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Amphiorama - ou, la vue du monde (1874) by F W C Trafford

Amphiorama ou la vue du monde... (1874)

Geoscientist 20.12 December 2010/January 2011

Michael McKimm writes: Fellows struggling to secure funding for geological excursions might take a leaf out of F W C Trafford’s book. Amphiorama ou la vue du monde... (1874) is an animated and passionately written account of explorations from the mountains of Europe, through the Atlantic ocean – ‘vagues, calme, bleu resplendissant’ – into the Arctic waters, to the heart of Greenland and beyond. ‘I am the first person who has seen it!’ he exclaims of the North Pole. It becomes clear, of course, that the journey is an imagined one: Trafford’s entire account, detailed and all-encompassing, was written without leaving his home on the Apennine coast.

Trafford’s biography is as mysterious as this short book, which would appear to be the only one he published. Barely anything is known about him, though it is clear that he had some experience of sea travel around Britain and the Mediterranean. By extending that experience into the imaginative realm Trafford was exhibiting a common ambition of the Victorian period to master and claim the frozen north. At times both accurate and fluent in its physical description of landforms, as well as knowingly naive (the Arctic comes with a private beach), Trafford’s account is extremely funny and wonderfully inventive.

The work of an eccentric visionary, Trafford’s book is a treat amongst the Society’s collection for its author’s exuberance and adventure when the ability to travel and see the world was only possible through his keen imagination. It is imagination, after all, that leads to the greatest of discoveries.
  • The Library operates a sponsorship scheme to help preserve and restore its rare books. For more information, contact Michael McKimm in the library, or see the Sponsor A Book page on the Society’s website: