cover image Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure

Kari Herbert and Huw Lewis-Jones. Chronicle, $40 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4521-5827-3

This compilation of excerpts and facsimiles of 70 notebooks belonging to explorers throughout history is as educational as it is visually enticing. Readers will lap up John James Audubon’s Carolina Parakeet drawn in June of 1811, Charles Darwin’s 1837 “tree of life” sketch, and Alexandrine Tinne’s self-portraits at a ball in 1855 and in a Bedouin tent a year later, among many other illustrations. However, this collection proves to be as much about words, for the writing is exemplary. The exquisite, informative reproductions are supported by hearty and wistful quotes from the explorers and by the authors’ detailed captions (unfortunately in tiny print). Lewis-Jones and Herbert’s introduction and essays by four living explorers, most notably Wade Davis, raise the form high. Brief biographies contribute finely crafted, economical rhetoric as well as well-researched material and sound opinions. This bountiful book provides delicious discovery in itself, albeit from the comfort of a chair by the fire. (Apr.)