In the Middle Ages in Europe, “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville” was a most popular book.
Sir John pretends that all the stories in his book were his own personal experiences; but it is known that he himself did not really travel much. But made up his book from old travelers’ tales, some of which can be traced to Herodotus, and some to such entirely fictitious stories as Homer’s “Odyssey,” or the wanderings of the mythical Greek hero, Ulysses; and some evidently come from collection of eastern fairly-tales like the “Arabian Nights.” But the “Travels of Marco Polo” (father and son) in China in the 16th century are genuine, and of real historical value. The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1498, gave a great impetus to travelling; and men of seasoning nations, especially the Portuguese, Spaniards, and British, sailed out on adventures for the sake of discovery, trade and fighting; and many accounts of the travels of such men as Vasco de Gama, who doubled the Cape, Amerigo Vespucci (after whom America was named), Sir Francis Drake, who sailed round the world, Frobisher, Hawkins, Sir Walter Raleigh, etc., have come down to us. In the 18th century, the most famous book of travel is the Voyages of Captain Cook, who discovered many new lands in the Pacific. In modern times, the facilities for travel provided by railways and steamships have enormously multiplied the number of travellers and, in consequence, the number of books of travel.
Perhaps the best-known are the travels of Dr. Livingstone, and of Sir Henry Stanley, in Africa; of Dr. Nasen in the Arctic Regions; and “Eothen,” by Kinglake an account of his travels in Eastern countries. Hundreds of books of travel are published every year, good, bad and indifferent.
The reading of books of travel, besides providing healthy recreation, broadens the mind, and gives one a great deal of knowledge in an interesting way.