Armchair Travellers: Collecting Travel Books in the Seventeenth Century

Books of travels to foreign lands became increasingly available to readers from the early seventeenth century. Special Collections holds important examples of these works that were often published with carefully crafted illustrations and including maps . Since many buyers would not experience foreign travel first hand, travel books were crucial in fashioning armchair travellers and practices of book-collecting.

Department: English Literature

Supervised by: Chloë Houston and Michelle O’Callaghan

The Placement Project

Special Collections holds a significant collection of early seventeenth-century English travel books, from Fynes Moryson’s An Itinerary of his European travels to George Sandys’s Relation of a Journey to the Middle East. These books provide a valuable opportunity to study practices of collecting travel books at this key moment in history when private travel became increasingly popular among the elite and reading travel books for information and entertainment more widespread. What is needed to open this collection for further study is a catalogue of those early modern travel books held in Special Collections. This catalogue will include bibliographic information, (detailing publishers, number and dates of editions, and locations), available through the English Short-Title Catalogue. Evidence for provenance and readership can be gathered from marks of book ownership, including signatures, and annotations to the text. Records held by Special Collections also contain information about provenance that can be detailed in the catalogue. Finally, the catalogue will list the books’ illustrations that can tell us how authors and publishers intended these books to be used. The aim of the catalogue is to provide the basis for the future study of the travel books held at Special Collections in terms of the wider cultures of collecting that developed alongside travel writing. One avenue for exploration is how the cultural uses of objects, be they antiquities or books, were informed by new practices of travelling and collecting in the seventeenth century.


Compile a catalogue of the early modern travel books in Special Collections; Using the English Short-Title Catalogue, list editions and other bibliographical details; In consultation with archivists at Special Collections and the PIs on the project, note available information regarding provenance; Under supervision from the PIs, record significant marks in books, such as signatures and annotations. Produce blog posts on findings.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Accuracy and strong organisational skills; Some knowledge of early modern literature is desirable; Familiarity with blogging and/or social media

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The EMRC will run a workshop in June on early modern travel writing, which will form part of the student’s induction. Ability to compile a catalogue; Managing public engagement through blogging; Bibliographic skills; Ability to collate information.

Place of Work

Special Collections

Hours of Work

10-4 pm

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 11 June 2018 - Friday 20 July 2018

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 19th February and 29th March 2018. Students should submit their CV and Cover Letter directly to the Project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will then be invited to interview.

Return to Placements List

Page navigation

Search Form