Important acquisitions

History and Travels

Author Maclean, Hector
Title History and Travels
Imprint Glasgow
Date of Publication 1769
Language
Notes This is one of the most significant and interesting (not to mention expensive) chapbooks that the National Library of Scotland has purchased in recent years. Hector Maclean's autobiographical account of his sea-faring life is packed with extraordinary information about how one eighteenth-century Scot saw the world. Hector was born in Argyleshire in 1728, but the story really begins when he stowed away on his brother's ship at the age of eight. He ended up in Greenock, which struck him as such an amazing place that he wandered the town until it was dark, and got lost. Not speaking any English (presumably because his native tongue was Gaelic), Hector ended up being taken in by various families, who put him to work as a farm servant. After some years he managed to return to his family, and was taught to read and write: the urge to travel, however, was still strong, and he took ship for Virginia. The account of the North American coast which follows is full of keen observations, particularly of the wildlife. The curious behaviour of opossums, sharks, alligators and insects is presented to the Scottish reader. Maclean is also informative about the native Americans; he describes a group presenting a British Governor with the scalp of an enemy. The Portuguese, however, come in for the most scathing criticism, being described as violent thieves. This is apparently the second edition of the first installment of Maclean's account (there is a 1768 edition in the British Library). We already have a copy of the second installment, (L.C.2811(2)), published in 1771. Any other installments have not been traced. It sounds as though Maclean paid for the printing of these chapbooks himself, so the rarity of the surviving copies may be a result of their being printed in very small numbers. When placed together, the first and second installments of Maclean's History and Travels constitute a truly fascinating account of a Scottish traveller, with some genuine literary merit. The two pamphlets combined would be excellent candidates for a short publication.
Shelfmark RB.s.2286
Reference Sources Lauriston Castle chapbook catalogue
Acquired on 04/11/02
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