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Remarkable Books By Remarkable Travellers

Remarkable Books By Remarkable Travellers Shapero Rare Books
When putting our new travel catalogue together, one of the first things that goes through my mind is how it will take shape. Inevitably this involves creating geographical chapters of roughly equal length. All very conventional and practical, however it does mean that other themes sometimes get overlooked.
Remarkable Books By Remarkable Travellers Shapero Rare Books

Just to focus on one of these, we have several notable works by women travellers, the earliest of these being Anna Hinderer. Born in a small Norfolk village in 1827, she moved at a young age to the vicarage in the provincial Suffolk town of Lowestoft. In 1852 she married, and here the story gets interesting as her husband was a missionary and in the year of their marriage they set off to the Yoruba country on the West coast of Africa.

This seems such a huge and courageous leap of faith. It would be easy to imagine her in George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life, but here she is, sailing off into the wild adventurous world of Richard Burton and other pioneer explorers of a land very inhospitable to Europeans. What would she have made of Yoruba life and customs?

Well she made quite a go of it, in effect running the mission and organising the education of local children while her husband, a Yoruba speaker, ventured out on his mission to convert. Her account of her time there, Seventeen Years in Yoruba Country, was a great success, reflecting how strange and unfamiliar her life in Africa must have seemed to her country folk. The first edition is scarce but we are fortunate to have a lovely copy in the original cloth.

Twenty years later, on the other side of Africa, another remarkable traveller produced what I think is a special book. In 1891, May French Sheldon, an American from Bridgewater, Pennsylvania, led an expedition from Mombasa to the Masai lands around Mount Kilimanjaro. Again there is the sense of culture shock as small town America has all its assumptions about life challenged in a huge way.

French Sheldon more than rose to the challenge and has left us a very important book. Important because in it she records a huge amount of detail about everyday life, domestic implements, cloth & costume, etc. Her book, Sultan to Sultan, Adventures among the Masai (1892), is profusely illustrated and provides a superb record of life as lived by the local people, very different from the typical ‘white hunter’. Our copy is not only in the original cloth but also inscribed by the author.

Moving on to Arabia, we are lucky enough to have a copy of Lady Cobbold’s Pilgrimage to Mecca (1934). Born into an aristocratic Scottish family, Evelyn, or more accurately Zainab (the name she chose after her conversion to Islam in 1915) Cobbold, unlike our other travellers, had experienced a different world from childhood, spending a lot of time in North Africa in general and Cairo in particular. Drawn to Islam from an early age, she somehow balanced her growing interest in the spiritual with a more conventional life as a socialite.

After her husband’s death in 1929 she began planning making the Hajj to Mecca. This she accomplished in 1933, the first British woman to make the pilgrimage. A beautifully written scarce book, she readily conveys the awe of a true believer when describing seeing the Kabah.

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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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