A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. I
by Robert Kerr
GENERAL HISTORY AND COLLECTION OF VOYAGES AND TRAVELS,
ARRANGED IN SYSTEMATIC ORDER:
FORMING A COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF NAVIGATION, DISCOVERY, AND COMMERCE, BY SEA AND LAND, FROM THE EARLIEST AGES TO THE PRESENT TIME.
ROBERT KERR, F.R.S. & F.A.S. EDIN.
ILLUSTRATED BY MAPS AND CHARTS.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY, THE HONOURABLE
SIR ALEXANDER COCHRANE, K.B.
VICE-ADMIRAL OF THE WHITE,
LATE COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF HIS MAJESTY'S NAVAL FORCES ON THE LEEWARD ISLAND STATION,
GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE ISLAND OF GUADALOUPE, &C. &C. &C.
Unused to the adulatory language of dedications, I am well aware that any such mode of address would offend your delicacy. While, therefore, I gratify my own feelings by inscribing this work with your valued name, I only use the freedom to assure your Excellency, that I have the honour to be, with the warmest sentiments of respectful esteem and sincere regard,
Your affectionate friend, and gratefully devoted servant,
Edinburgh, 1st March 1811.
In this enlightened age, when every department of science and literature is making rapid progress, and knowledge of every kind excites uncommon interest, and is widely diffused, this attempt to call the attention of the public to a Systematic Arrangement of Voyages and Travels, from the earliest period of authentic history to the present time, ought scarcely to require any apology. Yet, on appearing before the tribunal of public opinion, every author who has not cherished an unreasonable estimate of his own qualifications, must necessarily be impressed with considerable anxiety respecting the probable reception of his work; and may be expected to offer some account of the plan and motives of what he proposes to lay before the public.
The present work is the first of the kind that has ever been attempted in Scotland: and though, as already avowed in the Prospectus, the Editor has no wish to detract from the merits of similar publications, it might appear an overstrained instance of false delicacy to decline a statement of the circumstances which, he presumes to hope, will give some prospect of the work being received with attention and indulgence, perhaps with favour. It certainly is the only General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels that has been hitherto attempted in the English language, upon any arrangement that merits the appellation of a systematic plan. And hence, should the plan adopted be found only comparatively good, in so far the system of arrangement must be pronounced the best that has been as yet devised. If this be conceded, and the fact is too obvious to require extended proof or minute elucidation, the Editor shall not feel mortified even if his arrangement may be considerably improved hereafter.
The only work on the subject that has the smallest pretensions to system, and that is fanciful, involved, irregular, abrupt, and obscure, is PURCHAS HIS PILGRIMS. Even admitting the plan of that work to be in itself excellent; although it may be a General History, so far as it extends, it certainly is in no respect a Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels. In a very large proportion of that curious work, it is the author who speaks to the reader, and not the traveller. In the present work, wherever that could possibly be accomplished, it has uniformly been the anxious desire of the Editor that the voyagers and travellers should tell their own story: In that department of his labour, his only object has been to assume the character of interpreter between them and the readers, by translating foreign or antiquated language into modern English. Sometimes, indeed, where no record remains of particular voyages and travels, as written by the persons who performed them, the Editor has necessarily had recourse to their historians. But, on every such occasion, the most ancient and most authentic accessible sources have been anxiously sought after and employed. In every extensive work, it is of the utmost consequence that its various parts should be arranged upon a comprehensive and perspicuously systematic plan. This has been accordingly aimed at with the utmost solicitude in the present undertaking; and the order of its arrangement was adopted after much deliberation, and from a very attentive consideration of every general work of the same nature that could be procured. If, therefore, the systematic order on which it is conducted shall appear well adapted to the subject, after an attentive perusal and candid investigation, the Editor confidently hopes that his labours may bear a fair comparison with any similar publication that has yet been brought forward.