“He who goes gently goes safely. He who goes safely goes far.” That quote graces the cover of Shapero Rare Books latest catalogue. Appropriate to that quote, the title is Travel 2022. The quote came from explorer Joseph Thomson, who died at the age of 37 from various illnesses, some undoubtedly picked up along the way. Unlike many others, he did not die on any of his travels, but they left their toll. The fact is, the type of explorations to uncharted territories in the 18th and 19th century that these people undertook by definition carried risk. Here are a few selections from these travels.
This explorer went gently as he was a man of God, a missionary. Nonetheless, he became known more for his travels and he certainly went far, though he too wore down physically from it. This was David Livingstone, who was also a medical doctor and anti-slavery crusader. His explorations were in Africa and he was the first to cross Africa coast to coast through the center of the continent. He mapped its rivers and sought routes for trading from the heart of the continent. Item 22 is Livingstone's Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa; including a sketch of Sixteen Years' Residence in the Interior of Africa... published in 1857. Livingstone still had 15 years of explorations ahead of him at this time before disease finished him off. This copy was inscribed by the good doctor himself. Priced at £7,500 (British pounds, or approximately $10,057 in U.S. dollars).
Item 90 is The Kingdom and People of Siam; with a Narrative of a Mission to that Country in 1855 by John Bowring, published in 1855. Sir John Bowring was a political economist and an honored and accomplished man in various public offices and private positions. In 1855, he was serving as Governor of Hong Kong when he went on a separate mission to Siam. He had a difficult and stressful relationship with Chinese authorities, but found his interactions with the Siamese and the King of Siam very different. They all got along splendidly. It was during this time he negotiated the Bowring Treaty between Britain and Siam, which served each side well. For the British, it opened up trade with Siam while eliminating crushing tariffs. For Siam, the trade boosted its economy and guaranteed that the western nations would not interfere with Siam's internal affairs. In a world being colonized by the West, Siam was enabled to remain an independent nation. £1,800 (US $2,414).
Richard Francis Burton was England's premier inland explorer of the 19th century. He visited Asia, America, and the Middle East, but his best-known explorations were in Africa. He travelled to Zanzibar in 1856 but his manuscript was lost for several years. Fortunately, he later found it in time to have it published in 1872 as by then he was in desperate financial straits. The title is Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast. He was accompanied by John Speke, as he would later be on his journey to discover the source of the Nile, which Speke did and took full credit for. The two never got along through several trips together and while this book was generally well-received, he used it to grind his ax with Speke, which some did not appreciate. Item 5. £5,000 (US $6,723).
Annie Brassey undertook numerous travels and her accounts were very popular in the second half of the 19th century. That said, she didn't exactly rough it. She travelled on a yacht, taking her husband, an MP, five lovely children, and servants along with her. They weren't hurting for money. Then again, unlike Burton and Speke, who suffered terrible illnesses but did made it back alive, Lady Brassey died on her final journey. In that sense, she was more like Dr. Livingstone. She came down with malaria while sailing around Australia and it killed her. She was buried at sea. Item 103 is her last book, which her husband had to finish. The title is The Last Voyage to India and Australia in the 'Sunbeam,' published in 1889. This copy is inscribed, naturally enough not by the author but by her husband, Lord Thomas Brassey. £450 (US $607).
Item 57 is Précis Critique et Militaire de la Guerre d'Orient... by Hippolyte Vigneron, published in 1858. The war in the Orient described in this book is better known as the Crimean War. It took place from 1853-1856. It is one of those wars that asks the question, why are we doing this? It was superficially caused by a dispute over religious holy places and influence in the Ottoman Empire between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia. The Ottoman Empire was in decline by then so what was happening here was a power and influence struggle between Russia and France. Nevertheless, a few hundred thousand people paid for this war with their lives. Ultimately, Russia sued for peace as the loser, but France and its British allies were happy to get out of the war as it was not popular at home. This copy comes from the library and displays the arms of Emperor Napoleon III of France, the “winner” of this war. £4,250 (US $5,742).