Voyage into Substance

Art, Science, Nature, and the Illustrated Travel Account, 1760-1840

By Barbara Maria Stafford




Voyage into Substance reopens the whole complex question of how nature was perceived and penetrated during the Enlightenment - a time when artist-scientists trekked across Egyptian deserts, astronomer-mariners navigated the Polar seas, and meteorologist-aeronauts "sailed" through the atmosphere's "waves," all seeking to discover and record the non-human likeness of the phenomenal world.

By examining the popular, multi-national illustrated narratives and atlases of the period, the book relates the voyagers' attentive, firsthand mode of seeing and precise copying of the enduring and the ephemeral features of the environment (before the advent of photography) to the major philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic debates of the time. Arguing that these accounts disclose an anti-Picturesque tradition of representation, the book opens new doors to establish the persistence of a "plain," that is, a style of landscape depiction that culminates in 19th-century realism.

Voyage into Substance analyzes a vast repertory of geological, mineralogical and biological treatises concerning the self-expressive physiognomy of the earth and shows them to be important precursors and allies of the non-fictional travel narrative. Intertwining art, literature, philosophy, geography, and the history of science, with the aid of 304 plates, the book adds significantly to all these disciplines and is a unique contribution to the field of art and architectural history as well as to modern intellectual history.

Publication of this book was partially funded by the Millard Meiss Fund of the College Art Association of America and by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262192231 645 pp. |