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A Narrative of a Visit to the Mauritius and South Africa.

Availability: In stock

Published: London Hamilton, Adams and Co.; York: John L. Linney, 1844

Stock Code: 119271

OR On display in 100 Fulham Road


First edition of the author's second book, uniform with his Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies, published the previous year. Backhouse (1794-1869) came from a prominent Quaker family of botanists and horticulturists with roots in Darlington, where his grandfather, also James, made the family fortune by establishing a bank. He sailed for Australia in 1831, performing missionary and humanitarian duties as well as collecting plant and seed samples which he sent back to Hooker in Glasgow, staying until 1838. On the return journey he spent three months in Mauritius en route to Cape Town, and spent the next year and a half "visiting almost every inhabited town and district, and, while assisting at religious meetings and missions, carefully noting every point of interest in the country and its inhabitants. There is a good description of Kaffraria, and of the Basuto, Griqua, and Bechuana countries, and the account of the Cape Colony affords valuable information concerning the first part of the nineteenth century" (Mendelssohn). Backhouse also displays his "good knowledge of botany, and throughout the volume there are ample description of the flora of the country" (ibid.); Hooker himself "recognized the value of Backhouse's botanical observations, naming a myrtaceous shrub Backhousia in 1845" (ODNB). The ownership inscription in this copy, belonging to one Thomas Robson, dated 1844, contains a conceivable family association: the Robsons were another family of wealthy Darlington Quakers which frequently intermarried with the Backhouses; Backhouse's uncle by marriage, noted botanist Edward Robson (1763-1813), was a "major influence" on his studies, and Backhouse's son (another James) married one Mary Robson.

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Octavo. Original dark green fine-diaper cloth, blind rules and gilt title to spine, covers decoratively panel-stamped in blind, yellow surface-paper endpapers, top edge untrimmed.


Etched frontispiece with tissue-guard, 15 similar plates, 28 wood-engravings to the text, 2 folding maps.


Contemporary ownership inscription of one Thomas Robson dated 1844 and bookplate of George Harwood to the front pastedown. Bumped spine-ends and tips skilfully refurbished, inner hinges repaired, frontispiece a little foxed, pale browning along plate-margins, short closed tear to bottom edge of plate facing p. 107 and to stub of lightly spotted folding map. A very good copy.


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