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A Book of Discovery

By M. B. Synge
Yesterday's Classics

PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

Old original maps and stories of adventure on the high seas are enough to draw a young teen into history--or an adult, in my case! With a collection of discovery stories such as this, anyone can enjoy hours and hours reliving the adventures of days gone by, of bravery and daring, and of literal uncharted waters.

I opened this soft-cover book to the first page and found a map matching the cover; it is Ptolemy's map of the world, originally drawn in about A.D. 150. I promptly thumbed through the book to see what other maps were included. To my delight, there were dozens of original maps and sketches, as well as many more drawings of the explorers themselves, their view of discovered lands and people, and even sketches of boats and other helpful visual aids.

Synge begins at the beginning, with a chapter that includes an excerpt from Genesis, noting the river that runs out of Eden and the others that come from it. The chapter also tells of early cities and people as it moves through history quickly. A Book of Discovery covers all of history up to the point of its original writing, which was in 1912, and its 527 pages take on the significant task of touching on most major world discoveries. The author's introduction notes that its selections were chosen "for some definite new discovery, some addition to the world's geographical knowledge, or some great feat of endurance" and points out that British explorers are included frequently because of their prolific discoveries and the availability of English transcripts.

I was delighted to find that many excerpts of original texts and journals are included to give a first-hand account whenever possible. I have an affinity for primary sources, and these portions are an exciting addition to the text. In other cases, the words of historians are included, sometimes including poetic verse as it applies.

This volume would be an excellent companion to history studies, and the timeline of major discoveries and mapping accomplishments included in the appendix can assist with this. It would be difficult to account for all 73 chapters here, but a sampling of topics includes Herodotus, Alexander the Great, Pytheas, Ptolemy, Irish explorers, Vikings in the North Seas, Marco Polo, Medieval maps, Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Balboa, Magellan, Jacques Cartier, Sir Walter Raleigh, Tasman, David Livingstone, as well as explorations and discoveries of numerous waterways and islands. The volume concludes with exploration to the South Pole.

Admittedly, I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy of this book without detailed study into each time period. However, I do know that when stories of discovery are as engaging as these, accuracy can be judged another time, with pure enjoyment taking precedence. Besides, in our homeschool, this book will be used alongside history readings, and the details can be analyzed within the context of our studies. For certain, the highlights of this book for me are its maps and drawings, which remind us of how the world was once thought to be flat, and how over time the view of the world has expanded in both size and detail . . . a fascinating journey for the modern reader.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, April 2009

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