Encyclopedia of Exploration.  Volume 5.  Invented and apocryphal narratives of travel.  Raymond John Howgego.  2013

Encyclopedia of Exploration. Volume 5. Invented and apocryphal narratives of travel. Raymond John Howgego. 2013

Howgego, Raymond John. 
Encyclopedia of Exploration.  Volume 5.  Invented and apocryphal narratives of travel
Hordern House. 
560 pages. 
ISBN 9781875567690.

In 2010 at the AGM of the Hakluyt Society,1 I heard Ray Howgego give a talk on his researches that led to the book under review.  He said that during the eighteen and nineteenth centuries more books were published of invented travels that of real ones.  Some were spoofs, but many appeared to the public to be true accounts.  His researches had shown it was sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction.


The previous four volumes in Howgego’s series of encyclopedias comprise a catalogue of all known expeditions, voyages and travels for the periods covered, as well as biographical information on the travellers themselves.2  The latest volume is a book about books; 2800 books by 1800 authors and fictional travellers, and over 600 imaginary place names.  They are organised by author, or the attributed author, of each work. Three indexes cover the names of the authors and travellers, the imaginary places visited and the titles of the books.  Regrettably there is not one for every person mentioned, so looking up


Howgego has helped Cook enthusiasts by the creation of a special article covering the “spurious and speculative accounts relating to the voyages of James Cook”.  There are also summary lists of the “invented narratives of travel set in Australia and New Zealand”.


The Cook article (C37) lists 18 books published between 1773 and 1792.  Howgego says some were “allegedly written by members of Cook’s crews or by those who claimed to have followed in his wake.”  A few relate to Omai, often considered to be an ideal “noble savage”, but most were lampooning Joseph Banks “and his amorous activities at Tahiti”.  Although most of these narratives were published in English, there are some in French and German.  My favourite title is The Philosophical puppet show; or, Snip’s inauguration to the President’s chair. Addressed to Sir J----- B----, baronet, a celebrated connoisseur in chickweed, caterpillars, black beetles, butterflies and cockle-sehlls [sic].  Howgego identifies the anonymous author, considers how the book came to be written and how many copies of it still exist.  This dedication of research enhances the value of this encyclopedia greatly.


Howgego has so much to say about the Travels of Hildebrand Bowman, Esquire that he dedicates a separate entry (B40) to it.  Bowman allegedly sailed in Adventure and got left behind in New Zealand  Published in 1778 it has never been reprinted.  Howgego identifies the author as John Elliott, who sailed in Resolution, based on the research of Rowan Gibbs, published in 1994. Cliff Thornton has recently been investigating other possibilities.3


Browsing the list (N4) of “invented narratives of travel, romance and adventure” located in New Zealand published from 1682 to 1902, I chanced upon the name of William Henry Giles Kingston (1814-80).  Howgego records him as the author in 1872 of Waihoura.  The Maori Girl.  But I know him as author of Captain Cook: His Life, Voyages and Discoveries, published in 1871 and reprinted many times afterwards.  It was fascinating to read a biographical piece about him,


WARNING: This book is addictive.  Whilst turning the pages my eyes spotted the word Hawkesworth amongst some text.  I ended up reading about the Swedish poet and novelist Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, who wrote Parjumouf in 1817 about Australia.  He uses the name Ulimaroa for the continent, a word heard during Cook’s visit to New Zealand.  The Maori used it to describe a far off land; it was published in Hawkesworth’s account of Cook’s First Voyage .


Regrettably there is no index for real people mentioned throughout the text, such as John Hawkesworth and Joseph Banks.  Those of us without sufficient fingers and thumbs to keep in multiple pages whilst jumping around this book are aided by three ribbons that can be used as place markers.


A wonderful book about fiction that complements the many other books about reality.

Ian Boreham


  1. Visit www.Hakluyt.com/
  2. Volume 1 covers up to 1800.  Volume 2 covers 1800 to 1850.  Volume 3 covers oceanic exploration from 1850 to 1940.  Volume 4 covers land exploration from 1850 to 1940.  All are still available .  There is a dedicated website at www.ExplorersEncyclopedia.com/
  3. “The Hunt for Hildebrand Bowman” in Cook’s Log, page 14, vol. 33, no. 4 (2010); page 34, vol. 34, no. 1 (2011); page 11, vol. 34, no. 2 (2011); page 6, vol. 34, no. 3 (2011).

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 47, volume 36, number 3 (2013).

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