Fields of Vision
Essays on the Travels of William Bartram
Publication Year: 2010
A classic work of history, ethnography, and botany, and an examination of the life and environs of the 18th-century south.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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List of Illustrations
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Preface: “Fields of Vision”
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In 1791, the naturalist William Bartram (1739–1823) published a long four-part narrative of a 2,400-mile journey made in 1773 to 1777. Raised as a Quaker, Bartram was a child of plain dress, but the title of his book reads like an elaborate eye chart: ...
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This book began long ago as Charlotte Porter’s idea to publish outstanding papers presented at a biennial meeting of the Bartram Trail Conference held in Gainesville, Florida. Other papers and discussions from subsequent meetings and symposiums devoted to Bartram scholarship joined the...
Part I: Encounters along the Trail
1. The Real World of Bartram’s Travels
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William Bartram would be surprised at the number of his admirers two hundred years after the publication of his book, and he would be pleased that trails named for him lure latter-day adventurers into the wildernesses he loved. In the overlong title of his book, he listed all those places he visited...
2. William Bartram, Wrightsborough, and the Prospects for the Georgia Backcountry, 1765–1774
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Any extensive list of famous naturalist explorers to Georgia would certainly include William Bartram, an adventurer into the natural world whose wellknown travels took him through the province in 1765 and in 1773–1776.1 On the first trip, William accompanied his famous father, John Bartram, who used the small stipend given to him as a royal botanist...
3. William Bartram’s Gustatory Tour
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In the introduction to Travels, William Bartram wrote that “the attention of a traveller, should be particularly turned, in the first place, to the various works of Nature.”1 Yet like all travelers, his first concern was frequently his daily bread. In fact, travelers frequently find the most memorable part of their trip to be the new cuisine they encounter along the way. And...
4. The Two Williams: Science and Connections in West Florida
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Bartram’s journey through West Florida differed in several ways from his travels in East Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. He found no Choctaw or Chickasaw counterparts to the relationships formed with Creeks and Cherokee in the eastern colonies, relying primarily on the hospitality of white...
Part II: Reading Bartram
5. William Bartram and the Forms of Natural History
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Let me begin with a confession: I derive more consistent reading pleasure from Bartram’s “Report to Dr. Fothergill” than from his Travels. No doubt part of my preference may be attributed to readerly idiosyncrasy, but it has prompted me to consider what the “Report” offers readers as compared...
6. Nature, Man, and God: The Introduction to Bartram’s Travels
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Any attempt to explain William Bartram’s basic beliefs about life in a short essay is doomed to incompleteness, if not to complete failure. Most writers about Bartram concentrate, as good writers tend to do, on specific topics. But it seems to me that on occasion, we should try to place all...
7. Before Bartram: Artist-Naturalist Mark Catesby
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Sixty-two years before William Bartram’s southern tour, Mark Catesby embarked on his own journey of discovery. Catesby made two extended visits to England’s American colonies. During his first trip (1712–1719), Catesby was a casual observer, exploring the natural history of the colonies and gathering some plants to send back to his friends in...
Part III: Uncovering Bartram: New Discoveries
8. The Bartrams, Clarence B. Moore, and Mount Royal: Early Archaeology on the St. Johns River, Florida
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When John and William Bartram first traveled the St. Johns River in 1765 and 1766, nearly all of east Florida was wilderness, home to Seminole Indians with rare outposts of Anglos. The indigenous Timucua, whose ancestors had lived on the St. Johns River for...
9. Where Bartram Sat: Historic Creek Indian Architecture in the Eighteenth Century
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In the last half of the eighteenth century, William Bartram, the noted naturalist from Philadelphia, traveled throughout the southern English colonies, observing and recording local flora, fauna, geography, and the culture of the indigenous Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and other Indian groups. He was impressed with the architecture...
10. E. G. Squier’s Manuscript Copy of William Bartram’s Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians
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Who doesn’t love the work and legend of William Bartram? Even the sound of his name has come to imply adventure, beauty, and idyllic pride in the southeastern section of the United States. I first heard his wonderful prose about 1958 from my dad, who was reading sections...
Part IV: Botanical Discoveries
11. William Bartram’s Oenothera grandiflora: “The Most Pompous and Brilliant Herbaceous Plant yet Known to Exist”
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William Bartram observed an astonishing array of new plants in his travels through the largely unexplored floral paradise of the Carolinas, Georgia, and East and West Florida from 1773 to 1776. His exploration introduced a number of new plants to science and horticulture, and many of...
12. The Mystery of the Okeechobee Gourd
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The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida. It begins in the marshes surrounding Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County and flows northward through a series of lakes. Along the way, springs and creeks, some fresh, some salty, join the river’s flow to the sea. The river water is generally...
Part V: Natural History Writing in the Twenty-first Century
13. The Role of Digital Specimen Images in Historical Research
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In 1999, an article by Vincent Kiernan in the Chronicle of Higher Education addressed the value of the “International Plant Names Index,” a joint Web database project of Harvard University Herbaria; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England; and the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. ...
14. Bartram’s Legacy: Nature Advocacy
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In 1791, Bartram’s book of Travels, a volume of some four hundred pages, was the largest work of natural history published in the United States. The author recorded over six hundred species of plants, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, as well as many geological features.1 Famous passages...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2010