This remarkable volume presents a panorama of geographical writings from Hesiod to Humboldt, from the beginnings of geographical thought in the Western world to the emergence of topical specialization. It includes a wealth of material from non-Western sources, particularly Moslem and Chinese, that has not been collected before.
The selections are arranged chronologically, and contain geographical theory, descriptions of terrestrial phenomena by early observers, and excerpts from major voyages of discovery. Some are obvious classics: Socrates on the nature of the Earth, Ezekiel’s description of the commerce of Tyre, Columbus’ first glimpse of the West Indies, Buffon on the history of the Earth, and Kant’s geographical lectures. Yet more commonly, Kish provides a sense of the discovery with such finds as the ambassador’s report to the Caliph of Baghdad on the lands and customs of the Norsemen, the study of the Tartar Empire by John of Monte Corvino, Archbishop of Peking, and Jefferson’s private memo to Alexander von Humboldt seeking information on the American West.
Each section is highlighted by a brief but engagingly written introduction by the editor. Throughout, the unique cultural and professional perspective of George Kish is very much in evidence.