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One of the most intriguing questions during the colonial era was what were the plants, landscape and the variety of animals that roamed the area like. Was there an abundance of wildlife and what type of animals were there to sustain the trapping industry? What type of medicines were used to sustain the colonial people? What was the interaction between the Indian culture and the land where they inhabited?

Colonial Sense will revisit one of our favorite areas, New England, through the eyes of a seventeenth century English traveler who visited the the area twice in his lifetime, John Josselyn. In 1638 he visited New England for fifteen months and returned again twenty-four years later in 1663. He returned to England in 1671 and by 1674 he published New England's Rarities, discovered in Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, and Plants of that Country.

His vivid detail of flora and fauna influenced Henry David Thoreau who used many parallels in his narrative A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers published in 1849 to Josselyn's work. Thoreau borrowed Josselyn's books in 1851 and 1855 from Harvard Library and noted, ''What a strong and healthy but reckless, hit or miss style had some of these early writers of New England like Josselyn and Wood and others elsewhere in those days; as if they spoke with a relish, smacking their lips like a coach-whip, caring more to speak heartily than scientifically true... They were not to be caught napping by the wonders of nature in a new country.''

Yet little is known of this English traveler. He may have been trained as a surgeon or physician. He was born in 1608 in Essex, England and the youngest son to Sir Thomas Josselyn of Kent, a well-to-do family that afforded John the ability to pursue his passions of medicine and botany.

His brother Henry who was agent to the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason, the proprietors of Maine and New Hampshire, became deputy governor of the province of Maine in the colonial administration of Thomas Gorges, and was the reason for the visit of John to New England. Henry settled in 'Scarborow, or Black-Point, now known as Scarborough. John who remained a bachelor his entire life lived with Henry for eight years during his second voyage.

John Josselyn noted, "On the fifteenth of August (1663) I arrived at Scarborow, the habitation of my beloved brother, being about a hundred leagues to the Eastward of Boston; here I resided eight years, and made it my business to discover all along the Natural, Physical and Chyrugical Rarities of this New-Found World..."

Travel journals are a powerful tool to inspire people to visit new areas and the detail Josselyn used in New England's Rarities, discovered in Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, and Plants of that Country certainly inspired many to visit Maine over the years. The book was well received by the Royal Society which encouraged Josselyn to write his second book An Account of the Voyages to New England in 1674. Although the book was dedicated to the Royal Society, it was not well received by the Royal Society. The Royal Society ignored him and their lack of enthusiasm to the book was probably due to Josselyn speaking highly of the culture of the Puritan society. It was likely that the Royal Society found his thoughts on the Puritan culture irrelevant to scientific knowledge Josselyn brought to his first book. The elite did not care of the religious or social standards that existed. John died sometime in 1675.

An Account of the Voyages to New England is a rare book and a first edition just sold at Sotheby's June 19, 2015 for $13,750. Colonial Sense is transcribing the journal from the original printing in 1674. We have removed the long S's for ease of reading.

Source: Overview by Bryan Wright

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John Josselyn

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