Exploring Africa

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5 | References

Island 3: Exploration from the Cape to the Nile

Anders Sparrman, 1748-1820 
A voyage to the Cape of Good Hope : towards the Antarctic polar circle, and round the world: but chiefly into the country of the Hottentots and Caffres, from the year 1772 to 1776 . . . from the Swedish original. With plates . . . 
2 vols. London: G. G. J. & J. Robinson, 1786.

The first permanent settlement at the Cape was established by the Dutch only in 1652, but because of its strategic location on the sea-route to India it was frequently described in early travel books. The Swedish scholar Sparrman gives one of the first accounts of the South African interior, and, as a fellow-countryman of the great Linnaeus, gave special attention to botanic description. Subsequently he traveled also in West Africa.

Francois Le Vaillant, 1753-1824 
New travels into the interior parts of Africa, by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, in the years 1783, 84 and 85. Translated from the French of Le Vaillant. Illustrated with a map, delineating the route of his present and former travels, and with twenty-two other copper-plates. 
London : Printed for G.G. and J. Robinson, 1796.

The first part of Le Vaillant's Travels had appeared in French as early as 1790, and was immediately pirated and translated into English and German. This long-delayed second part describes the French occupation of the Cape and, like other visitors such as Lady Anne Barnard, describes the obligatory climb up Table Mountain, shown in this copperplate foldout.

Sir John Barrow, 1764-1848 
An account of travels into the interior of southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798: including cursory observations on the geology and geography of the southern part of that continent; the natural history of such objects as occurred in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms; and sketches of the physical and moral characters of the various tribes of inhabitants surrounding the settlement of the Cape of Good Hope. To which is annexed, a description of the present state, population, and produce of that extensive colony; with a map constructed entirely from actual observations made in the course of the travels. 
2 vols. London, Printed by A. Strahan for T. Cadell, jun. and W. Davies, 1801-1804.

During the Napoleonic wars, Barrow had accompanied the British military governor Lord Macartney to the Cape as his private secretary, and had been sent out into the interior on the double mission of reconciling the Kaffirs and the Boer settlers and of obtaining fuller geographical information, traveling over a thousand miles on horse and foot. His original intent of settling at the Cape as "a country gentleman of South Africa" was frustrated by the peace of Amiens in 1802, which returned the colony to the French. Barrow subsequently became second secretary to the Admiralty. It was Barrow who in 1830 proposed the formation of the Royal Geographical Society. The foldout map displayed here illustrates the military importance that the British attributed to possession of the Cape. 
From the collection of the Winyah Indigo Library Society, Georgetown.

William Macintosh, 18th cent. 
Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa: describing characters, customs, manners, laws, and productions of nature and art: containing various remarks on the political and commercial interests of Great Britain 
3rd ed. 2 vols. Dublin: Charles Lodge, [1782]. 
Autograph signature of Charles Pinckney, New York, Jan. 10, 1786, inside the upper cover of each volume.

This book, written as a series of discursive letters on political issues from a traveler to the East who calls at the Cape, critiques British policy in the east and records also the manoevurings of the Dutch East India Company, caught between the competing strategic ambitions of the French and English. The opening criticisms of British colonial policy towards America, and the international political perspective, may be what caused the South Carolinian Charles Pinckney (1757-1824) to purchase the book, while in New York as a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation.

Samuel Daniell, 1775-1811 
Sketches representing the native tribes, animals, and scenery of southern Africa, from drawings made by the late Mr.Samuel Daniell 
London: William Daniell, 1820.

Europeans were continually astonished by the different fauna and peoples of the Cape. This magnificent book of contemporary engravings, engraved by William Daniell from pencil drawings made in South Africa by his brother, contains forty-five engravings, each accompanied by explanatory letterpress extracted from John Barrow or Samuel Daniell's mentor, Dr. Somerville. The Duyker, Duiker or Ducker shown here (Daniell uses all three spellings) was so named from its mode of getting close to the ground to hide under the bushes.

Allen Francis Gardiner 
Narrative of a journey to the Zoolu country, in South Africa 
London: William Crofts, 1836.

Gardiner was a British naval captain who hoped "to open a way whereby the ministers of the gospel might find access to the Zoolu nation." The focus of this journal, interspersed with original religious poetry and covering just over a year's missionary exploration in Natal from late 1834 to early 1836, is overwhelmingly anthropological, as in this chromolithographic frontispiece, rather than botanical or geographical as with earlier narratives.

James Bruce of Kinnaird, 1730-1794 
Travels to discover the source of the Nile, in the years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773 
5 vols. Edinburgh: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1790.

James Bruce, a striking figure, 6' 4" tall with red hair, was the wealthy son of a Scottish landowner and a former British consul in Algiers. In 1768, he set out from Cairo, in Arab dress, with letters of introduction from the Patriarch of Alexandria, to trace the source of the (Blue) Nile into the Ethiopian highlands (a quest he fulfilled). He was immediately embroiled in the violent internal feuds of the Ethiopian court, though his patrician bearing won him appointment as commander of the household cavalry. Traveling back through Rome, Paris and London, after his adventures, Bruce was a sensation; he claimed with typical hyperbole that his discoveries filled "a great chasm in the history of the Universe." His five-volume account, prepared for publication many years after he returned to Scotland, reads like a novel, and included much information about natural history; contemporary experts found it dated and grudged him his self-glorification, it remains, in Richard Garnett's phrase, "the epic of African travel."

John Leyden, 1775-1811 
A historical & philosophical sketch of the discoveries & settlements of the Europeans in northern & western Africa at the close of the eighteenth century 
Edinburgh: J. Moir for T. Brown and J. Symington and Vernor & Hood, 1799.

This anonymous publication testified to the growing interest in African exploration, by providing a reasonably-priced summary of the expensive, lavishly-illustrated recent books by Bruce, Park and others. It was written by the Scottish physician, orientalist, poet, and ballad-collector John Leyden. Leyden never himself went to Africa, but after his early death, his collaborator, Walter Scott, wrote that Leyden found, in the history of Africa, "much to enchant an imagination that loved to dwell upon the grand, the marvellous, the romantic."

John Lewis Burckhardt, 1784-1817 
Travels in Nubia . . . Published by the Association for promoting the discovery of the interior parts of Africa. With maps, &c 
London: John Murray, 1819.

The African Association, whose influential membership was headed by Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, was founded in 1788 and sponsored a series of important explorations over the next forty years. With the Association's support, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss emigre educated at Leipzig and Gottingen, studied Arabic at Cambridge before traveling south from Cairo through Nubia disguised as a Turkish trader, and then, to avoid duplicating Bruce's route, joining up with a group of pilgrims to the holy places of Mecca and Medina. He died quite suddenly, back in Cairo, as he was making plans to travel with another pilgrim caravan down to West Africa.

Henry Salt, 1780-1827 
A voyage to Abyssinia, and travels into the interior of that country, executed under the orders of the British government, in the years 1809 and 1810 
Philadelphia: M. Carey, and Wells and Lilly, 1816.

The ancient Christian civilization of Ethiopia continued to fascinate Europeans, as these facsimile inscriptions indicate. Henry Salt, a physician's son from Lichfield who had first visited the war-torn country under private patronage in 1805, returned as a quasi-official envoy under Canning's sponsorship in 1809-10, marching up from the Red Sea coast with an escort of 160 bearers, to explore trade and diplomatic links with the Abyssinian emperor Welde Selassie. Little came of the mission for the government, but Salt earned over 1000 pounds for the first edition of this book, and an appointment in 1815 as consul-general to Egypt.


Map of part of Abyssinia 
from Henry Salt, A voyage to Abyssinia, and travels into the interior of that country, executed under the orders of the British government, in the years 1809 and 1810 
Philadelphia: M. Carey, and Wells and Lilly, 1816.

George Waddington, 1793-1869, and Rev. Barnard Hanbury 
Journal of a visit to some parts of Ethiopia 
London: John Murray, 1822.

The two Cambridge friends who coauthored this lavish book had met in Venice in 1820, gone on together to Alexandria, and decided, almost on a whim, to join a caravan down the Nile valley. Their frontispiece map conveniently shows the earlier travels of the Frenchman C. J. Poncet in the 1680s, Bruce in the 1760s and 1770s, and most recently of Burckhardt. Waddington, fellow of Trinity College, subsequently became Dean of Durham. The coauthors' antiquarian bent is clearly shown by an appendix reconciling their own observations with the descriptions in Ptolemy.


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