Collecting Travel Literature. John Parker.

12. Collecting Travel Literature

John Parker
(Evaluation of the RBS 1994 version of this course)

This course will explore the value of travel literature in research library collections through consideration of the following topics: travel literature as a genre; the development of travel literature from ancient times to the end of the c19; major themes in travel literature (commerce, religion, science, adventure, journalism); travel literature as an approach to many disciplines (anthropology, ecology, geography, geology, natural history, oceanography, sociology); maps and illustrations; bibliographies and major collections; philosophy of collecting (originals, facsimiles, modern editions).

I. How useful were the pre-course readings?

1: They were extremely useful -- very well chosen. I read several works in the weeks before RBS and intend to continue through the list after I get back to work. 2: Very! 3: OK. More than I could read. Needed more guidance about what best to read. 4: I had read some of the titles, but didn't have time to read additional works -- will be useful for future reading. 5: Very helpful -- they both gave an overview of the course and allowed you to read in depth an area of particular interest. I only had time to read in three areas, classical, medi- eval, and renaissance, but they were very worthwhile readings. 6: The bibliography was very useful, although we didn't have to read everything on the list. It will be good to keep and refer to in collection building. 7: The readings were excel- lent -- could actually comprise a life-long reading plan! 8: Though the readings are not necessary to understanding the course material, some reading should be done to grasp the feeling and direction of the course. 9: Very useful -- broad-based as to region, period, and type of travel literature. 10: I did not make it through the whole list before the course and fortunately that did not detract from my experience. I will benefit from this list as I continue to work my way through it over the next few months.

II. Was your faculty member well-prepared to teach THIS course?

1: Yes, eminently so. He is very knowledgeable about the entire history of the subject and presents the material with an enthusiasm and enjoyment that is contagious. His contemplative and open-minded approach to the subject was striking. 2: Yes. 3: Yes, very well prepared. Obviously very knowledgeable. 4: Very well prepared. The knowledge and the experience of the instructor were very appropriate to the course. 5: Very -- he has read widely, collected in the area, and prepared his lectures in written format. He should continue to keep up with scholarship in the area because that is a valuable part of the course. 6: JP was extremely well prepared to teach ``Collecting Travel Literature.'' He is a collector and librarian and knows a tremendous amount about the genre. He can recall names, titles, and dates without notes. He did use notes for the lectures and organized the course chronologically, keeping the class on track with side trips to related topics. 7: JP was splendid! He knows his subject, his manner is delightful, he is a great story teller -- the course was a delight. 8: Absolutely, without question. 9: Exceedingly. Breadth of knowledge was daz- zling -- presented with exceptional modesty, grace, and humor. A wonderful instructor -- a caring, informed, and inspirational human being. 10: Yes.

III. Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1: Yes, as an introductory historical overview of the subject. 2-5: Yes. 6: Very appropriate. He didn't talk down to those of us who are less experienced with travel literature, nor did he simplify it to bore the travellers. 7: The course was wonderful for my purposes. It was primarily a literary and historical survey of travel literature - - most interesting and not especially esoteric. 8: Yes. 9: For my level of interest and experience, I would have appreciated a higher standard set for discussion of content. Per- haps tighter direction -- though this is difficult to do with a topic so broad in scope. 10: Yes, I particularly appreciated the approach to the topic. While there was some nuts and bolts discussion for the librarians in the group, the focus on travel literature itself and the way people use it was an intellectually broadening experience.

IV. Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description? Did the course in general meet your expectations?

1: I had hoped that issues of collection development and management would be emphasized, but they were given short shrift. 2: Yes on both accounts. 3: Generally, yes, but expected more about maps and mapmakers. Expected a field trip to Special Collections and more books examined. Expected more printed information/handouts to take away. 4-5: Yes. 6: The description was dead-on accurate and the course met, and exceeded, my expectations. JP brought to the course tangential topics about collecting areas related to a place or period that not only enhanced the basic course description but taught me more history of the world than I'd known previously. 7: The course surpassed my expectations, primarily because of JP's expertise and manner. 8: Yes. 9: 1) Yes. 2) Yes -- though I had hoped we would get some bibliographies to direct future readings/bibliographies/collection development -- whatever the case may be. 10: Yes. Yes (and I had high expectations).

V. What did you like best about the course?

1: JP's readings from various travel narratives. 2: JP presented the course material in a well-organized fashion, allowed discussion to flow, but tactfully brought us back if the discussion strayed too long or too far from the topic. He covered all the material on the syllabus. The rare books we examined and the book reports added greatly to the course. In short, the entire course was so excellent I'd have a difficult time singling out just one best element. 3: Sly wit of the instructor. Also, contributions and enthusiasm of other participants. 4: Enjoyed the readings by the instructor and students. Brought to my attention lots of books I would like to read. 5: The selection of readings by the instructor, his marvelous sense of humor, and the readings by classmates were all wonderful. 6: We each had to read a passage or more from a travel book and give some background on the writer/traveler. JP's knowledge of travel literature. 7: The subject matter and the instructor. 8: The instructor. His love of the material was apparent and contagious -- the depth of his knowledge is impressive and daunting. I have come away with a different perspective on travel literature, and an eagerness to read and learn more. 9: Long-range historical and cultural approach to travel literature. Thoroughly enjoyed wide-range selection of readings presented by the instructor. Instructor's knowledge was a constant delight. 10: The instructor -- both JP's knowledge and his manner of steering the class. I feel I learned not only about travel literature, but also about what makes this sort of seminar and discussion successful and enjoyable.

VI. How could the course have been improved?

1: Perhaps more specific and focused discussions of collection building and management in the subject. More information on reference works in the field: specifically, relevant bibliographies and library catalogs. 2: By adding an hour- and-a-half trip to Special Collections. 3: 1) Field trip to Special Collections, please, one morning or afternoon. 2) Many more books examined in class, please. 3) Much more printed information: a bibliography of works mentioned or read from in class so we wouldn't be wasting time asking for complete citations and spelling. Bibliography with space for writing notes under each. This would save time and confusion and would be easier to refer to later. 4) I am in the minority here, but please limit class member readings to 15 minutes each -- some were too long, I think. 5) More ways to encourage class participation: have class members read some of the instructor's prepared quotations and keep them a little shorter; more regular question times (at least twice a day) so we don't feel we are intruding on what needs to be covered. 6) Cover more specific works, at least in a bibliography. 4: More coverage of bibliographies, secondary source material and reference books. Perhaps a bibliography. A bibliography of books cited in the course would have been useful. 5: More time would be needed -- but perhaps more on travel as opposed to voy- ages. But the course was really informative. 6: We should write a page or two about one of our travels to share with the class. Visit to the computer lab to read Memoirs-L listserve entries to introduce this bulletin board on the Internet to classmates, and the instructor, not familiar with it. 7: The Taylor lounge was a most delightful setting. However, we were uncomfortably cold much of the time. This was distracting. Also, sitting around a table and listening for six hours a day was difficult. If some sort of movement, change of location, etc., could be incorporated, it might be a nice break. 8: I would have liked a checklist of bibliographies to take home. However, I am glad that JP did not cite references endlessly during the week. I think the most important thing is that he transmitted an enthusiasm for the literature so that you will continue to seek out books yourself. 9: Bibliographies on different broad areas (or narrow ones) to supplement the reading lists would have been help- ful. 10: The course could only be improved by extending it to more than one week.

VII. Any final thoughts?

1: Thank you TB, CB, and all for this wonderful week. 2: Make sure JP teaches it. 3: Management details of RBS very well worked out: food good, timing perfect, lots of good help, clear directions, proper signage -- you have it all together! 4: We didn't take a field trip, but did utilize some books from Special Collections. To be able to look at some works in the original editions added to the course. 5: Do as much reading as you can before and continue on after the course. I have made a list of approximately ten books outside my own field of collection that I would like to read. 6: Take this course as long as JP teaches it! Read a lot from different time periods to become more familiar with ancient travel and the beginnings of travel literature. Read as much of the bibliography as possible. We didn't have field trips, but books from Special Collections were brought to us on three days. This saved the reading room from accommodating eleven people who would disturb other readers and provided table-top support for the books rather than armchair passing in the McGregor Room. 7: This is a course to be savored. I feel that it provided a beginning -- I shall continue my exploration of travel literature in the future. 8: Choose your reading carefully; it should be something you love. I enjoyed our class readings very much. This course has enriched my life in ways I did not expect -- take it!! 9: Take the course! Read as much as possible beforehand. The course has enormously stimulated my interest in further travel reading -- particularly in topics previously not contemplated. There are wonderful long-range benefits to this course! 10: We did not go to Special Collections -- Special Collections came to us in the form of three books at a time. It was a nice addition to the class to be able to see the books that were being discussed in person and at the point of discussion.

Number of respondents: 10


Leave         Tuition        Housing        Travel

Institution   Institution    Institution    Institution
gave me leave paid tuition   paid housing   paid travel

70%           67%            45%            40%

I took vaca-  I paid tui-    I paid for my  I paid my own
tion time     tion myself    own housing    travel

10%           33%            25%            40%

N/A: self-    N/A: Self-     N/A: stayed    N/A: lived 
employed, re- employed,      with friends   nearby
tired, or had retired, or    or lived at
summers off   exchange       home

20%           0%             30%            20%

Two students (20%) were general librarians with some rare book duties; two (20%) were rare book librarians; and one student each (10%) was an antiquarian bookseller, an archivist, an art librarian with some rare book duties, a bibliographer, retired, or a teacher/librarian.