Americans Reading Tahiti, 1776 to Today

Publication always proved to be an important factor in the influence and legacy of historic sailing expeditions of exploration by men such as James Cook. Stories of island discovery became best sellers, and they influenced not only scientific development but also literature. The books that came out of exploration left their marks on the imagination of many readers and writers.

With this presentation, I will be discussing the history of American books that discuss Tahiti. The timing and presentation of descriptions of geographic discoveries often meant a great deal for their by the public, while the funds that could be earned with such books drove many explorers and their supporters. Publishing success meant a great deal for financial, cultural, and scientific progress. The methods and means of publication need to be considered for any understanding of how this literature gained success.

However, not all libraries have collections of exploration texts. Sharing the book history concerning voyages of discovery with students can often be a challenge. The main thrust of my talk will be to share ways in which instructors can discuss the important developments in exploration and their meaning for culture even when there are no physical copies of the books available in the college library. Internet, reprint, and shared resources all make it possible and productive to teach this field in college courses.


Mark Edwin Peterson