‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’
This month: Richard Hakluyt of Space
In an essay in her collection The Common Reader (1925), Virginia Woolf has this to say about her encounter with Richard Hakluyt’s enormous compilation of Elizabethan narratives of travel and exploration, The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffics and Discoveries of the English Nation:
“These magnificent volumes are not often, perhaps, read through. Part of their charm consists in the fact that Hakluyt is not so much a book as a great bundle of commodities loosely tied together, an emporium, a lumber room strewn with ancient sacks, obsolete nautical instruments, huge bales of wool, and little bags of rubies and emeralds. One is forever untying this packet here, sampling that heap over there, wiping the dust off some vast map of the world, and sitting down in semi-darkness to snuff the strange smells of silks and leathers and ambergris. . . . For this jumble of seeds, silks, unicorns’ horns, elephants’ teeth, wool, common stones, turbans, and bars of gold, these odds and ends of priceless value and complete worthlessness, were the fruit of innumerable voyages, traffics, and discoveries to unknown lands in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.” And she goes on to express the delights that wandering through this immense, centuries-old compendium of geographies offers.
You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.