EXPLORERS’ SKETCHBOOKS: John Auldjo John Auldjo's collection of sketches from Naples and the volcano that overshadows it became known as a ‘pioneering guidebook’ for travellers

In an age before Google Maps, GPS and satellite phones, the unexplored landscapes discovered by pioneering explorers could only be recorded by pen and paper. In this short series, Avaunt will be featuring five excerpts from the sketchbooks of people who shaped – through word and image – our concept of the world over the past six centuries.

The Canadian-British painter and geologist John Auldjo was in very select company when he climbed Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, in 1827. First summited in 1786 and only climbed a handful of times until his attempt, Auldjo’s skills as a draftsman meant that he was the first to capture the beauty and vastness of the mountain through his vibrant and vivid sketches.

Later Auldjo would publish a hugely popular illustrated account of his time that would be reprinted several times and inspired another trip, in 1831, to Mount Vesuvius. His collections of sketches from that trip, of Naples and the volcano that overshadows it, was equally well-received and collectively his output became known as a ‘pioneering guidebook’ for travellers.

John Auldjo illustration of Vesuvius
Auldjo’s map of Vesuvius is credited with inspiring many to the dangerous and alluring volcano but his illustrations were also examples of a pioneering way of representing geographic information and nature. Here, for example, Auldjo provides a colourful index to show the dates of the volcano’s successive eruptions. Auldjo completed his illustrations and sketches so close to the active volcano that he wrote about feeling its intense heat. ©Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge.

Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure by Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert is published by Thames & Hudson, £29.95.

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