Items displayed in this exhibit are from the collection of Larry W. Bowman and range from the 16th to the 20th centuries, representing a diversity of printed materials.
Maps from such renowned cartographers as Abraham Ortelius, Vincenzio Coronelli, and Petrus Bertius are included, providing visual evidence, over the centuries, of the gradual but steady growth of Western knowledge about Eastern geography. Views by Theodore De Bry and Matthaus Merian gave Europeans some of their earliest printed representations of Indian Ocean ports, while the 19th century material often plays to European fascination with the exotic. Books in the exhibit include tales of path-breaking voyages, navigational guides, and reports from early travelers. Others, such as Hachisuka's book on the dodo and the 1839 edition of Paul and Virginia are known for their fine illustrations.
Larry W. Bowman, professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, has traveled the Indian Ocean region since the 1960s, substantially increasing his involvement in the area in the last fifteen years. The items in this exhibit have been acquired during the past decade.
The challenge in building an Indian Ocean collection is formidable on several counts. This area is rarely thought of as a unified or single region; consequently, antiquarian dealers do not assemble or sell materials under an Indian Ocean rubric. Instead, one must become familiar with specific areas of specialization, such as Africa, South Asia, and the Arabian/Persian Gulf; or countries, such as India or South Africa; or individual islands, such as Zanzibar or Reunion. Moreover, Indian Ocean materials are widely dispersed. Occasionally, items can be found in the countries of the region, but more commonly, available materials are located in the developed world. Finally, collecting books as well as maps and prints requires familiarity with quite different collecting worlds. In all of this, the Internet has become a valued aid.
As professor Bowman has built his personal Indian Ocean collection, he has also become an active dealer of rare and antiquarian Indian Ocean materials. These are available via catalogues and on his website and are acquired, primarily, by clients in the Indian Ocean region.
Gallery on the Plaza, Babbidge Library
Curators: Norman Stevens and Larry Bowman