Reading Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (1589, 1598-1600)

Category: Research Projects

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This project focuses on an aspect of print history and culture, in particular on the reception history of one of the most significant publications of the early modern period, Richard Hakluyt’s The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) which came out in a much larger second edition of 1598-1600 as The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation.

Hakluyt was an advocate of English overseas travel, colonisation, trade and discovery.  A promoter rather than active participant in these imperialist activities his publication sought to establish a history of English navigational achievement. It also sought to promote a sense of English national identity.

The significance of the two collections is multifaceted but stems specifically from their importance as repositories of travel accounts of journeys about many of which very little would otherwise be known. 

This project seeks to establish the influence of the work and to identify who read it and what they made of it and in particular the extent to which Hakluyt’s nationalist and imperialist sentiments were adopted by readers. The project builds on the census of copies available here and draws on inspection of more than 150 of them to shed light on who read the work, when and what they made of it. The information garnered from provenance histories, marginalia, and additions is united with the study of other printed and manuscript material to provide a two-part history which sheds light on the changing reception of the work from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

Members involved in this research

Dr Matthew Day