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Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

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The sketchbook has been the one constant in explorers' kits for centuries of adventure. Often private, they are records of immediate experiences and discoveries, and in their pages we can see what the explorers themselves encountered. This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—froze The sketchbook has been the one constant in explorers' kits for centuries of adventure. Often private, they are records of immediate experiences and discoveries, and in their pages we can see what the explorers themselves encountered. This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—frozen wastelands, high mountains, barren deserts, and dense rainforests—with their senses wide open. Figures such as Charles Darwin and Sir Edmund Hillary are joined here by lesser-known explorers such as Adela Breton, who braved the jungles of Mexico to make a record of Mayan monuments. Here are profiles, expedition details, and the artwork of pioneering explorers and mapmakers, botanists and artists, ecologists and anthropologists, eccentrics and visionaries. Here is the art of discovery.


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The sketchbook has been the one constant in explorers' kits for centuries of adventure. Often private, they are records of immediate experiences and discoveries, and in their pages we can see what the explorers themselves encountered. This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—froze The sketchbook has been the one constant in explorers' kits for centuries of adventure. Often private, they are records of immediate experiences and discoveries, and in their pages we can see what the explorers themselves encountered. This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—frozen wastelands, high mountains, barren deserts, and dense rainforests—with their senses wide open. Figures such as Charles Darwin and Sir Edmund Hillary are joined here by lesser-known explorers such as Adela Breton, who braved the jungles of Mexico to make a record of Mayan monuments. Here are profiles, expedition details, and the artwork of pioneering explorers and mapmakers, botanists and artists, ecologists and anthropologists, eccentrics and visionaries. Here is the art of discovery.

30 review for Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie

    This book is gorgeous! It contains short biographies of various explorers and naturalists along with pages from their journals and sketchbooks that they kept on various outings. There are quick sketches, watercolors, photographs and written notes. This is a short read about some early explorers, some no longer well-remembered with a lot of artwork that is stunning.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    UPDATE: Okay, so I haven't quite finished this - as noted before, this is something that should be read over a number of weeks, 2-3 entries at a time. But I'm almost done; and I just couldn't deal with my 1000th read book being the "graphic novel" (i.e., comic book) version of Game of Thrones. - much classier to have a grown-up book like this occupying that hallowed slot. Beautiful and unique book for anyone interested in natural history and/or exploration - makes you wonder why no one put somet UPDATE: Okay, so I haven't quite finished this - as noted before, this is something that should be read over a number of weeks, 2-3 entries at a time. But I'm almost done; and I just couldn't deal with my 1000th read book being the "graphic novel" (i.e., comic book) version of Game of Thrones. - much classier to have a grown-up book like this occupying that hallowed slot. Beautiful and unique book for anyone interested in natural history and/or exploration - makes you wonder why no one put something like this together before. It's not the kind of book you sit down and read all at once, but rather enjoy and study two or three entries at a time, (each artist/explorer/naturalist gets a brief introduction and then 2-3 pages of his notebooks). I particularly like that it's arranged alphabetically rather than by topic, so that within a few pages you bounce from insect hunting in the Amazon and crossing the Outback in the 1850's, to deep diving off Bermuda in the 1930's, to spying for the British in World War I Iraq, to living with the Inuit in the 1880's, to climbing in the Himalaya today, (Henry Walter Bates, Ludwig Becker, William Beebe, Gertrude Bell, Franz Boaz, Chris Bonnington). Only small criticism is that it would have been even better if they'd included portraits (photos or paintings) of the explorers themselves, so we could visualize who we were reading about. I'm currently reading a library copy, but only because my own hasn't arrived yet - this is definitely a keeper, much like the equally excellent and unknown Worlds to Explore: Classic Tales of Travel and Adventure from National Geographic. Unfortunately, this one costs a lot more on Amazon!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ella

    Loved the layout and all the photos but I really wish there had been less white men explorers that I've read or heard about from other history books I've read and more women and POC. Loved the layout and all the photos but I really wish there had been less white men explorers that I've read or heard about from other history books I've read and more women and POC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Didn't really know what to expect when I took this book out st the library... simply caught my eye and thought it looked interesting. What I found was page after page of incredible journal entries of the worlds greatest explorers through the last several centuries and a brief entry about their work. As I read through these passages I felt tremendous admiration for each individual's courage, perseverance, intelligence and their ability to take risks in the name of science. I also found their jour Didn't really know what to expect when I took this book out st the library... simply caught my eye and thought it looked interesting. What I found was page after page of incredible journal entries of the worlds greatest explorers through the last several centuries and a brief entry about their work. As I read through these passages I felt tremendous admiration for each individual's courage, perseverance, intelligence and their ability to take risks in the name of science. I also found their journals incredibly inspirational. As a individual who writes in a journal every day, I was able to discover through the journal entries in this book, a whole new way of expressing myself, documenting the world in other ways other then words... and have it be meaning, intense, worldly and beautiful. The book is a treasure worth owning and having on one's private bookshelf. It's a Goodread!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    A beautiful book but more historical and dense that I was in the mood for; great for anyone interested in art and history though!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Beautiful book, featuring excerpts from 70 explorers' field journals and notes. Many are beautiful; some are more interesting than others. I enjoyed browsing the book. The reproduction quality is good, but the illustration captions are in an imitation-typescript that I found really hard to read. The individual explorers range from famous to unknown (to me). The (typically) half-page potted bios of the explorers range from adequate to good; I read maybe a third of them. No ToC, but there is an ind Beautiful book, featuring excerpts from 70 explorers' field journals and notes. Many are beautiful; some are more interesting than others. I enjoyed browsing the book. The reproduction quality is good, but the illustration captions are in an imitation-typescript that I found really hard to read. The individual explorers range from famous to unknown (to me). The (typically) half-page potted bios of the explorers range from adequate to good; I read maybe a third of them. No ToC, but there is an index. Some of the illustrations left me scratching my head. Why would the editors think readers would be interested in seeing 4 pages of illegible notes in someone's field book? Fortunately, this is pretty rare, and there is some gorgeous artwork here. In closing: this isn't the sort of book I would buy, but if you see it in the public library, it's definitely worth taking home. And, as you will see, many other readers liked it more than I did. 3.3 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    Yet another one of those beautiful, gorgeous books that I'm going to have to buy if I ever hope to give it the thorough reading and intense viewing and inspection that the sketchbooks in question really deserve. It makes me wonder about the pages that this book did NOT include. (And to wish that they didn't use such TINY print for the all-too-short descriptions of the explorers lives and deaths and adventures. I also found myself wishing (and is mentioned in the author's foreword) that the field Yet another one of those beautiful, gorgeous books that I'm going to have to buy if I ever hope to give it the thorough reading and intense viewing and inspection that the sketchbooks in question really deserve. It makes me wonder about the pages that this book did NOT include. (And to wish that they didn't use such TINY print for the all-too-short descriptions of the explorers lives and deaths and adventures. I also found myself wishing (and is mentioned in the author's foreword) that the field of exploration wasn't such a male, white, European pastime. I wonder if there books like this from the POV of the Native American people who led Lewis and Clark or the Nepalese Sherpas who led people up Everest.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Just fabulous. LJ review pending publication, but I will say that the intersection of adventure, art, and memoir doesn’t get any better than this. A really fun and immersive escape for sketchers, armchair explorers, and anyone with a love of adventure and illustration.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Lovely sketches, though it mostly just featured white men.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have a problem with the presentation of female explorers in this book. There are 7 women and 63 men represented, which perpetuates the historical exclusion of women from scientific pursuits. Wikipedia lists 90 female explorers, not counting astronauts - surely more than 7 left interesting sketchbooks of their experiences! Every bio of a female explorer also contains patronizing language, such as Maria Sibylla Merian's - apparently silkworm observation is "a peculiar pastime for a young girl", b I have a problem with the presentation of female explorers in this book. There are 7 women and 63 men represented, which perpetuates the historical exclusion of women from scientific pursuits. Wikipedia lists 90 female explorers, not counting astronauts - surely more than 7 left interesting sketchbooks of their experiences! Every bio of a female explorer also contains patronizing language, such as Maria Sibylla Merian's - apparently silkworm observation is "a peculiar pastime for a young girl", but "her greatest legacy was to remind us... most of all, never to underestimate girls who collect caterpillars." Repeated descriptors such as "unconventional", "petite", and "frail-looking" further undermine the achievements of women by focusing on physical characteristics that are never mentioned in the men's bios. In addition, the book is Eurocentric and makes only half-hearted attempts to describe feats of exploration in such terms. There seems to be no inclusion of POC or explorers from non-European countries, and little discussion of the impacts of colonialism. I wanted to like this book, to feel inspired by the art of discovery and adventure. Instead, I walked away frustrated and determined to do my own research on pioneering explorers who sadly continue to be ignored and excluded from history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm not sure I'll actually finish reading this book - I was mostly interested in the sketches. It is a terrible flaw that it is arranged alphabetically by the sketchers' last names. It would be MUCH more useful if it were arranged by birth date, or by the content of the sketches (birds, beasts, bugs, landscapes, portraits, etc.). However, it is a beautifully-produced work, with excellent paper and printing techniques. It is inspiring and just looking through it helps you slow down. If you think a I'm not sure I'll actually finish reading this book - I was mostly interested in the sketches. It is a terrible flaw that it is arranged alphabetically by the sketchers' last names. It would be MUCH more useful if it were arranged by birth date, or by the content of the sketches (birds, beasts, bugs, landscapes, portraits, etc.). However, it is a beautifully-produced work, with excellent paper and printing techniques. It is inspiring and just looking through it helps you slow down. If you think about it, it's an object lesson in what different things happened when we couldn't rely on photography to document & convey all that we saw. Very nice - despite overly long descriptions of the artists.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A wonderful collection of stories and first-hand records (drawings, journal entries, collected artifacts) from some famous explorers, and from many more that were new to me, and who were just as fascinating. It spans centuries of explorers, both male and female, and succinctly summarizes their adventures into a snippet of information to paint a picture of their experiences. Was nice to read about these with today's lens of cultural sensitivity, so that the explorers were either lauded for their A wonderful collection of stories and first-hand records (drawings, journal entries, collected artifacts) from some famous explorers, and from many more that were new to me, and who were just as fascinating. It spans centuries of explorers, both male and female, and succinctly summarizes their adventures into a snippet of information to paint a picture of their experiences. Was nice to read about these with today's lens of cultural sensitivity, so that the explorers were either lauded for their willingness to learn about and preserve new cultures, or so that it was explicitly stated when they took the other path.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, one that warrants being picked up and read and examined in detail. It reminds me a great deal of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady". Before photography, people sketched and drew and painted their discoveries and their natural history findings. I enjoyed reading this explorers' sketchbook, but I enjoyed looking at their drawings and paintings even more. Highly recommended. The known explorers were enjoyable, and the unknown explorers (to me) were a real This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, one that warrants being picked up and read and examined in detail. It reminds me a great deal of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady". Before photography, people sketched and drew and painted their discoveries and their natural history findings. I enjoyed reading this explorers' sketchbook, but I enjoyed looking at their drawings and paintings even more. Highly recommended. The known explorers were enjoyable, and the unknown explorers (to me) were a real treat!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    If you know me, you know I love a good journal, so I enjoyed this book a lot—it's beautiful and has so many cool things in it. A little heavy on Antarctica and a little light on female explorers, which was disappointing because I'm sure females explore and I'm also sure we write about our travels. I don't know why there were so few, but it was still a gorgeous book to read. Learned of some cool explorers that I will need to read more about. If you know me, you know I love a good journal, so I enjoyed this book a lot—it's beautiful and has so many cool things in it. A little heavy on Antarctica and a little light on female explorers, which was disappointing because I'm sure females explore and I'm also sure we write about our travels. I don't know why there were so few, but it was still a gorgeous book to read. Learned of some cool explorers that I will need to read more about.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy Dance

    a beautiful book, just didn't have time 2 finish b4 due date. one thing, though, often the entries did not clearly state where in the world the exploration took place- I had to Google some locations I was unfamiliar with in order even know what continent it was on! It would have been helpful if the entries said something like this: She travelled to (place) in the country of (place). I will definitely get back 2 this book! a beautiful book, just didn't have time 2 finish b4 due date. one thing, though, often the entries did not clearly state where in the world the exploration took place- I had to Google some locations I was unfamiliar with in order even know what continent it was on! It would have been helpful if the entries said something like this: She travelled to (place) in the country of (place). I will definitely get back 2 this book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Tomaszewski

    This beautiful book offers samples of the writing and drawing of explorers from all over the world and going back centuries. Each entry — offered alphabetically — gives a little summary of the explorer’s life and work, and the rest is devoted to his/her own writing. As a nosy Parker, I love reading other people’s letters and journals, and this book allows a small glimpse into the daily life of extraordinary people. I particularly appreciate the number of female explorers who are represented and This beautiful book offers samples of the writing and drawing of explorers from all over the world and going back centuries. Each entry — offered alphabetically — gives a little summary of the explorer’s life and work, and the rest is devoted to his/her own writing. As a nosy Parker, I love reading other people’s letters and journals, and this book allows a small glimpse into the daily life of extraordinary people. I particularly appreciate the number of female explorers who are represented and presented as equals to the men.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Viewpoints Radio

    Being an explorer may seem like a childhood fantasy, but it’s a real thing people do. We talk to Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones about some notable explorers of the past and ways you can see the world through fresh eyes yourself. Listen here: https://viewpointsradio.wordpress.com... Being an explorer may seem like a childhood fantasy, but it’s a real thing people do. We talk to Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones about some notable explorers of the past and ways you can see the world through fresh eyes yourself. Listen here: https://viewpointsradio.wordpress.com...

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Hyder

    A wonderful book. It is mainly a coffee table browser with enough text to provide some context. Some of the sketches are remarkable, some are mundane all are inspirational. Some challenge me to become better at observation. Others show that aside from fame, I have a good hand with pen and ink.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    What a treasure this book is with the stories of explorers, travelers, scientists, artists ,collectors all together in a book showcasing examples of their works in sketchbooks and journals with a brief description of where each traveled and what drove their passions in life. I am enjoying reading this visual guide and loving the stories behind the paintings,

  20. 4 out of 5

    Will

    This is a wonderful unique book of biographies of renowned European and American explorers with images of their notebooks. It transports you along on their voyages. And, if you like to sketch, provides you with ample samples to practice. The only downside is that it can wreak havoc with your mid-life crisis.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Journals/sketchbooks from explorers throughout history. So very interesting! Inspiring! Quotes beginning each brief biographical section are rich. Heavily illustrated with photos of actual journals. A book to read and ponder.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deb Holden

    A book filled with the ink, pencil and watercolors from many, many explorers. Most I had only heard about superficially. Interesting to read about each one and then see the actual work. Worth a look at and a great reminder of those who explored our world.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stoned nINJA

    Its a must for any arm chair explorer . Beautiful sketches most of them are done by the explorer in question . I discovered a lot of explorers through this book . 2-3 pages is dedicated to one explorer and there are a lot of them from modern to historic .

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Richards

    Some of these were really amazing and surprising.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sund

    I love this beautiful book, but I wish it had even more pictures and fewer words. The producers of these coffee table books know we are just looking at the pictures, so let's not kid ourselves! : ) I love this beautiful book, but I wish it had even more pictures and fewer words. The producers of these coffee table books know we are just looking at the pictures, so let's not kid ourselves! : )

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Marvelous, just marvelous!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    fascinating and inspiring

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zoie

    Can't say I read all of the text, but it was an interesting book to sit down and read for a bit. Obviously, the sketches are the main attraction. Can't say I read all of the text, but it was an interesting book to sit down and read for a bit. Obviously, the sketches are the main attraction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Miss Kelly

    I really didn't get to read this book, but it is a wonderful Coffee Table read book. Beautiful sketches I really didn't get to read this book, but it is a wonderful Coffee Table read book. Beautiful sketches

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    An excellent look at the sketches and notes of some of the most prominent explorers of the 19th and 20th century. A delightful repast.

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