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This Vast Book of Nature

Writing the Landscape of New Hampshire's White Mountains, 1784-1911

Pavel Cenkl

Publication Year: 2006

This Vast Book of Nature is a careful, engaging, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the ways in which the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire---and, by implication, other wild places---have been written into being by different visitors, residents, and developers from the post-Revolutionary era to the days of high tourism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Drawing on tourist brochures, travel accounts, pictorial representations, fiction and poetry, local histories, journals, and newspapers, Pavel Cenkl gauges how Americans have arranged space for political and economic purposes and identified it as having value beyond the economic. Starting with an exploration of Jeremy Belknap’s 1784 expedition to Mount Washington, which Cenkl links to the origins of tourism in the White Mountains, to the transformation of touristic and residential relationships to landscape, This Vast Book of Nature explores the ways competing visions of the landscape have transformed the White Mountains culturally and physically, through settlement, development, and---most recently---preservation, a process that continues today.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. ix-xi

With apologies to Alfred North Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World, one might argue that anything or anyone exists as such (that is, has value) only because it occupies the most concrete actual someplace. Location, in other words, is not incidental but constitutive. I am who I am because always I am someplace: I am the particular sensibility occupying a particular spot at any given moment,...

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p. xiii

I could not even have begun a project 0f this scope without the help of many others who share my love for the history of the White Mountain region. I would like to thank the following organizations, institutions, and individuals for their guidance and assistance: the New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord; Dartmouth University ...

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Introduction: The White Mountains from Northern Frontier to Tourist Resort

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pp. xv-xxv

Reflecting on his 1832 visit to the Notch of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the moment at which he entered the narrow “romantic defile” at the height of the Notch and was suddenly overtaken by a rapidly moving stagecoach. When he later spent ...

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1 Texts and Terrain: Jeremy Belknap and Eighteenth-Century Landscape Ideology

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pp. 1-24

On the afternoon of 24 July 1784, Rev. Manasseh Cutler looked out from the summit of New England’s highest mountain, more than a hundred miles north of his home on the coast of Massachusetts, and saw not the “daunting terrible” land the explorer John Josselyn described a century before, but rather ...

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2 Economic Topographies: Unsettling the History of Early Tourism in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

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pp. 25-57

In the early years of the nineteenth century, perhaps as a result of Belknap’s prototourism, tourists from throughout the Northeast began to venture into the White Mountains, which were now slowly being settled by trappers, farmers, and other entrepreneurs. The turnpike that had been established through the White...

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3 The Sublime and the Sumptuous: The Currency of Scenery and White Mountain Tourism

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pp. 59-101

On 16 July 1858, on his way back to Concord at the end of a three-week trip to the White Mountains, Henry David Thoreau stopped in the popular artist’s village of Campton at the southern edge of the range. Looking back at the Franconia Mountains he had climbed the previous day, Thoreau remarked that when seen ...

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4 Alone with Scribe and Staff: Rewriting the White Mountains, 1870 – 1900

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pp. 103-141

The southern boundary of the White Mountains is roughly delineated by a range of mountains stretching from Mount Chocorua near the Maine state line toward the Pemigewasset River to the west. Immediately to the west of the peak celebrated for its association with “Chocorua’s Curse” rises its neighbor, ...

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Epilogue: Reading and Teaching Region

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pp. 143-147

In the predawn morning of a day when spring seems poised to slip suddenly into summer, I wake early and head out for a short bike ride before my wife and son begin to stir. As I turn the bicycle downhill toward the Franconia Valley just north of the White Mountain National Forest, the sky in the east ...


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pp. 149-157


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pp. 159-172


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pp. 173-178

E-ISBN-13: 9781587297144
E-ISBN-10: 1587297140
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587294983
Print-ISBN-10: 1587294982

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 607673498
MUSE Marc Record: Download for This Vast Book of Nature

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Subject Headings

  • White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- Environmental conditions -- Historiography.
  • Landscapes -- White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- Historiography.
  • White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- Historiography.
  • Natural history -- White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- Historiography.
  • White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- Description and travel.
  • Tourism -- White Mountains (N.H. and Me.) -- History.
  • Landscapes in literature.
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