Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2009 Issue

Africa from Christison Rare Books

Christison35

Africa from Christison Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

This month we review our first catalogue from Christison Rare Books. The title is Catalogue 35 Africa & bits from beyond. This is not the first catalogue we have received with the name "Africa" in the title, but it is the first such catalogue to come from an African bookseller. Christison Rare Books is located in Sherwood, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Most of the titles pertain to lands at the southern end of the continent, though certainly not all. The books here differ from most other African catalogues we have received as those have focused on journeys to and explorations of the continent by Europeans. These works are mostly from or about Africa from the standpoint of those who lived there. Of course, many were transplanted Europeans, as the lands that now form South Africa spent many years under colonial rule. However, the primarily English and Dutch settlers who came to the land often had distinctly different viewpoints from those left behind in their country of origin. Here are a few of the books and other printed material Christison is offering.

Concern for the native population was rarely the prime concern of colonial officials, but there are always exceptions. John William Colenso, Bishop of Natal, was an exception. Item 28 is his book Langalibalele and the amaHlubi Tribe, Being Remarks upon the Official Record of the Trials of the Chief, his Sons and Induna, and other members of the amaHlubi Tribe. By the Bishop of Natal, published in 1875. Chief Langalibalele and certain members of his tribe had been railroaded for peaceful resistance to some demands by colonial authorities. Bishop Colenso was aware of the miscarriage of justice, and determined to press the point with authorities back in London. As Thomas Pakenham wrote, "Colenso...risked a lynching to expose what he proved were a series of atrocities against the Hlubi and Putini. He took the documents to London and showed them to Lord Carnarvon, and Carnarvon reluctantly agreed that he was right. [Governor] Pine was sacked." Priced at £250 (British pounds, or roughly $414 in U.S. dollars).

Here is one of those "bits from beyond," but the discoveries were of great importance to Africa. Item 153 is The Prevention of Malaria by Ronald Ross, published in 1910. Ross was a British physician who studied malaria in India. He was awarded the second Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work. Ross determined it was mosquitoes, specifically, the Anopheles variety which transmitted the disease. He also determined that transmission occurred from the injection of the parasite through the insect's stinger. £750 (US $1,243).

Item 86 is the smaller map of the continent of Africa taken from the Cosmographia of Sebastian Munster, published in 1580. Not much was understood about the continent by Europeans at the time, particularly its interior. However, that did not stop Munster from placing numerous lakes and mountain ranges, from which its rivers emanated, within the interior. While Munster was willing to be imaginative with the interior, he solved the problem of limited knowledge of the southern tip and east coast of Africa by simply leaving these areas outside of the map's border. £495 (US $820).

Rare Book Monthly

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