The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation

Chrzanowski 1599pRichard Hakluyt was not a great seafarer; the farthest he traveled was France. Yet he had a monumental influence in transforming Britain into a great seafaring nation. Hakluyt vigorously promoted British overseas expansion and envisioned that many benefits would come from colonization of North America. He encouraged explorers to discover the Northwest Passage to the Pacific and to expand British presence in India. Hakluyt was not just a cheerleader for empire-building, he supplied valuable information to make it possible. His greatest work is the monumental second edition of Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, printed 1598–1600.

Hakluyt became interested in geography from the stories told by his guardian (an older cousin), who was an adviser to the Muscovy Company, which was engaged in trade with Russia. After receiving a master’s degree at Christ Church, he began giving lectures, becoming, in effect, Oxford’s first professor of modern geography. He was ordained as a minister and would later serve as Chaplain at the Embassy in Paris from 1583 to 1588. Fluent in four languages, Hakuyt carefully researched earlier voyages, corresponded with the great mapmakers of the day, and got to know “the chiefest Captains at sea, the greatest merchants, and the best Mariners of our nation.” His research culminated in publication of Principal Navigations in 1589 and the greatly expanded second edition.

The 2,000-page second edition records some 216 voyages (often first-hand accounts) with 378 supporting documents. There are tales of adventure, courage, perseverance, and great hardship—all seemingly aimed at a larger purpose. Clearly, the overriding motive was expansion of trade: what were the market opportunities and what was the competition. The East India Company is said to have increased its income by £20,000 from information gleaned from Principal Navigations. The book is a testimonial to and a lasting record of the important first steps Great Britain took to grow an empire and change the world.

In the present copy, Volume 1 is the second issue with the title page dated 1599 and no reference to the Voyage unto Cadiz (because of the disgrace of the Earl of Essex that year). The genuine “Voyage unto Cadiz” (pages 607–20) is present.

Chrzanowski 1599p *

STC 12626

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675