John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa: Unpublished Journals and Selected Correspondence


"I am now writing up some notes, but when they will be ready for publication I do not know... It will be a long time before anything is arranged in book form." These words of John Muir, written in June 1912 to a friend, proved prophetic. The journals and notes to which the great naturalist and environmental figure was referring have languished, unpublished and virtually untouched, for nearly a century. Until now. Here edited and published for the first time, John Muir's travel journals from 1911-12, along with ...
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John Muir's Last Journey: South To The Amazon And East To Africa: Unpublished Journals And Selected Correspondence

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"I am now writing up some notes, but when they will be ready for publication I do not know... It will be a long time before anything is arranged in book form." These words of John Muir, written in June 1912 to a friend, proved prophetic. The journals and notes to which the great naturalist and environmental figure was referring have languished, unpublished and virtually untouched, for nearly a century. Until now. Here edited and published for the first time, John Muir's travel journals from 1911-12, along with his associated correspondence, finally allow us to read in his own words the remarkable story of John Muir's last great journey.

Leaving from Brooklyn, New York, in August 1911, John Muir, at the age of seventy-three and traveling alone, embarked on an eight-month, 40,000-mile voyage to South America and Africa. The 1911-12 journals and correspondence reproduced in this volume allow us to travel with him up the great Amazon, into the jungles of southern Brazil, to snowline in the Andes, through southern and central Africa to the headwaters of the Nile, and across six oceans and seas in order to reach the rare forests he had so long wished to study. Although this epic journey has received almost no attention from the many commentators on Muir's work, Muir himself considered it among the most important of his life and the fulfillment of a decades-long dream.

John Muir's Last Journey provides a rare glimpse of a Muir whose interests as a naturalist, traveler, and conservationist extended well beyond the mountains of California. It also helps us to see John Muir as a different kind of hero, one whose endurance and intellectual curiosity carried him into far fields of adventure even as he aged, and as a private person and family man with genuine affections, ambitions, and fears, not just an iconic representative of American wilderness.

With an introduction that sets Muir's trip in the context of his life and work, along with chapter introductions and a wealth of explanatory notes, the book adds important dimensions to our appreciation of one of America's greatest environmentalists. John Muir's Last Journey is a must reading for students and scholars of environmental history, American literature, natural history, and related fields, as well as for naturalists and armchair travelers everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews


"With previously unpublished journal entries and letters, this volume captures the original mountain man's final trek."
Library Journal
Well-known conservationist Muir founded the Sierra Club and helped to establish the Yosemite and the Sequoia National forests in California. In 1911-12 at the age of 73, he traveled alone for eight months to South America and Africa to study the natural vegetation. This collection of hitherto unpublished journals and correspondence is an edited but rare glimpse of Muir's epic voyage that unveils his passion for international exploration. Branch (literature and the environment, Univ. of Nevada, Reno), a Muir scholar, includes useful footnotes that explain the many references Muir makes as well as some interesting explanatory material at the beginning of each of the seven chapters. Still, Muir's writing, which for the most part consists of brief descriptions of his daily activities and especially the weather, will not be of interest to anyone other than scholars. To understand most of this very personal correspondence, one needs to spend quite a bit of time reading the footnotes. Academic libraries with extensive conservation collections should consider. Alison Hopkins, Queens Borough P.L., NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
At the age of 73, John Muir made his last major journey to see rare forests he had long wished to study. Departing from New York in early-August 1911, he travelled 40,000 miles in an eight-month, solo journey to South America, up the Amazon, into the Brazilian jungles, to the Andes, across the ocean to southern and central Africa, to the headwaters of the Nile, through southern Europe and back to New York. Branch (literature and environment, U. of Nevada, Reno) assembles, for the first time in published form, journals, notes, sketches, photographs and correspondence from Muir's final journal. Together they provide a complete picture of Muir as not only traveler, naturalist, and conservationist, but also as a family man, a generous and supportive friend, and a private individual with genuine affections, ambitions, and fears. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559636407
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Series: Pioneers of Conservation Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael P. Branch is associate professor of literature and environment at the University of Nevada, Reno, co-founder of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, and co-editor of The Height of Our Mountains (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) and Reading the Earth (University of Idaho Press, 1998).

John Muir (1838-1914) was one of America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations
Foreword \ Robert Michael Pyle
Chapter 1. Preparing for the Last Journey: California, New York, and Boston (26 January 1911–12 August 1911)
Chapter 2. Southbound and up the Great Amazon (12 August 1911–25 September 1911)
Chapter 3. Coastal Brazil and up the Iguacu River into the Araucaria braziliensis Forests (26 September 1911–8 November 1911)
Chapter 4. Southern Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and into the Araucaria imbricata Forests of the Andes (9 November 1911–10 December 1911)
Chapter 5. At Sea, South Africa, the Zambezi River, and to the Baobab Trees (11 December 1911–6 February 1912) 
Chapter 6. East Africa, Lake Victoria, the Headwaters of the Nile, and Homeward Bound (7 February 1912–27 March 1912) 
Chapter 7. Home to America, California, and Writing: The Fate of John Muir and His South America and Africa Journals (28 March 1912–29 December 1912)
Appendix A: Timeline/Locator
Appendix B: Editorial Methods
Appendix C: John Muir's Reading and Botanical Notes
Appendix D: South America and Africa Books Owned by Muir
Appendix E: Annotated List of Selected Archival Materials
Appendix F: Table of Emendations
Notes to Editor's Introductions 
Textual Notes
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