To See the World taking shape

1926 publication of Rose de Freycinet’s journal

To See the World, a voyage of discovery aboard the sailing ship Uranie, is beginning to look like a real book at last!

In Canberra earlier this week I was able to work on the latest draft of the story of Rose de Freycinet, told by Jose, the boy who became Rose’s pupil and part of the ship’s company when he was taken on board in Mauritius. The draft now includes the full set of images that will appear on the page preceding each new Chapter. These images enhance and support the text and have been carefully scanned from the National Library’s extensive collection of charts, maps and original artwork, painted at the scene by artists on board the Uranie. Before cameras were invented artists were employed to make pictorial records during scientific voyages of exploration. Ships sailing into uncharted waters were making discoveries about places, people, plants and animals never seen before. These discoveries needed to be recorded, not just in words but visually, so that scientists in Europe could study them and add to their existing knowledge of the wonders of the world.

It was great to be in Canberra and to meet some of the team working on the book. Being able to put faces to names, and to see where the production is happening, is always important for me. It was also good to explore different aspects of the National Library for myself. While I was there I was able to read the copy of the original 1926 publication, and a hand-written transcript, of Rose’s journal. This was the notebook in which she wrote all the letters to her friend Caroline during the voyage. While I was doing my research in France I read Rose’s letters to her sister-in-law and her nephew, written before and after the voyage. Although I had seen the copy of her journal on display as part of an exhibition in the Fremantle Maritime Museum in 2010, I had not had the luxury of sitting down with the actual document in my hands and reading it. One hundred and six years after the voyage ended this edited version of Rose’s journal was finally published for the first time. It still makes me sad to think that the vivid and detailed descriptions of exotic people and places it contains were not available to the scientists of the world for such a long time.

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