The Book of Exploration presents a selection of material from author Ray Howgego's four-volume Encyclopedia of Exploration, probably the longest work in the English language by a single, unaided author. This shorter extract describes what Howgego considers the 150 greatest expeditions ever made, beginning with the first explorer known to history (the ancient Egyptian Harkhug) to Wally Herbert's crossing of the Arctic in 1968.
Howgego disdains celebrities like failed Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, whom he dismisses as "a nobody plucked from obscurity who hated the cold." He relishes explorers who finished their projects successfully, without fanfare, and made genuine contributions to human knowledge. For example, his favorite in The Book of Exploration, George Sadleir, crossed the entire Arabian Peninsula. The first to accomplish that feat, he walked alone, wearing a full British military uniform in the early, Howgego says, in 1819, to deliver a ceremonial sword from Queen Victoria to an Egyptian commander. No one reported the deed until 50 years later, after Sadleir's death. (Something is wrong there. Victoria was born in 1819 and became queen in 1837. That slip takes nothing either from Sadleir's accomplishment or his modesty.)
The author does not succumb to the temptation to limit his studies to European and American explorers. He considers it odd that the Jesuits claimed to have "discovered" China when China had been making maps already for more than a millennium. The Book of Exploration, therefore, includes a description of Chinese explorations of Europe in the eighteenth century and the unique perspective of their observations.
Although a retired English physics teacher by trade, Howgego became interested in exploration as a child and has compiled a personal library of some four thousand travel books. Fluent in many languages and adequately acquainted with many more, he has personally visited many of the most remote places in the world. The historical flub about Queen Victoria notwithstanding, The Book of Exploration is the product of a uniquely qualified expert. All-Purpose Guru Alert seeks the best bargain books and features one carefully selected example every day.