“English Writings about the New World”

p. 38: At least by the nineteenth century, most expeditions of exploration considered a well-stocked library an essential component of their cargo. Obviously, those in ships could afford a greater tonnage; just how many men on Franklin’s two land expeditions hauled books and charts over portages and across the tundra remains a nice question. Certainly, when the first expedition was reduced in the fall of 1821 to a straggling line of men marching back from Bathurst Inlet to the hoped-for refuge of Fort Enterprise, a copy of Samuel Hearne’s A Journey from the Prince of Wales’s Fort, in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean, the only book then available about the region, remained part of the load. The party of twenty men lost their way more than once. Were they consulting the charter in the inferior but lighter-weight octavo edition of Hearne’s book, issued in Dublin in 1796? It would have made a more logical traveling companion than the larger quarto first edition (London, 1795). Yet the map in the octavo showed Hearne’s return route across the Barrens differently from the first edition’s map. The discrepancy could have confused Franklin, whose men suffered more than one delay, and contributed to the number of deaths. Certainly, the matter of a book’s size bears materially on this dramatic possibility.