Next to actual travel, the reading of first-class travel stories by men and women of genius is the finest aid to the broadening of views and enlargement of useful knowledge of men and the world’s ways. It is the highest form of intellectual recreation, with the advantage over fiction-reading of satisfying the wholesome desire for facts. With all our modern enthusiasm for long journeys and foreign travel, now so easy of accomplishment, we see but very little of the great world. The fact that ocean voyages are now called mere “trips” has not made us over-familiar with even our own kinsfolk in our new dependencies. Foreign peoples and lands are still strange to us. Tropic and Arctic lands are as far apart in condition as ever; Europe differs from Asia, America from Africa, as markedly as ever. Man still presents every grade of development, from the lowest savagery to the highest civilization, and our interest in the marvels of nature and art, the variety of plant and animal life, and the widely varied habits and conditions, modes of thought and action, of mankind, is in no danger of losing its zest.
These considerations have guided us in our endeavor to tell the story of the world, alike of its familiar and unfamiliar localities, as displayed in the narratives of those who have seen its every part. Special interest attaches to the stories of those travellers who first gazed upon the wonders and observed the inhabitants of previously unknown lands, and whose descriptions are therefore those of discoverers.
One indisputable advantage belongs to this work over the average record of travel: the reader is not tied down to the perusal of a one-man book. He has the privilege of calling at pleasure upon any one of these eminent travellers to recount his or her exploit, with the certainty of finding they are all in their happiest vein and tell their best stories.
The adventures and discoveries here described are gathered from the four quarters of the globe, and include the famous stories of men no longer living, as well as those of present activity. Many of the articles were formerly published in the exhaustive work entitled, “The World’s Library of Literature, History and Travel” [The J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia].
For the rich variety and quality of our material we are indebted to many travellers of note, and to the courtesy of numerous publishers and authors. Among these it is desired to acknowledge particularly indebtedness to the following publishers and works: To Harper and Brothers, for selections from Stanley’s “Through the Dark Continent,” Du Chaillu’s “Equatorial Africa,” Prime’s “Tent-Life in the Holy Land,” Orton’s “The Andes and the Amazon,” and Browne’s “An American Family in Germany.” To Charles Scribner’s Sons: Stanley’s “In Darkest Africa,” Field’s “The Greek Islands,” and Schley’s “The Rescue of Greely.” To G. P. Putnam’s Sons: De Amicis’s “Holland and its People,” Taylor’s “Lands of the Saracens,” and Brace’s “The New West.” To Houghton, Mifflin and Co.: Melville’s “In the Lena Delta,” and Hawthorne’s “Our Old Home.” To Roberts Brothers: Hunt’s “Bits of Travel at Home.” To H....