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Woodes Rogers and the Boundary of Travel Facts

Jason H. Pearl Boston University In A Cruising Voyage Round the World (1712), Woodes Rogers casts doubt upon earlier descriptions of the Island of Juan Fernández and proclaims the truthfulness of his own description: “I shall not trouble the Reader with the Descriptions of this Island given by others, wherein there are many Falshoods; but the Truth of this I can attest from my own knowledge.”1 Rogers makes a similar asseveration about Alexander Selkirk, though not before dismissing the accounts of earlier castaways on Juan Fernández: “Whatever there is in these Stories, this of Mr. Selkirk I know to be true.”2 Such protestations of honesty are endemic to the genre of travel literature, yet they become increasingly prevalent—and urgent—around the end of the seventeenth century, when readers began doubting more and more seriously whether modern travelers were any more trustworthy than Aristotle, Pliny, or the other ancients they were currently then supplanting.3 Travelers were subject to shifting expectations: at fi rst welcomed for their strange new information, they were soon distrusted precisely because their information was strange and new.4 If empiricist philosophy had empowered travelers to act as proxy observers, it also empowered readers at home to disbelieve http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Eighteenth-Century Life Duke University Press

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