A Journal About Journals


(Handwritten notes by Christopher Columbus on Marco Polo’s diary. Source - File:ColombusNotesToMarcoPolo.jpg - Wikimedia Commons)

One of the earliest recorded travel journals was by the Venetian merchant and explorer, Marco Polo. His journal, Livre des merveilles du monde (Book of the Marvels of the World), documented his travels to Asia, and explained to Europeans the vast size and wealth of one of the unexplored corners of the planet.

This travelogue helped to inspire the likes of Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the United States, as well as other explorers - and provided important geographic detail that had been unavailable prior to Polo’s journal.

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(Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. Source - Leonardo da Vinci's Notebook - The British Library)

The Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci recorded his thoughts in a series of papers and notes, which was then put together after his death. The notebooks contain his notes on a range of topics, including mechanics and astronomy, offering an insight into da Vinci’s thought process.


(The beginning of Beethoven’s Heilgenstadt Testament. Source - The Heiligenstadt Testament - Ludwig van Beethoven's website)

One of the most renowned composers of all-time, Ludwig van Beethoven kept numerous notebooks, journals and letters which provided an indication of the man behind the compositions.

Despite a quick temper and sometimes furious demeanour, a compilation of letters released after his death revealed a different side to Beethoven. In one entry - known as the Heiligenstadt Testament - the German composer reveals his deafness, as well as a deep depression and struggles with keeping it a secret. As a diary is such a personal document, it is common for authors to use journal entries as coping mechanisms for stress.


(Charles Darwin’s 1838 diary entry. Source - Darwin's Papers & Manuscripts )

Prior to keeping a personal journal, the English geologist and biologist Charles Darwin had already achieved a degree of fame for The Voyage of the Beagle, which recorded his experiences aboard HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin then started keeping a personal journal in August 1838.

Darwin sometimes condensed a whole year of journal entries into one page of a 3 x 4 inch notebook, causing his son, Francis, to remark that “it [the journal]…is unfortunately written with great brevity.”

The journal does contain important and oft-quoted passages, including his impressions upon reading back his original notes from his travels to the Galapagos Islands. A full copy of the journal is available at the Darwin Online archive.

I like playing Marco Polo.

But I’m not so sure about Columbus…

Da Vinci’s notebooks contain a map to templar treasure!

That’s some messy writing there…

But I’m sure his staves are neat.

Personally, I just like that typeface.

No no no, it’s a map to the Cathar treasure.

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Neater than mine :blush:

Awesome stuff!

Let’s get those 20 chars

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