An Eighteenth-Century Interactive Book?





Jonas Hanway, said to be the first Englishman to carry an umbrella as protection from the rain


Speaking of maps, as I was reading Jonas Hanway’s Historical Account of the British Trade over the Caspian Sea, the author paused in his narrative to tell me that he would now provide excerpts from the journals of other British merchants travelling in the region, and that I should pull out the map that he included and follow their paths along with their narratives.  That way I would better understand and more appreciate their journeys. I found this striking as I can’t recall a time when an eighteenth-century author has told me to do something that specific.  Yes, the Spectator implies that I should be virtuous, watch my reputation, keep the next life in mind, not wear a hoop petticoat, and read the news judiciously.  But here the author is telling me very precisely what to do with the book: cut out the included map, lay it on the table, and maybe even draw in the different routes as I read. Of course I refrained as I didn’t think the librarians at the Folger would appreciate it, but I’m interested as to whether or not others have encountered such particular instructions.

5 responses to “An Eighteenth-Century Interactive Book?

  1. That’s really neat. It sounds like the contemporary reader of the volume you’re looking at didn’t follow the instructions! I wonder how transgressive it would have felt at the time to cut the map out of a book as prescribed?

    The only similar case that comes to mind is when Tristram Shandy “does insist upon it” that “Madam,” his interlocutor, “immediately turn back, that is, as soon as you get to the next full stop, and read the whole chapter over again.” But of course, his tongue is firmly in cheek, and he goes on to explain (to the *real* implied reader) his reasons for “this penance upon the lady.”

  2. Laura Rosenthal

    Thanks for the reminder about that scene in Sterne–it did feel like a Shandean moment. It’s also interesting that, as you point out, whoever owned the book didn’t take out the map. But I got the impression that you were indeed supposed to. First, it was folded up smaller than usual in the book. Second, it would have been pretty hard to follow the map alongside the narrative without taking it out. But, apparently, whoever owned it couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

  3. Dave Mazella

    I was going to name Sterne as well, but I was thinking of the moment where readers were supposed to draw the Widow Wadman for themselves.

    David Brewer, I think, once wrote a piece for the Shandean about how few of the extant copies of TS were actually scribbled in by their owners. I must say I never felt tempted to do it myself.

    Here’s a related question: the bound periodicals etc. I’ve been reading do tend to have very elaborate illustrations included, some of which survive and some of which don’t by the time we see them. But what’s the earliest novel you can think of that has a (fictional or real) map included with it?

  4. Laura Rosenthal

    Isn’t there a map in The New Atlantis? I wonder if any of those sprawling romances from the seventeenth century have maps in them.

  5. Dave Mazella

    Do ECCO or EEBO include these kinds of images in their digitized holdings? That would be an easy way to check. DM