First published in four volumes in 1704 by London booksellers Awnsham and John Churchill, these works were the first English translations of European explorations but also included English works that “for their excellency and scarceness, deserved to be reprinted”. These comprehensive volumes contained maps, engravings, and descriptions from voyages to much of the New World over the preceding two centuries.
Awnsham Churchill was a Whig Member of Parliament (1705-1710) and was also a friend and publisher of the works of the influential philosopher John Locke. In collaboration with his brother John the first edition of Voyages and Travels was published. This was a watershed in publications concerning European voyages of exploration as they were the first works describing first hand accounts translated into English. Publishing was a mammoth task involving not just the translations but also the compilation of numerous maps and engravings depicting aspects of the geography, flora, fauna, lifestyles, trade, navigation and weather patterns of the New World.
Interest in these newly discovered lands greatly expanded after Parliament passed the East India Company Act in 1697, thereby removing that company’s monopoly on trade with that region. This Legislation generated a wave of interest amongst the mercantile, industrial and entrepreneurial groups within British society.
The first edition of 1704 described over thirty expeditions. A second edition in 1732 expanded to six volumes and included thirteen further voyages.
These rare volumes represented the pinnacle of publishing of European exploration of vast areas of the globe at that time and were known not only for the depth of information presented but also the scope of the voyages and the time span covered.