Today marks the 150th anniversary of one of those moments that schoolchildren remember all their lives, for a single phrase. ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ has passed into our common culture, possibly the only thing known about two remarkable men, very different in personality and outlook but both of whom played an important role in the modern history of Africa.
Stanley falls very definitely into the adventurer camp of explorers. An ex-soldier, a journalist, an imposing figure, controversy stalked him throughout his career in Africa. For all that he achieved, which was considerable, he also repeatedly showed an indifference to the fate of the local populations. We see this in the behaviour of the rear column in the search for Emin Pasha, the huge slaughter which accompanied the founding of the Congo Free State, and the loss of the vast majority of his porters on the expedition to find Livingstone.
His greatest book is Through the Dark Continent, published in 1878, it tells the story of the Anglo-American expedition of 1874 which made unparalleled discoveries in Central Africa. The finance for this was raised as a result of the success of his Livingstone mission.
Dr Livingstone was cut from very different cloth. Like Stanley he was from very humble origins but was raised a devout Presbyterian. His life’s mission was to ‘spread the Word’ and although he made incredible journeys through Africa, and was the first European to see the Victoria Falls, they seem incidental to his main purpose. Livingstone’s central book is Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. Not a rare book perhaps, however fine copies are increasingly difficult to find. Bibliographically the book is complex with numerous issue points with little clear priority, but the preferred issue is with the lithograph frontispiece. We are fortunate to be able to offer the copy belonging to the book's publisher: John Murray, complete with autograph notes by Dr Livingstone himself.
So what was Livingstone up to when ‘found’ by Stanley? He was exploring in Tanzania. The account of his time there, together with an account of his death forms the subject matter for The Last Journals of David Livingstone, 1874. The substance of the book was taken back for publication by Stanley, with the posthumous account added later.