Biblioteka Jagiellońska, Krakow (Manuscript Department)

Edition

Alexander von Humboldt

Reise. 1790. England

Alexander von Humboldt's first preserved travel journal was written in 1790 during his journey to England, where he was accompanied by Georg Forster. The journal brings together observations on sheep breeding, dyeing processes, and the cloth trade, on lime kilns, basalt extraction, and cheese production. Within the botanical and geological observations, specific tendencies of Humboldt’s original cameralistic education still prevail: he compares the English with his homeland’s vegetation, provides landscape descriptions, and historical anecdotes. Formally, the English travel journal shows typical signs of a finger exercise in preparing travel notes. However, it already points to the later travel journals, such as those that preceded the American journey.

Edited by Dominik Erdmann and Christian Thomas

Introducing the edition
Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz)

Edition

Alexander von Humboldt

Dresden, Salzburg, the Alps, Hungary (1797/1798)

Leading up to his perennial expeditions outside of Europe, Alexander von Humboldt traveled from Dresden via Prague to Vienna and Salzburg between June 1797 and April 1798. This excursion can be understood as a preparation for the much more extended research expedition that Humboldt will finally undertake between 1799 and 1804 to the Caribbean as well as to South and North America. In the Eastern Alps and the Salzkammergut, he learned how to use his instruments, record and annotate meteorological data as well as determine the specific location and altitude of a given place. He experiments with chemical procedures that should be practicable in the field using simple means and seeks the advice of experienced researchers and instrument makers. Humboldt documented this “journey before the journey” on nearly fifty closely described pages, which he had bound into the fifth volume of his American Travel Journals towards the end of his life.

In planning

Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz)

Edition

Alexander von Humboldt

Paris–Toulon (1798)

Late in his life, Humboldt had his notes from the trip “De Paris à Toulon” added to the volumes of his American Travel Journals, explicitly marked as “Shall not be printed”. In its main section, the text offers a dense and highly multifaceted description of the travel stations, encounters, and hardships on the way through revolutionary France in 1798. In Paris, Humboldt had bid farewell to his brother Wilhelm and his sister-in-law Caroline – for an undetermined period of time, because after earlier journeys within Europe, France was now supposed to be the starting point for the long-planned research trip lasting several years. Its exact destination, whether the West Indies, North Africa, or a circumnavigation of the world, is not fixed, and is constantly subject to change due to armed conflicts and other obstacles. Together with his companion Aimé Bonpland, Humboldt travels from Paris to Marseille, where the involuntary waiting time is spent to botanize, measure, and undertake excursions into the surrounding area. Finally, all hopes of a passage across the Mediterranean are shattered. Instead, Humboldt and Bonpland set off from Marseille to Spain, from where they will finally embark on their journey to the New World in June 1799 onboard the Spanish corvette “Pizarro” after another six months.

Edited by Christian Thomas

To the edited text
Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz)

Edition

Alexander von Humboldt

Spain (1799)

At the end of December 1798, after a long stay in France and ultimately waiting in vain for a passage to North Africa, Alexander von Humboldt and his travel companion Aimé Bonpland leave for Spain via Nîmes, Montpellier, and Perpignan. At the beginning of January, both reach Barcelona, where they spend a few weeks. From there they continue their journey from the end of January 1799 via Valencia and the province of La Mancha to Madrid. Humboldt’s journal contains mainly observations, measurements, and stations along his route across the Iberian Plateau. In addition to the flora, attention is paid to the carefully documented barometric height measurements, which form the basis for Humboldt’s Profil de la Peninsule Espagnole, published in 1825 as part of the multi-volume works on his American travels. Humboldt also analyzes changing rock formations and strata (especially their strike and fall) as characteristics of geognostic processes.

Edited by Dominik Erdmann and Christian Thomas, with an introduction by Ulrike Leitner (text in German).

To the edited text
Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz)

Edition

Alexander von Humboldt

Italy (1805)

In March 1805, about seven months after his return from America, Humboldt sets out in Paris for a journey to Italy. He is accompanied by the chemist Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac and the geographer Franz August O’Etzel. The route leads through several stops first to Rome, where Humboldt’s brother Wilhelm is Prussian envoy. In Rome, geologist Leopold von Buch joins the small travel group. Humboldt’s notes from this time, bound in volume II and VI of his American Travel Journals, reflect the versatility of Humboldtian Science. In Roman museums and other art collections, he compares the products of indigenous cultures, which he had encountered in South America, with those of the classical European antiquity. Later on, the journey, amongst other purposes, is dedicated to comparative volcanological studies, including the ascent of Vesuvius and the observation of its eruption in August 1805. Humboldt and Gay-Lussac repeatedly carry out chemical analyses of the seawater and the composition of the atmosphere, which is published in the same year. They also attempt to determine the influence of different rocks on the earth’s magnetism. Via Naples and Rome, the trip leads back to Berlin, where Humboldt arrives on November 16, 1805, after an absence of more than nine years.

In planning