Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2005 Issue
Into The Heart Of Africa From Bernard Shapero Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Bernard Shapero Rare Books takes us into what was a mostly unknown continent to the West a few generations ago with their latest catalogue, Africa 2005. While the continent was undoubtedly well known to those who lived there, Europeans in the 19th century rarely penetrated deeply into its interior. Modern means of transportation were virtually nonexistent, making travel extremely difficult and dangerous for outsiders. Extreme climates, difficult geography, suspicious or hostile natives, and various unfriendly animals and disease added to the problems. The result was that books recounting explorations in Africa were of deep interest to people in Europe, and people like Livingstone, Stanley, Burton and Speke became heroes to Europeans in the way the great voyagers like Cook had been to an earlier generation. Africa 2005 is filled with books, photographs, and other material from these primarily 19th and early 20th century expeditions. Then, there is also a large collection of items from those semi-explorers, the big game hunters, who came to Africa to hunt its wildlife, but came back with tales of their own to tell. Here are a few samples of what you will find in Shapero's latest catalogue.
Item 71 is one of those big game journeys by a then relatively obscure young man from England. The book is My African Journey and it was published in London in 1908. It recounts hunting in East Africa and eventually on to the Nile. Along the way, the writer bags a white rhino. White rhinos are actually grey, not white ("white" probably comes from the similar sounding Afrikaans word for 'wide,'" pertaining to their wide mouths). Shooting them today would get you arrested for poaching. But, we digress. The intrepid big game hunter/author of 1908 was none other than young Winston Churchill, who would later go on to save the world, among other things. Priced at L375 (British pounds, US equivalent $664).
David Livingstone was one of the most famous African explorers, although he is better remembered for being found himself (by Stanley) then for what he found. Livingstone was part missionary, part explorer, part promoter of commerce. His expeditions were not monumental successes, but he became famous when he determined to continue explorations deep in Africa, despite declining health and loss of outside contact. That is when Stanley was sent on his mission by a newspaper to locate the "lost" Livingstone. Item 141 is, The last journals of David Livingstone, in Central Africa, from, 1865 to his death. Continued by a narrative of his last sufferings, obtained from his faithful servants Chuma and Sisi... Faithful they were, as they carried Livingstone's body over a thousand miles after he died so he could be buried in Britain. L225 (US $398).