A Brief Introduction to “Sailors Narratives of Voyages along the New England Coast, 1524-1624”

For this project, I picked Sailors Narratives of Voyages along the New England Coast, 1524-1624, a series of manuscripts and diaries published by George Parker Winship, as my pet book. The book was published in 1905 and donated to Colby’s Special Collections by Dr. Nathan H. Garrick, a graduate of Colby’s Class of 1910. Its work details various voyages of sailors traveling along the New England coast, interacting with Native Americans, and battling the struggles of sailing near foreign lands. The book is 292 pages long and contains a wide set of sailors from different parts of the New and Old Worlds, ranging from Florence to the frontiers of newly settled colonies. The book offers readers detailed glimpses into what life was like as a sailor during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and features a wide range of events that have been studied and acclaimed by historians.

I decided to select this book due to my keen interests in studying colonial and early modern societies. While Colby’s Special Collections had a large variety of works to choose from, this particular selection caught my attention due to it revolving around Europeans’ early exploration of North America. While the book offers content that fascinates me, it is also relatively long, allowing me to analyze considerable amounts of material and discuss them at length. Because the publisher first compiled the book’s contents just one hundred years ago, it is still in relatively decent shape, and with the help of staff in Special Collections, I can read and analyze most portions of the book. The book is large enough to where it may take a while for me to study the book’s materials thoroughly. Still, I look forward to taking on that challenge and becoming more familiar with it.

Detailed sketch drawn by George Waymouth. Depicts a large portion of New England’s coast.

The book’s layout is relatively simple to understand. Its contents contain manuscripts and journals written by various sailors from 1524 to 1624. Altogether, there are twelve chapters written by different sailors that depicted their travels around the New England coast. To visually aid readers and help them understand where sailors traveled, the book features a series of colorless maps, drawn by notable figures such as John Smith and George Waymouth depicting where the sailors’ voyages occurred and the lands they encountered.

The texts of the stories are small but legible. However, most of the accounts are written in older forms of English, making some of the writings challenging to understand and potentially leading to modern English readings misunderstanding some of the texts. There are catchwords present on the ends of each page to prevent readers from losing track of which page number they are on. Strangely enough, there is no marginalia or glossary in the book, leading me to believe that there was little need for footnotes and that the author compiled all of the book’s contents personally.

Another illustration found in the book. Despite the fact that many of the pages are yellowing and tearing, the illustrations are still in good shape.

In terms of visual construction, the book’s old characteristics and materials give it a very typical appearance as compared to other books of the early twentieth century. The cover is made out of a cardboard material, similar to that of many other books during the early twentieth century. The book is a medium weight and is small enough to where it can comfortably fit in a backpack, but cannot fit in one’s pockets, purse, or anything of similar size. The binding, as stated by the author in the front matter (picture posted below), is made out of English cloth paper, a material that is highly durable for an extended period. The book itself is also very durable, as while the many pages are tattered from over a century’s usage, the contents are still highly visible, and the illustrations still retain their high quality. All in all, the book seems to resemble the appearance of most books of its time but features several contents, such as detailed maps, that make it unique.

Regarding usage, the book has been heavily used and analyzed by many readers. As I toggled through the book’s contents, I noticed that its pages were yellowing, heavily worn, and tearing off of the spine. However, most of the illustrations are still in good condition and show few signs of wear. Considering that the book has been residing in Colby’s Special Collections room since the campus moved to Mayflower Hill, it has likely been used by various students and scholars for academic purposes. Furthermore, the pages indicate that, while the book is over a century old at this point, the book’s quality has declined due to age, and that users in the past have possibly mishandled its contents. Still, most of the book material is in decent condition and easy to handle.

As a whole, I am looking forward to studying and reading through this book. The book’s historical themes particularly interest me, as I have substantial interests in colonial societies and exploration. The book’s contents are engaging and keep readers immersed in the various stories included within them. While some of the texts contain forms of older English, most of the accounts are easy to understand. The illustrations visually aid the readers in understanding sailors’ stories and further help the book stand out among other historical texts. Despite the fact that many of the book’s materials are torn or worn, most are still in good condition and relatively easy to handle. I look forward to analyzing more of the book’s contents in the future and providing insightful knowledge surrounding them.


Author’s notes:

A portion of the author’s notes written in the beginning pages of the book. He details the book’s price, number of copies made, and binding materials.