The Encyclopaedia of Exploration to 1800.
At nearly 1200, A4 sized pages this is an impressive volume.
At first, I was a little disappointed at first to find that there were no maps or illustrations. However this is more than offset by the amount of detailed information. Each expedition is dealt with as an individual item. The detail includes other relevant members of the expedition, with cross references where applicable. Even where the explorer has been on another expedition in a minor capacity, this is covered as an individual voyage with a cross reference to the expedition leader for more information.
The detail is quite exceptional. In the few items I have read in detail, most of the alternative spellings for names and places are given. The places discovered or visited give the dates of arrival and departure. Also, mention is made of information from their references which has been proved to be either dubious or incorrect.
At the end of each article, a bibliography is given. This enables you to go straight to the full information and also the references should be considered to be the definitive sources.
With separate indexes for people and ships, it is quite easy to look up unusual names. There are several Spanish explorers with names I thought were their first name and surname, only to find it is their surname!
The book is quite expensive but to someone who is seriously interested in exploration in general it is an essential reference.
Visit the website dedicted to this book at www.explorersencyclopedia.com
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 6, volume 26, number 3 (2003).