Arriving at Santa Marta in August 1852, Isaac F. Holton crossed Colombia by steamer, mule train, and foot. He made his exit at Buenaventura twenty months later with 1800 plant specimens and a bulging diary. In editing this diary, C. Harvey Gardiner abridged the text, deleted Holton’s maps and illustrations, and added an introduction with a biographical sketch of Holton. A few of the illustrations and particularly a map might have been left to liven the text and guide the reader.

Holton candidly records activities ranging from boring tertulias to discoveries of flora. He offers comments on schools, governments, and families in towns where he stops. Often he gives details of meal preparation and seems to have delighted in watching the servant prepare sopa, maize cakes, fried plantain, and chocolate. Holton’s diary is a chain of such observations told with occasional wit and understatement. It makes pleasant if not stimulating reading for anyone interested in commonplace events of mid-nineteenth century Colombia.