Geography and the Book

in Placing the Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780226904054
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226904078 | DOI:
Geography and the Book

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter examines geography's textual traditions, the different genres that went to make up the “geography book,” the nature of geographical gazetteers and dictionaries, geography's authors and readers, and the purposes that geography's books served. Far from being few and far between or being of interest only to experts, geography books were numerous, varied, and popular in the Enlightenment. Take English-language works in “special geography”, for example. In their simplest sense, books of special geography purported to describe all the countries in the world. They did so by working with sets of “particulars”—terrestrial, celestial, and human—and, unlike geographical dictionaries and gazetteers, presented information in the form of continuous prose. Of necessity selective and ordered, special geographies aimed to be useful and always up-to-date: “the discovery of new lands was an intellectual constant.”

Keywords: geography; geography books; textual traditions; genres; Enlightenment; special geography

Chapter.  9410 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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