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Henry Morton Stanley rare books

Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) 

The story of Henry Stanley’s life  was as unlikely as anything in Victorian pulp fiction.

Raised as an orphan in North Wales, Stanley emigrated to the United States to start a new life in New Orleans, and fought on both sides during the Civil War before taking up a career in journalism that saw him reporting on the gold rush towns of Colorado and the Indian wars of 1866.


In 1868, Stanley was sent by the New York Herald to Africa to cover the Abyssinian Campaign, in which a British expeditionary force was sent to rescue Emin Pasha, the Ottoman-German physician, naturalist, and governor of the Egyptian province of Equatoria on the upper Nile. Although Stanley’s account of this expedition, In Darkest Africa, was not published until 1890, he made some important
discoveries, including the great snow-capped range of Ruwenzori (the Mountains of the Moon), and a new lake which he named the Albert Edward Nyanza, as well as a large south-western extension of Lake Victoria. On his way down to the coast Stanley concluded treaties with local chiefs, thereby laying the foundation of the British East African Protectorate.

Dr David Livingtone

Returning to Africa in 1871, Stanley began the search for Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer whose whereabouts in central Africa had become a question of international concern since his last letter of 30 May 1869. Through bouts of fever, hostile encounters, and the deaths of two of his caravan leaders, Stanley trudged toward Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, where a sick and weak older white man was rumoured to reside. The journey lasted 236 days, but on the morning of 3 November, with an American flag flying on a pole, Stanley led his remaining fifty-four men toward a lake and his historic meeting with Dr. Livingstone.

Stanley’s dispatch about the event took eight months to reach the coast by messenger, but on 2 July 1872 the front page of the New York Herald informed the world that Livingstone had been found.  With Stanley’s care and attention, Livingstone regained his strength, and Stanley returned to Europe
to a hero’s welcome, receiving the gratitude of Livingstone’s family and official thanks from Queen Victoria. The public’s appetite for his story was voracious, and Stanley’s account was rushed to the press: How I Found Livingstone (1872).

The Congo

Stanley went on to command the Anglo-American expedition to Central Africa (1874-77), in which he established the course of the Congo. The geographic prizes he achieved on this expedition were unparalleled. He spent almost two months circumnavigating Lake Victoria, confirming, or so he thought, the source of the Nile. He scouted Lake Albert, then moved south and west to Lake Tanganyika, which he also circumnavigated, proving it had no connection with Lake Albert. He reached the Atlantic Ocean on 9 August 1877, after a journey of more than seven thousand miles, in utter exhaustion. This became the subject matter for Through the Dark Continent (1878).

Stanley’s final major book was The Congo and the founding of its free state (1885). In this he recounts how, in 1879, he went to the Congo after a meeting with King Leopold to explore the possibilities of developing the region. He secured for the Belgian Association Internationale the vast tracts of land on the banks of the River Congo. He set up trading posts, etc. and established treaties with the local rulers and went on steadily laying the foundations of that vast administrative system which became the Congo State.


Highly Collectable Stanley Rare Books

In Darkest Africa, How I Found Livingstone and Through the Dark Continent


Our Collection of Stanley Fine Rare Books & First Editions



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  1. First edition. 2 volumes, 8vo, xxvii, 528; x, 483 pp., 32 pages ads dated May 1885 end vol 2, 2 large maps in pockets at end of volumes, 3 further folding maps, 44 full-page engraved plates, including frontispieces, numerous text illustrations throughout, original brown pictorial cloth gilt, neat repairs to extremities, rear end paper vol 1 slightly ragged edge, a very good copy.

  2. Trifold (19 x 9.3 cm approx) extending to 19 x 27 cm., engraved title, partly coloured map, a fine example.

  3. First edition. 2 volumes, 8vo., xxvii, 528; x, 483pp., 2 large maps in pockets at end of volumes, 3 further folding maps, 44 full-page engraved plates, including frontispieces, numerous text illustrations throughout, original pictorial green cloth gilt, lightly rubbed, a very good set.

  4. First edition. Royal 8vo, 675 pp., profusely illustrated throughout, contemporary red half morocco gilt, a fine copy from the library of H.M. Stanley, without bookplate.

  5. First U.S. edition, 8vo, xxiv, 490 pp., frontispiece, twenty wood-engraved plates, illustrations in the text, lacks map & facsimile of the Mahdi's Letter, modern half morocco gilt, all edges gilt.

  6. 35 items bound in three volumes, folio, contemporary red half morocco gilt, original wrappers not present, a very handsome collection.

  7. Inscribed EMIN PASHA RELIEF EXPEDITION 1887 & 1889, impressed on base Doulton. Lambeth with other marks, 19.5 cm.



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