Introduction states: 'It is the purpose of this book to tell some of the stories of notable adventure in connection with boat voyages; to present to the reader in the space of a single volume what can otherwise only be found in many. The reader who is not already acquainted with the stories which we shall relate, might have neither the time nor the inclination necessary to read them through the books which contain them. He might not care, for instance, if he did not read them at the time of publication, to go through Mr. Stanley's two bulky volumes, descriptive of the cruise of the Lady Alice, full of thrilling interest as they are. But he might easily have both the time and the wish to read a summary of Mr. Stanley's travels which should be at once rapid and detailed enough to be characteristic and interesting—not so brief as to be bald, and robbed of none of those incidents that give life and movement and colour to the original narrative.
'If we shall have succeeded in presenting such versions of the several stories which we have chosen for illustration, we shall be content. If the reader rests satisfied with these rapid summaries of famous stories of voyage and adventure, he may have derived from our book not only entertainment, but some little measure of instruction and benefit. If, on the other hand, the perusal of this book should tempt him to seek the original sources whence our narratives are derived, then we feel little hesitation in saying that we shall have conferred on him a real benefit; for he will thus find laid out for him a course of reading for winter evenings as full of information as of human sympathy and absorbing interest' (ix-x).