Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Purchas his Pilgrimes in four volumes, 1625

Published in 1625 by Samuel Purchas - an Anglican cleric who met many seafarers in the course of his work. He collected their stories and published them as a way of educating the public and spreading the gospel. The book was a favourite of the author Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and the inspiration for his famous poem Kubla Khan.

Haklvytvs postumus,or, Purchas his Pilgrimes: contayning a history of the world, in sea voyages, & lande-trauells by Englishmen and others, whereinn Gods wonders......1625

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Samuel Purchas was born at Thaxted, Essex in1577 and graduated from St John's College, Cambridge, in 1600. In 1604 he became the vicar of St. Laurence and All Saints, in Eastwood, Essex.

Eastwood is only two miles from Leigh-on-Sea, which was a prosperous shipping centre and meeting place for seafaring men. Purchas himself "never travelled 200 miles from Thaxted in Essex where I was borne". Instead, he recorded personal narratives shared with him by sailors on their return to England from their voyages. He added these accounts to a large collection of manuscripts on the subject which were left to him by Richard Haklvytvs and later published them to give an overview of the "diversity of God's creation" from an Anglican perspective.

In 1614 he published Purchas His Pilgrimage: or the Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages and Places discovered, from the Creation unto this Present. The book was immediately popular and went through four editions between 1614 and 1626. The RGSSA copy from 1625 referred to here is the 4th Edition in four volumes and contains maps and pictures. The title page is not signed and is thought to be the work of Henry Hondius who engraved a number of the maps. It also includes two globes - one of America, Africa and Europe and the other of Asia and the north-west part of America. Both globes show a large southern land mass as did the earlier maps of Mercator 1538, Munster 1540 and Ortelius 1570.

As an editor and compiler Purchas sought to interest the general public of his day and to educate the reader about the world, foreign culture and morality. During a time when travel literature had the patriotic purpose of inspiring Englishmen to engage in overseas expansion and enterprise, his collections were read with enthusiasm. Though Purchas is said to have lacked the editorial genius of Haklvytvs (some of whose writings are included and acknowledged by Purchas), his collection is frequently the only source of information on important questions relating to geographical history and early exploration.

RGSSA catalogue rgsp 910.8 P985 c

The RGSSA also has the single volume 3rd Edition which has text only.

Nearly two centuries after publication Purchas his Pilgrimes became one of the sources of inspiration for the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As a note to Coleridge's poem explains, "In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farm-house between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas's Pilgrimes:

In Xaindu did Cublai Can build a stately palace, encompassing sixteen miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile meddowes, pleasant springs, delightful streams, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure.