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Pollock, Jacob (2012) “THE GEOGRAPHICALL COMPASS”: HISTORY, AUTHORITY AND UTILITY IN THE ENGLISH VOYAGE ACCOUNT, 1660-1730. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries saw a dramatic increase in the publication of accounts of voyages on the London book market. These publications ranged from brief extracts of romantic narratives involving shipwrecks in the East Indies to multi-volume compilations of voyages to all parts of the world, printed in folio and containing numerous maps and engravings. Existing scholarship often views such accounts as entertainment destined for a popular audience. This dissertation shows how the voyage account was used in multiple genres and multiple intellectual contexts, finding its way into debates about natural philosophy, religion, and history, and playing as important a role in the work of the Royal Society as it did in the literary practices of the period.

By investigating these books as key texts in a changing intellectual and cultural climate, and understanding their relationships with other genres, “The Geographicall Compass” offers a reader’s view of empire and the world in England between 1660 and 1730. This project analyses the interaction between the narrative and paratextual elements of accounts of long-range voyages of discovery in the early-modern era, in order to investigate how ideas about the New World found their way into political, scientific and cultural spheres in seventeenth-century Europe. I argue that we can understand how the commercial market shaped knowledge of the New World by considering these books as books – written, published, bought and sold for a reading public, subject to commercial pressures and prone to failure. Focussing mainly but not exclusively on voyages to the New World, this dissertation uses Samuel Purchas’ metaphor – the voyage account as a compass – to discuss these texts in their scientific, religious, literary and political contexts. As the cartographers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used the geometrical compass to shape their maps, and seamen used the magnetic compass to find their direction in the expanse of the sea, so I use the compass as a way of understanding texts that are composite, multi-layered, and were produced in multiple, overlapping contexts.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairScott,
Committee CoChairEmiralioglu, M. Pinarpinar1@pitt.eduPINAR1
Committee MemberDrescher, Seymoursyd@pitt.eduSYD
Committee MemberMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberTwyning, Johntwyning@pitt.eduTWYNING
Date: 5 July 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 February 2012
Approval Date: 5 July 2012
Submission Date: 17 April 2012
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 219
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Early Modern, Voyage Accounts, History of the Book, Historiography, Travel Writing, Travel Literature, Royal Society, History of Science, Maritime History
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2012 14:45
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 05:15


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