Locke and the Churchill Catalogue Revisited
At the time of his death, in 1704, the library of John Locke held 269 volumes of philosophy—but 275 volumes of geography and travel. Works of geography drew on discoveries related in books of travel, but Locke did nevertheless see them as distinct genres. In both, his holdings were extensive. He owned several volumes of maps; the great recent surveys of Africa, America, and Japan printed by John Ogilby; and the descriptions of the world by Abbot, Purchas, Morden, and Moll. It was in books of travel, though, of which Locke owned 195, where his holdings were most remarkable. He owned the massive collections of Ramusio (in Italian), de Bry (in Latin), Thévenot (in French), and Hakluyt and Purchas (in English). He owned accounts of the well-known voy- ages of Hariot to Virginia, de Léry to Brazil, Sandys to the Ottoman Empire, Gage to the West Indies, and Choisy to Siam. He owned as well accounts of dozens of more minor voyages, such as those of Blount to the Levant, Monconys to Syria, Ray to the Continent, Josselyn to New England, and Fryke to the East Indies. No student of Locke’s library has failed to remark upon what Harrison and Laslett, its modern editors, have called its ‘great strength’ in these areas. This is to understate the matter, for it seems that among libraries of its size in late Stuart England, only the library of Robert Hooke (and perhaps that of Robert Boyle) rivalled Locke’s in works of geography and travel.
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