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Scottish Thought and Letters in the Eighteenth Century

Introduction - History and Antiquities - Geography - Travels - Encyclopaedias - Libraries -  Society and Clubs - Law - Philosophy and Religion - Economy and Social History - Adam Smith - Education - Architecture - Science and Medicine - Literature


BOSWELL, James. An account of Corsica, The journal of a tour to that island; and Memoirs of Pascal Paoli.
[Glasgow : 1768]

First edition of Boswell's account of his Corsican journey, in the course of which he met Rousseau and Voltaire, and so ingratiated himself with Pascal Paoli that he did for him what he was later to do for Johnson - every night he recorded his conversations with the General, and so built up an account not only of his life, but of his thoughts and utterances. On Boswell's return to England he advertised his book by appearing in public in full Corsican costume. "He set out to sell Corsica to the British public and at the same time to fix his own name to Corsica like a trade-mark." -Pottle.


BRUCE, James. Travels to discover the source of the Nile, in the years 1768-1773.
[Edinburgh : 1790]. 5 vols

James Bruce (1730-94), the Scottish traveller known as 'the Abyssinian', studied at Edinburgh University. In 1763-65 he was consul-general at Algiers where he studied oriental languages and acquainted himself with the rudiments of medicine. In 1768 Bruce was in Egypt and from Cairo set out on his famous journey to Abyssinia which was to enlarge considerably European knowledge of the geography and ethnography of Africa. On 14 November 1770, he reached the source of the Abawi, then considered the main stream of the Nile. Bruce returned to Scotland in 1776 and in 1790 there appeared his account of his expedition. Bruce might have spared himself some attacks on his veracity had he improved his information on what had been accomplished by the Jesuits in their expeditions. As it was, numerous contemporaries cast doubts on the truthfulness of his narrative (incuding Dr Johnson), and several parodies appeared, best known of which are the Travels of Baron Munchausen. Modern travellers, including J.L. Burckhardt, G.B. Belzoni, Pearce and others, have, however, testified to Bruce's general accuracy.

AFRICAN ASSOCIATION. Proceedings of the Association for promoting the discovery of the interior parts of Africa; containing an abstract of Mr Park's account of his travels and discoveries, abridged from his own minutes
[London : 1798] Sp Coll RF 675

The real opening up of Africa by the white races began with the African Association, founded in 1788 with the express purpose of exploring Africa (especially the great rivers which would give access to the interior) and of furthering British trade and political influence.

In 1795 Mungo Park, a Scot, was selected by the African Association to lead an expedition to locate and explore the River Niger. In 1805, Park, bored with his country medical practice at Peebles, set off on a second journey up the Niger, this time by canoe. The expedition was ill fated and Park and his companions all perished. Although Park's career was short, he made the first great practical advance in the opening up of Central Africa and his scientific observations on the botany and meteorology of the region, and on the social and domestic life of the natives, have remained of lasting value.