Sunday 19 October 2014

Punishing Russian Pirates and Mandarin Justice: A View Of The World From 1807

This imposing looking two-volume set arrived in the Little Shop this week...

It's quite foxed in places, and some of the foldy-out bits have been folded and re-folded so many times over its more-than-two-centuries existence (just let that sink in for a bit) that they've got a bit creased, but the bindings are sound, and the contents still do what they were designed to do: impart a great wodge of information in a very accessible way.

A General View of the World was originally published in 1804 in one volume; this is the second edition, possibly expanded. Its author, The Rev. Ezekiel Blomfield was a Congregational minister, who managed to write this massive work (and others) for the Suffolk publisher Bungay around his religious commitments and his home life — he was a father of nine. He died, presumably totally knackered, aged 39 in 1818.

Here's a quick gallop through just a few of the illustrations and maps in the book. Look out for:

— a map of the US where the West is basically blank
— what the posh Icelander is mostly wearing this season
— some very naughty Russian pirates
— various views of life in China (including some poor miscreant being beaten on the soles of his feet) from a time when it was still largely closed to the West

Blomfield's aim was no doubt to provide 'the only book you'll ever need about the World', and by 1807 standards, he has a damn good stab at it. I would have loved the chance to peruse it more, but it's already been snapped up...

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