01 August, 2021

Wanderlust, Circa AD 1600

The 17th century traveller was no writer, but he's still a quaint, colourful read

Wanderlust, Circa AD 1600
Michael Fisher, the editor of this useful anthology, and William Dalrymple, who writes an entertaining preface, refer to these early European travellers as ‘travel writers’—which they were not, in contemporary terms. A travel writer, today, is usually someone who sets out on an extended journey in the hope that it will be interesting enough to provide him with material for a book. He would also like to return home safely so that he can write other travel books and make some money out of them.

The travellers who feature in this collection had other objectives in mind. They sailed into Eastern waters and undertook hazardous journeys with the prime objective of making fortunes for themselves. A secondary aim was to make advantageous trade agreements for their respective countries—without forgetting their own personal interests. A disinterested few came out of missionary zeal, to bring Christendom to Asia. I doubt if any of them had publication in mind, but some kept a record of their experiences, often as a guide or warning to those who...

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