TRAVELS ON THE ST. JOHNS RIVER

 

Authors: John Bartram and William Bartram; Edited by Thomas Hallock and Richard Franz

Data: University Press of Florida, 223 pages, $29.95

After England gained rights to La Florida in the 1760s, Kings Botantist John Bartram was dispatched south to reconnoiter. He drafted his son William to accompany him. The eight-month journey took them to the far upper reaches of the north-flowing St. Johns. Afterwards William stuck around at Picolata for an ill-fated, and short, try as a planter. A decade later he would return to the river as part of his famous tour of the South, which he wrote about in a massive tome with a massive title, usually referred to simply as “Travels.”

The passages about the St. Johns, regarded as that “work’s liquid heart,” form the bulk of a new work, “Travels on the St. Johns,” by editors Thomas Hallock and Richard Franz.

In Part 1 of the book, University of South Florida professor Hallock includes these writings along with with the Florida section of John Bartram’s “Diary” from the previous trip, correspondence between the Bartrams and others about the river and its environs, and a series of wonderfully detailed maps of the river.

In Part 2, Franz, retired from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, “offers readers the experience of viewing natural history through the eyes of modern natural historians and those of our intrepid explorers” as they travel through the various natural landscapes presented by the river. He also includes an annotated list of the plant and animal species encountered by the Bartrams.

A fascinating look at our river in a more pristine time. No collection of Floridiana will be complete without it.

Lee Scott lives on the banks of the St. Johns in Avondale.