A boy’s own adventure in Norway

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections is a unique sketchbook of watercolour ‘Views in Norway’ dating from 1864 belonging to the Scottish author, R. M. Ballantyne.

The watercolour sketches take Ballantyne from the port of Bergen, north around the Norwegian coast up to the Arctic Circle, a journey of around 430 miles. No mean feat in an age before the 4×4 and gore-tex. Ballantyne would have travelled mostly on foot, by boat or by cariole (horse-driven carriage). At the back of the fantastically ornate sketchbook are a number of photographs collected on his travels. The picture postcard views of Bergen, the portrait of the author in his hiking gear and portraits of local people (including a Sami bride and bridegroom head to toe in furs), complete the picture of his walking holiday.

The author’s travel experiences often set the backdrop for the boys’ own adventure stories he wrote, or allowed him to imagine and describe places he hadn’t visited. There is a strong correlation between the ‘Views in Norway’ sketchbook and Ballantyne’s Norwegian adventure story, ‘Chasing the Sun’, where the main protagonist goes in search of perpetual daylight.

Ballantyne wrote around 80 stories, but perhaps only the title of ‘Coral Island’ is widely known today. Browse all Ballantyne’s titles and download the ebooks for free from Library2go and discover the spirit of boys’ own adventure. (Go to the ‘Additional ebooks’ area on Overdrive which gives free access to Project Gutenberg books.)

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