the religious practices of the native people. The polytheistic worship of multiple gods and the practices of human sacrifice were extremely disturbing for many of the Catholic Spanish explorers.

On the left “The Great Charnel House in ye City of Mexico" and on the right “Vitzilipuztli, the Principal Idol of the Mexicans” from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21315614140001021"><i>The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America</i></a> by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

On the left “The Great Charnel House in ye City of Mexico” and on the right “Vitzilipuztli, the Principal Idol of the Mexicans” from The General History of the Vast Continent and Islands of America by Antonio de Herrara y Tordesillas, published in 1725, E 141.H59, Williams Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

An engraving in this book entitled “Vitzilipuztli, the Principal Idol of the Mexicans” shows an example of this idol worship that Spaniards found so appalling. This idol would have been located in one of the great temples of Tenochtitlán. Another engraving worth mentioning is “The Great Charnel House in ye City of Mexico,” which shows a display of human skulls from victims of the sacrificial rituals of the Mexica people. Images like these reinforced the Spanish descriptions of heathenism within the native religions. The idea that the native people were heathens was useful in justifying their conquest  and solidifying their claims of possession because they could act in the name of civilizing and Christianizing the Native Americans.

Two maps were added to the translation of Herrera y Tordesillas’s work more than a century after the original Décadas was first published. They were used as reference tools in order to assist readers in understanding the historical account of Spain’s conquest of the New World. After they had already solidified and justified their possession, they were able to create these maps and include images of churches that signified the locations of towns and cities named after Spanish saints. It was clear that they claimed to control and possess this land.

  • Conor Morris, BC Class of 2014 and Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Ordering the Unknown:  The European Mapping Tradition from 1600 to 1860, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Sylvia Sellers-Garcia’s Spring 2014 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.  

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Sacred Heart Review

<i>Sacred Heart Review</i>, <a href="http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgi-bin/bostonsh?a=d&amp;d=BOSTONSH19100813-01&amp;e=-------en-20--1--txt-IN-----">August 13, 1910</a>, Vol. 44, No. 8.

Sacred Heart Review, August 13, 1910, Vol. 44, No. 8.

The Sacred Heart Review was a Catholic newspaper published in Cambridge and Boston from 1888 to 1918 devoted to local, national, and international news.  The entire 60-volume run has been digitized and is now available online as part of the Boston College Digital Collections. Many of the articles in this newspaper reported on the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Boston as well as greater New England, along with pieces that explicated and defended Catholicism. The statement on the paper’s masthead explains its mission succinctly:

Our object: to furnish sound, instructive, and entertaining reading for the Catholic family; to explain, illustrate, and defend the doctrines, devotion, and practices of the Church.

The first order of business in the digitization process was to inventory the masses of volumes that were delivered to the Burns Library. Since some of these bound volumes turned out to be in three-hole punched loose leaf, the only way to know exactly what we had was to go through each volume, issue-by-issue. The Sacred Heart Review was published as two volumes per year, 26 issues to the volume. Given the number of duplicates we had – in some cases there were five or six duplicates of a particular volume – the job appeared to be a very long and dry exercise in spreadsheet creation. But it was just that “long and dry exercise” that led directly to the Review becoming a completely searchable digitized text.

As I thumbed through each issue of each volume I was drawn into the newspaper’s world – the world of turn-of-the-last-century Boston. Through the newspaper’s advertisements, articles, columns and even printing presentation, I entered a paper time machine that became more and more compelling the more I cataloged. By the time I was finished I had become convinced that this journal would be an ideal addition to the greater digital library; only six libraries nation-wide had holdings of the Review, and of these only three – BC, Library of Congress and Marquette University – had complete holdings.

<i>Sacred Heart Review</i>, <a href="http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgi-bin/bostonsh?a=d&d=BOSTONSH19150102-01.2.8&e=-------en-20--1--txt-IN-----">January 2, 1915</a>, Vol. 53, No. 3.

Sacred Heart Review, January 2, 1915, Vol. 53, No. 3.

What did I find that was so compelling? And how would the digitization of this newspaper advance scholarship?  The front pages of the paper always covered current events in both the political and intellectual spheres.  In addition, most issues of the Review devoted at least some space to coverage of events in the Archdiocese of Boston, and some issues were devoted – in part or in whole, in the case of supplements – to reporting the affairs of the Catholic Church throughout greater New England. Since the paper’s period correlates to the rise of what some have called the “golden age of American Catholicism,” it represents an extraordinarily rich resource with which to mine information about this period.  For example:  in vol. 53, no. 3 (Jan. 2, 1915) the cover article contained Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, which described his grief at the slaughter that had just begun to envelope Europe. Terming the war the “suicide of civilized Europe,” Benedict attempted to mediate between the Allies and the Central Powers, but was rejected by both sides.  Vol. 56, no. 17 (Oct. 7, 1916) saw another front-page article concerning the war, entitled “German-Americans Loyal.” Anti-German sentiment had become high in the country (for example, one man of German descent was lynched in Illinois simply because of his ethnic background, and the jury appointed to try the case described the act as “patriotic”), but the Review strongly defended the patriotism of its German-American parishioners and indeed of German-Americans everywhere.

This column offered lessons in reading Irish, <i>Sacred Heart Review</i>, <a href="http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgi-bin/bostonsh?a=d&amp;d=BOSTONSH19100709-01&amp;e=-------en-20--1--txt-IN-----"> July 9, 1910</a>, vol. 44, no. 3.

This column offered lessons in reading Irish, Sacred Heart Review, July 9, 1910, vol. 44, no. 3.

Since many of the subscribers to the newspaper were Irish-Americans, the Review often featured articles and columns dealing with Irish heritage. Advertisements offering inexpensive rates to travel back to Ireland were prominently featured, as were columns dealing with Irish language and culture.  Finally, popular culture is treated in every issue with the many advertisements that brought income to the Review. From the standpoint of both history and cultural studies the Review offers many insights into this period of history.  It is also possible to trace the rise and fall of gas lighting through the advertisements of the Cambridge Gas Light Company. Towards that end the ads attempted to fend off the encroaching dominance of electric lighting by offering very inexpensive rates.

 

<i>Sacred Heart Review</i>, <a href="http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgi-bin/bostonsh?a=d&d=BOSTONSH19001229-01&e=-------en-20--1--txt-IN-----">Dec. 29, 1900</a>, Vol. 24, No. 26.

Sacred Heart Review, Dec. 29, 1900, Vol. 24, No. 26.

Every issue featured advertisements from local patent medicine manufacturers such as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, Dr. Greene’s Nervura, Father John’s, and Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets. See for example vol. 24, no. 26 (Dec. 29, 1900) , and especially the full-page ad “A cry for help” purchased by the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Co., Lynn, Mass. in vol. 13 (n.s. 1), no. 12 (Mar. 23, 1895).  Most of these firms disappeared or changed the nature of their products after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act; for example, Dr. Greene’s was found to contain 18% alcohol, along with ginger, and the owners were fined. Lydia Pinkham’s medicine, aimed at the reduction of menstrual cramps, was actually found to have genuine medicinal properties and the firm is still in business. Songs have been written about Pinkham, and a B-17 bomber in WWII was named “Lydia Pinkham.” The bomber, unfortunately, did not have the same luck as Ms. Pinkham’s customers, and was shot down.  The Review itself advertised that it offered “A First-Class College Education FREE to any boy who sends the Sacred Heart Review offices 100 new subscriptions 4 years of either preparatory (High School) course, or 4 years of college course at Boston College.” Similar offers were made for Holy Cross College and Mt. St. Joseph Academy. See vol. 34, no. 2 (July 8, 1905).

These short descriptions provide but an inkling as to the contents of this incredible resource.  Thanks to the work of Bill Donovan, Betsy Post, Brian Meuse, Naomi Rubin, and Greg Tallent, the Sacred Heart Review can now be viewed, searched and downloaded in either individual issue or complete volume form at newspapers.bc.edu.  The online version was also made possible, in part, by the John and Ruth Galvin Endowed Fund for the Boston Collection at the John J. Burns Library.  If you have further questions or would like to do research in the Boston Collection, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

David-RichtmyerDavid Richtmyer, Rare Books Librarian & Senior Cataloger, Burns Library

 

 

 

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Lexica Jesuitica: Missioner Dictionaries of Latin America

Missioner Dictionaries of Latin America

Five grammars and dictionaries published by Jesuits for their fellow missionaries working among the indigenous peoples of Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

The Jesuitica Collection in the Burns Library conserves some of the earliest written records of Amerindian spoken languages. As Jesuits pursued their missionary commitments among the peoples they met, they compiled dictionaries and grammars to help them in their efforts. These reference works not only shed light on Jesuit priorities as they sought to communicate a new religion and its social mandates to Amerindian peoples; they also preserve whole vocabularies saturated with pre-Columbian cultural norms. So while these texts were produced in a moment of colonial encounter, they survive as invaluable treasures of both European and Amerindian ways of thought.

<a title="Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Peru llamada lengua Qquichua, o del inca (1607)" href="http://bclib.bc.edu/libsearch/bc/keyword/ALMA-BC21387241650001021" target="_blank"><em>Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Peru llamada lengua Qquichua, o del inca</em> (1607)</a>. Before this volume arrived into the care of the Burns Library, these pages were damaged by book worms like our very own <a title="Conservator’s Notebook: Arthur the Theologian (Burns Library Blog)" href="http://johnjburnslibrary.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/conservators-notebook-arthur-the-theologian/" target="_blank">"Arthur the Theologian."</a>

Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Peru llamada lengua Qquichua, o del inca (1607). Before this volume arrived into the care of the Burns Library, these pages were damaged by book worms like our very own “Arthur the Theologian.”

Some highlights from these collections include a grammar and dictionary of the Incan Quechua language (Lima, 1607); a dictionary of the Aymara language spoken in Peru and Chile (1612); a second early Quechua grammar and dictionary (Lima, 1614); a dictionary of the Guarani language spoken among the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay (Madrid, 1639); and a dictionary of the Mapuche language of Chile (Lima, 1765).

These volumes are remarkably diverse, and each has its own story to tell. The last of these holds particular historical interest as the Society of Jesus celebrates the bicentennial of its restoration. The text is an introduction to the Mapudungun language by the Catalan Jesuit Andres Febrés, published in 1765 during the early years of the Jesuit suppression. This volume includes a grammar, sample dialogues, and a dictionary of frequent words; a catechism, common prayers, a guide for confessions, and sample sermons in translation; and a comprehensive Spanish–Mapudungun dictionary. But this text is not a timeless document; it is deeply rooted in the circumstances of its production.

Tesoro de la lengua guarani (1639)

Frontispiece for Tesoro de la lengua guarani (1639). The captions around the image read: “Mary, conceived without the sin of original sin,” and “[He] made salvable the nations of the earth, Wis. 1:14.”

Mapudungun, sometimes known as Araucano or Aruacania, is the language of the Mapuche people of central Chile. The Mapuche had doggedly resisted Spanish rule since the first party of conquistadors attempted to impose a colonial presence in 1536. The 1760s were again a time of tension, as the Royal Governor of Chile pressed the Mapuche people to consolidate into cities and the Mapuche people resisted with increasing violence. Meanwhile the Jesuits were themselves on the defensive. Portugal and France had expelled their Jesuits, the Spanish king threatened to do the same, and the Bourbon monarchs were pressing the Pope to dissolve the Order worldwide.

So it was into an atmosphere of Spanish hostility, Jesuit uncertainty, and Mapuche resistance that Andres Febrés published his Mapudungun grammar in Lima in 1765. In one of his most brilliantly crafted passages, Febrés imagines a dialogue between two Mapuche meeting for the first time, ostensibly as an example to teach his Spanish-speaking audience some basic conversational Mapudungun. What he achieved is something else altogether. In a few short lines, the Jesuit Febrés managed to sympathize with the restive Mapuche, censure the secularizing Spaniards seeking to suppress his Order, and justify the Jesuit mission in the Spanish colonies.

Arte de la lengua general del reyno de Chile (1765)

From Arte de la lengua general del reyno de Chile, con un dialogo chileno-hispano muy curioso (1765): “The following dialogue will be translated in large part sense-for-sense, not word-for-word, adapting Indian phrases into Castilian when a more literal fidelity is not possible.”

As one Mapuche laments recent Spanish atrocities in Chile, his counterpart interrupts: “Others have already given me news of the land of Chile, the Spaniards, their arrival, and their wars! But you are being stingy with me – sparing me the news of the Jesuit Fathers, their arrival, and the good things they do here on earth.”

This short exchange imagines the world not as it was but as Febrés wished it to be. For a brief moment in 1765, Febrés could imagine a utopia where his fellow Spaniards would forgo their economic depredations and make way for Jesuit works, the liberated Mapuche would encounter the Jesuits by choice and not by coercion, and the Spanish empire as a whole might profit from this new-found peace and build upon the prosperity rather then the exploitation of its peoples. But this was a world that would not come to pass. The Mapuche would enter into open revolt the following year, and a year later, the Spanish king would expel the Jesuit Order from his lands. And as Febrés’s dream faded from memory, a rare copy of his Arte de la lengua general del Reyno de Chile began its long journey from Lima, Peru, to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

These volumes and other treasures of the Jesuit past may be found in the Burns Library Jesuitica Collection. To learn more about the Jesuitica Collection at the Burns Library, browse the digitized book and manuscript holdings in the BC Libraries Digital Collections or read about exhibits of the Jesuitica Collection on the Burns exhibits page. If you have further questions or would like to do research in the Jesuitica collection, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Matthew Delvaux, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Ph.D. Student in the Department of History.
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Prism of Russia: Cornelis de Bruyn and Robert G. Latham

Cornelis de Bruyn’s Russia

View of Moscow from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21347388410001021" <i>Travels into Muscovy, Persia, and Part of the East Indies</i></a> by Cornelis de Bruyn, 1737, DS 7.B93 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

View of Moscow from Travels into Muscovy, Persia, and Part of the East Indies by Cornelis de Bruyn, 1737, DS 7.B93 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Often, the images brought back by famous travelers like Cornelis de Bruyn and published in their travel accounts would be the only exposure the average person would have to vast expanses of the globe.  While not exactly “maps” in the traditional, navigational sense, these sketches and drawings wielded enormous power in defining a space and shaping the public’s understanding of their world.

Man with reindeer from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21347388410001021"><i>Travels into Muscovy, Persia, and Part of the East Indies</i></a> by Cornelis de Bruyn, 1737, DS 7.B93 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Man with reindeer from Travels into Muscovy, Persia, and Part of the East Indies by Cornelis de Bruyn, 1737, DS 7.B93 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

However, these images would more often reflect the various authors’ interpretations of that space rather than hard and fast objective fact, as can be seen in these three images.  Here, the selected images display the cultural biases at play in the mind of the traveler Cornelis de Bruyn.  These images and the larger travel narrative they come from helped familiarize the far off lands of Russia to citizens of the west.  However, de Bruyn’s Russia is heavily distorted by his own personal judgments and larger western stereotypes.

  • Mark Relation, BC Class of 2015 & Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

Robert G. Latham:  Mapping Russia’s Ethnicities

Map titled "An Ethnographical Map of Russia in Europe" by Robert G. Latham from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21357854370001021" <i>The Native Races of the Russian Empire</i></a>, DK 33 .L35, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Robert Latham’s text was published in 1854 and relies on his own study as well as the Petersburg map which was drawn in 1852.

Map titled “An Ethnographical Map of Russia in Europe” by Robert G. Latham from The Native Races of the Russian Empire, DK 33 .L35, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Robert Latham’s text was published in 1854 and relies on his own study as well as the Petersburg map which was drawn in 1852.

In the 1850s, when Robert G. Latham wrote The Native Races of the Russian Empire, ethnography looked like an empirical version of anthropology, focused around statistics and labeling of cultures as a way of classifying and comparing the foreign ethnic groups in a region. In this way mapping and anthropology were related as ethnographers sought to catalog peoples in various countries. Ethnography grew out of colonization and European empires’ wishes to organize and understand their new territories, including the people living there. Though many travel accounts had already recorded the various non-European ethnic groups across the globe by the time Latham and the St. Petersburg Geographical society were writing, new scientific ideas and imperial competition spurred ethnographers to re-evaluate foreign cultures.

Reference box from map in The Native Races of the Russian Empire, DK 33 .L35, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

As an ethnographer and philologist, Robert Latham focused much of his ethnographical research in The Native Races of the Russian Empire on the racial origins and linguistics of the various ethnic communities in Russia. This method differed from earlier accounts of foreign peoples in that it stressed a more “scientific” approach to the study of origins rather than a descriptive approach, suggesting that the ethnographic community in the mid-nineteenth century viewed their work as progressive. Latham was not looking to mold his own research to popular ideas at the time. Therefore his exact theories should not necessarily be taken as the majority opinion. Nevertheless, his work and that of the St. Petersburg Geographical Society reflect a larger trend towards ethnography and, to an extent, philology, as the most progressive forms of classification of people and places outside Europe in the mid nineteenth-century.

  • Lauren Rever, BC Class of 2019 & Spring 2014 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Ordering the Unknown:  The European Mapping Tradition from 1600 to 1860, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Sylvia Sellers-Garcia’s Spring 2014 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.  

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