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HARRIS, William Cornwallis.

Narrative of an Expedition into Southern Africa, during the Years 1836, and 1837,

from the Cape of Good Hope, through the Territories of the Chief Moselekatse, to the Tropic of Capricorn, with a Sketch of the Recent Emigration of the Border Colonists, and a Zoological Appendix

Published: Bombay: At the American Mission Press, 1838

Stock code: 98148

Price: £2,500

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First issue of the first Bombay edition, which predates the first London by a year, “scarce” (Czech). Harris was commissioned in the Bombay Engineers in 1823, promoted captain in 1834 and major in 1836. Invalided to South Africa for two years, on the voyage out he joined up with Richard Williamson, a Bombay civil servant, deciding to undertake a big game hunting expedition. “Harris journeyed to the Meritsane River where he encountered a herd of quaggas and brindled ‘gnoos’ he estimated at 15,000 head. He bagged eland and was attacked by lion in the region. Crossing the Mariqua River, he hunted ostrich and white rhinoceros. Entering the Cashan Mountains, he collected elephant, the proceeded to the Limpopo Valley where he hunted buffalo and hippopotamus, with additional sport after giraffe, black rhinoceros, sable, and lion. Harris’s work is valuable as it presents a detailed picture of the South African game fields prior to the growing pressure of civilization.” Howgego remarks that “Although primarily a hunting expedition, Harris covered much ground not seen before by Europeans, and on his way to the Vaal discovered the source of the Marique River, one of the head-waters of the Limpopo”, and Mendelssohn draws attention to the “two chapters on the ‘Great Trek'” and the “interesting map ‘exhibiting the relative positions of the emigrant farmers and the native tribes'”. Pencilled ownership inscription of Colonel William Gordon to the half-title, perhaps the soldier of that name who joined the Bengal Army in 1842, and was assistant field engineer Multan and present at Gujrat.

Octavo (214 1345 mm). Modern black half calf, marbled boards, reddish tan label, low bands with gilt roll, fleuron gilt to the compartments, double rule in blind to the spine and corner edges. Lithographic frontispiece, and three other similar plates, folding lithographic map with some outline colour, showing the movement of the Voortrekkers in the Great Trek. Half title present. Small piece lacking from the inner margin of the map, some loss of image, light browning throughout, very occasional spot of foxing, remains a very good copy.

Bibliography: Abbey Travel 333; Czech pp118-9; Henze, II, pp.463-4; Howgego, II, H9; Mendelssohn I, pp.686-8; SABIB, 2, p.506

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