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Africa Inscribed

Four essential works of African exploration.
Africa Inscribed

In anticipation of the approaching London Antiquarian book fairs, this May, we are spotlighting rare African exploration works. Featured, are four first editions, with inscriptions linking them to historical figures, enhancing their collectability.

Africa Inscribed

The London Antiquarian book fairs are fast approaching. For me, the important thing is to make sure that what we take is special enough to stand out from the crowd.

An example of this are four essential works of African exploration and discovery, each blessed with a healthy sprinkling of stardust – all are inscribed first editions to known recipients by the author.

David Livingstone’s Missionary Travels in South Africa (1857), is probably the most famous of all African books. Following the Zambesi River, he became the first European to see the Victoria Falls as well as exploring vast swathes of Central Africa. The book was a bestseller and is not rare, however this copy is inscribed to Sir Thomas Acland, the philanthropist and politician. In addition, it has impeccable provenance and is included in the census of Livingstone documents published by the National Library of Scotland. In its original cloth binding it is beautifully preserved in a red morocco-backed book box.

James Grant published A Walk across Africa in 1864. One of the scarcer Nile exploration books, it recounts Grant’s journey with James Speke during which he named the Ripon Falls. The present copy is in the scarce white cloth in very good order, but what really sets it apart is that he has inscribed it to ‘my dearest mother’. This must be one of the most desirable copies of this title.

Joseph Thomson was sent by the Royal Geographical Society to find the shortest route between Zanzibar and Uganda. He journeyed from Mombasa to Lake Victoria via mount Kilimanjaro, through Masai territory, and both Thomson’s Gazelle and Thomson’s Falls are named after him. His motto was ‘who goes gently goes safely; who goes safely, goes far’ and he certainly embodied this in his explorations. The present copy of Through Masai Land, 1885, was inscribed in Lokoja in Nigeria, to David McIntosh, an agent of the National African Company in the Niger Delta.

Henry Morton Stanley is nowadays viewed as one of the most controversial of the great African explorers. His geographical achievements can’t be denied, but the appalling atrocities committed by some of his officers on the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, and those carried out in the Congo Free State which he set up, have tainted his reputation. His final book, Through South Africa, 1898, is also his scarcest. In bright yellow cloth it is also very difficult to find in acceptable condition. Here the condition is impeccable, but what is truly remarkable the inscription. Not to the recipient, James Young, who was an autograph collector albeit on a vast scale, but for the attention that Stanley draws in his inscription to his meeting with Paul Kruger, the ‘Boer King’ as Stanley refers to him, as well as that ‘choleric & obstinate man’. A wonderful copy linking two of the most controversial characters in African history.

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Shapero Rare Books is an internationally renowned dealer in London, specialising in antiquarian & rare books and works on paper, with particular expertise in fine illustrated books from the 15th to the 20th century, travel & voyages, natural history, modern firsts, rare children’s books, guidebooks, Hebraica & Judaica, Eastern European, and Islamica

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