Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807
Isaak Iselin's Journal of a Trading Voyage around the World 1805–1808 is a text very much shaped by exploration literature. This was a very popular genre at the time, and some of the most famous examples included the accounts of James Cook and several of his crewmembers from the 1770s. In considering the relationship between Iselin's Journal and this wider genre, we need to focus on the idea of intertextuality.
Moreover, in considering intertextuality, it's important to note that Iselin was an homme des lettres: he came from one of the foremost families in Basel, a city noted for its Protestant, literate and Enlightenment culture. At the time, it was rather atypical for a merchant to write travel accounts; most were written by scientists and explorers. Iselin's Basel background and intellectual heritage are therefore very important in understanding his writing.
A most interesting link exists between the Journal of a Trading Voyage and Über die Geschichte der Menschheit by Iselin's relative and namesake Isaak Iselin (1728–1782), a book published in 1764. As one of the foremost philosophers of German Enlightenment, Iselin Sr. included native people from all over the world in his consideration of Menschheit(mankind)—even though he himself did not leave Europe. As Iselin Jr. actually travelled the world, it seems possible that he experienced some encounters through the discursive lens of his illustrious namesake, with whose book he was surely familiar.
This exercise attempts to highlight different examples of intertextuality in Iselin's writing.