Robin Camille Davis
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Whalers, sailors, and libraries at sea [part 3]

January 26, 2012

In reading more of Hester Blum's very interesting The View from the Masthead (2008), I came across another list of books a 19th-c whaler read. His name was James C. Osborn of Edgartown, Mass., second mate aboard the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship. From 1841–45, the ship whaled in the Pacific under Master Thomas A. Norton.

Osborn's logbook was digitized by the library of Mystic Seaport. Happily for my eyeballs, they also transcribed it! (Link to digitized page — link to transcription page.) I've also copied the list of books below, with title corrections (he was a bad speller) and authors added. You can find 28 of them on an OpenLibrary list I created, and most are readable online.

1 Vol Goods Book of Nature. — John Mason Good
1 Vol Self Knowledg. — John Mason
1 Vol Morrels Voyages. — Benjamin Morrell
2 Vol Mad'm De Lacy.
2 Vol Quadroon. — J.H. Ingraham
2 Vol Pathfinder. — James Fenimore Cooper
1 Vol Pilot. — James Fenimore Cooper
1 Vol Reunza [Rienzi] or the Last of the Trybunes. — Edward Bulwer Lytton
1 Vol Numid of Pompei [Last Days of Pompeii?] — Edward Bulwer Lytton
1 Vol Book of Beauty. [possible The American Book of Beauty? seems too feminine for this list though, but who knows]
1 Vol Tracks on Disapation.
1 Vol Gray Hams Lecturs. [could be Sylvester Graham or James Graham]
1 Vol Husbands Duty to Wife [possibly A treatise of the rights, duties and liabilities of husband and wife by James Clancy]
1 Vol Ladyes Medical Guide. — Seth Pancoast
1 Mad'm Tusades History of the French Revolution.
The American Longer - 1 Vol
Benj'n Keen[?] - 1 Vol
Pelham - 2 Vol — Edward Bulwer Lytton
Rolans History - 3 Vol — Madame Roland
Napolians Anicdotes - 1 Vol — W.H. Ireland
Bulwers Novels - 12 Vols — Edward Bulwer Lytton
The Prince & Pedler - 2 Vol
Jack Adams - 1 Vol
May You like it - 1 Vol — Charles Benjamin Tayler
Kings Highway - 2 Vol — G.P.R. James
The Young mans Guide - 1 Vol — William A. Alcott
1 Vol Pamelia [Pamela?] — Samuel Richardson
2 Vol Meriam [Miriam] Coffin — Joseph C. Hart
1 Vol Ten Thousands [Thousand] a Year. — Richard Brinsley Peake
1 Vol Humphrey Clinker. [drama about 18th-c author Humphrey Clinker] — Thomas John Dibdin
2 Vol Bracebridge Hall. — Washington Irving
1 Vol Travels in Egypt & Arabia Felix. — Henry Rooke
2 Vol Elizabeth De Bruce. — C.I. Johnstone
2 Vol [The] Bravo. — James Fenimore Cooper
2 Vol Repealers.
2 Vol Steam Voyage Down The Danube. — Michael Joseph Quin
1 Vol Memoirs of Dr. Edward Young. [Edward Young the poet; memoirs?]
1 Vol Health Adviser.
1 Vol Female Wanderer. [the Wanderer, or female difficulties] — Fanny Burney
1 Vol Female Horse Thief.
1 Vol Holdens Narritive. — Horace Holden
1 Vol Rosamonds Narrative of the Roman Catholic Priests &c. [Rosamond Culbertson: Or, A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of an American Female Under] — Rosamond Culbertson
2 Vol Mercedes of Castile. — James Fenimore Cooper
22 Vol of Marryatts Works. [added Japhet in search of a father, and The Phantom Ship]— Frederick Marryatt

Osborn was a voracious reader! He had an especial appetite for novels by James Fenimore Cooper and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, while also reading up on moral behavior and personal health. I haven't looked much at the rest of his logbook, since it's mostly boring weather reports, but he seems to have been an adventurous, artistic sort. (Look at this sketch, e.g.) He had to have traded or bought books during the voyage, as these 91 volumes would be a tight fit on board, and it seems like too many books to be able to afford outright on a whaler's wages.

Most surprising book on this list? The Ladies' Medical Guide, which describes the anatomy and physiology of women in the most unsexy way possible. There's also a section in the back of different age-appropriate hairstyles for women. (Note that the edition I could find online was published in 1875, years after Osborn's journey. But I like to imagine the edition he read wasn't that different.)

If other book lists of 19th-c. sailors start making themselves apparent to me, this might evolve into a project beyond a few blog posts! Keep a weather eye out, fellow researchers?

See also part 1 (context) and part  2 (two book lists).



Edit 2012-06-05, see also Legacy Libraries: Ships on LibraryThing.