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The Flooding of the Sahara.

An Account of the Proposed Plan for Opening Central Africa to Commerce and Civilization from the North-West Coast, with a Description of Soudan and Western Sahara, and Notes on Ancient Manuscripts, etc.

London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1877 Stock Code: 119282
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First edition. Presentation copy of this wonderful piece of Victorian imperialist folly, inscribed to "M. de Vernsuillet, with the authors Compts, 11 Oct. 1880" on the front free endpaper. With two manuscript sketch-maps laid-in, annotated in French presumably by the recipient, and depicting Cape Juby, now in southern Morocco, where the author, MacKenzie, established a British trading-station in 1875, and from where he proposed to cut a channel into the al-Juf depression of the western Sahara, thereby making western Africa and the Sudan accessible to European vessels from the north. MacKenzie argued that his plan would enable the more effective policing of the slave trade and improved transportation of European goods to central African markets, pointing out that the continent's main rivers, such as the Congo and the Nile, were not navigable for their entire courses, so that camel caravan was the only means of access to remote areas. The plan had originally been suggested by French engineer François Roudaire in 1870, and Mackenzie could demonstrate the personal support of Sir Bartle Frere, though his claim to territory at Cape Juby, granted by a local sheikh in 1879, was fiercely contested by Hassan I, sultan of Morocco, and he was forced to withdraw by 1890; at any rate, the entire idea has in recent years been demonstrated as "a potential macro-engineering fiasco" (Badescu and Cathcart, eds, Macro-engineering Seawater in Unique Environments, p. 493). Uncommon: this copy furnishes the only recorded appearance at auction, in 2003.

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Octavo. Original pink cloth, spine and front board lettered in gilt, decorative panel to front board in black and rear board in blind, yellow surface-paper endpapers.


Wood-engraved frontispiece, 8 similar plates, engravings to the text of which 3 full-page, folding map coloured in outline.


Monogram bookplate of Humphrey Winterton to front pastedown; 2 laid-in manuscript sketch-maps, one in in watercolour and black ink and measuring approx. 165 x 105 mm, the other in pencil, 180 x 115 mm, with further annotations verso. Slightly rubbed, spine sunned, pale mottling to boards, sporadic light spotting. A very good copy.


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