They range from von Humboldt and his meticulous drawings of botanical, insect and animal specimens in the late 18th century and whose writing inspired some of the great thinkers of the 19th century, to Ralph Bagnold who completed outstanding explorations in North Africa in the early 20th century.
Many are old friends; Thomas Baines, Speke, Gertrude Bell, Darwin, Shackleton and Stein. But some were new to me, the amazing Schlagintweit brothers, four of whom made significant contributions to knowledge about India and the mountains and regions north of it. Benjamin Simpson whose evocative photographs of Kandahar during the Second Afghan War resonate strongly with events in that part of the world today. Carleton Watkins who took thousands of quite magnificent photographs of the American West and who tragically became insane after many of his prize negatives were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
Some of these explorers were ‘Barrow’s boys’, men who were sent forth by Sir John Barrow at the time of imperial expansion. ‘Knowledge’, asserted this father of British exploration, ‘is power,’ and exploration produced geographical knowledge on which imperial growth was based. Barrow’s boys were charged to record their findings in writings, maps, artwork and photographs. This book showcases some of their examples, which are in the RGS-IBG’s collection.
The purchaser of this remarkable volume acquires an added bonus. Together with this lavish book in its presentation case are 40 prints of artwork from the pens of these famous explorers. And what a bonus that is. The Society has opened its archives – the result is a rare pleasure