Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2014 Issue

Travel and Exploration from Peter Harrington

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Travel and Exploration.

Peter Harrington has issued a new catalogue of Travel and Exploration, their Catalogue 103. It contains a wide variety of travel narratives, though we can mention a few concentrations. Most of the explorations covered emanated from England, home base for the bookseller. While travels reach all points of the globe, including the Americas, Asia, and Australia, there is some concentration on journeys to the Middle East and Africa. The timing of the journeys is mostly 18th to early 20th century, though there are some that go over these borders of time in both directions. The language of most books is English, though again, there are exceptions. Travel and exploration is one of the most popular of fields for collectors, and if this is your interest, you will appreciate this latest catalogue from Peter Harrington.

 

We start with the second book, with many more to come, of the prolific writer and great English wartime commander Winston Churchill. Published in 1899, the title is The River War. An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan. The British had lost control over the Sudan to local forces, a situation intolerable to them during the height of the colonial era. Churchill served with the 21st Lancers, who led what has been described as the last cavalry charge, on the city of Omdurman. While the British had fewer forces than their enemy, they had a major advantage in terms of advanced weaponry and were successful in retaking the country. Churchill described the book as “a tale of blood and war.” He has signed the first volume and initialed the second. Item 61. Priced at £7,500 (British pounds, or approximately $11,909 U.S. dollars).

 

While Churchill's political career was only beginning at the turn of the century, its highlights 40 years away, this next author was reaching the peak of his political career at the time. Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the U. S. presidency in 1901, and became one of the most influential, and many believe greatest, of presidents. Yet, he left office in 1909 after declining to seek reelection, which left the adventurous former leader with nothing in particular to do. Not for long, though, as he almost immediately headed out on a monumental African safari. He took some 250 others along, mainly guides and porters, and brought back thousands of plant and animal specimens for the Smithsonian. The highlight of his long journey from British East Africa to the Belgian Congo, and to the Sudan a decade after Churchill, was big game hunting. Still, Roosevelt was also a conservationist, dedicated to preservation. Item 215 is his 1910 account of his journey, African Game Trails. An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist. This is #106 of the signed, limited edition of 500 copies. £6,000 (US $9,522).

 

In the same general time, but on the other side of the Nile, T.E. Lawrence was busy excavating archeological sites in the Middle East. Lawrence had grown up in England with a fascination for antiquarian history. However, with war on the horizon in early 1914, the British decided to use Lawrence's ready cover as an archeologist to obtain military information. Lawrence was conducting his research within the Ottoman empire, which would soon be the ally of Britain's war enemy, Germany. The British were afraid the Turks would try to seize Egypt, and figured such an attack would require crossing the Negev, an area about which they had little information. So, they sent Lawrence on an archeological mission to the biblical “Wilderness of Zin,” the real aim being to learn about routes across this area in case of invasion. Lawrence (along with archeologist Leonard Woolley) prepared the necessary archeological report which was published in 1915: Palestine Exploration Fund Annual, 1914. The Wilderness of Zin. Lawrence would soon become better known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” as, on behalf of the British, he assisted Arabs in rebelling against Ottoman rule. This required the Turks dedicate great resources to putting down the Arabs, resources that otherwise could have been employed to assist Germany. Item 149. £1,250 (US $1,983).

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