ANDERSSON, Charles John.

The Okavango River: a Narrative of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure.

London: Hurst and Blackett, 1861 Stock Code: 143109

"By a plain narrative of my adventures … to mingle information with amusement … to make a pleasant and somewhat instructive book"

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First edition; an attractive copy of an important and uncommon book. Andersson, "perhaps the most extraordinary visitor to Namibia in the 19th century" (Tonchi, p. 24), traversed the difficult country between South Africa and Namibia, obtaining "much valuable information" (Mendelssohn).

Andersson (1827-67), the illegitimate son of a Welshman living in Sweden and his Swedish servant, travelled to England in 1849, intending to continue to Iceland to take up a life of hunting and exploration, but instead joined Francis Galton's expedition to South-West Africa. Galton left in 1851 never to return to Africa, but "Andersson stayed on, determined to follow a career as a trader, traveller and naturalist", basing himself at Otjimbingwe, central Namibia, and becoming "deeply involved in the tribal politics of the region" (Howgego). In 1856 he set out on a hunting expedition through Namaqualand and Damaraland, intending to reach the Cunene River, which flows from the Angolan highlands to what is now the Namibian border. Though forced to turn back owing to numerous difficulties, which he met with "indomitable courage", his "success as a hunter and collector was unique in this part of the continent. The coast-line of South-West Africa is carefully described, and there is an interesting account of the once-famed guano island, Ichaboe" (Mendelssohn), as well as encounters with lion, kudu, giraffe, eland, rhinoceros and elephant. In 1864 Andersson sold all his assets to organise an army of 3,000 Herero warriors against the Oorlam Afrikaners, receiving a leg wound which blighted his final years, and he died at Omutwe-Onjambu, Angola, three years later.

Provenance: although unmarked as such, from the library of John Kingsley-Heath (d. 2011), who ran African safaris for more than half a century and was the author of Hunting the Dangerous Game of Africa (1998); see The Telegraph obituary 17 June 2011.

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Octavo (212 x 131 mm). Contemporary half calf, decorative gilt spine, black label, sides and corners trimmed with a blind dog-tooth roll, Nonpareil pattern marbled sides, edges and endpapers.


Wood-engraved frontispiece, additional steel-engraved title page incorporating a roundel portrait of the author, 15 wood-engraved plates by George Pearson after J. B. Zwecker.


Engraved monogram bookplate of F. G. Pratt (possibly the commissioner of northern division, Bombay province). Binding just a little rubbed, a few leaves a little proud at the fore edge. A very good copy, handsomely bound.


Czech p. 7; Howgego IV A19; Mendelssohn I p. 42; SABIB I p. 66; Tonchi et al., Historical Dictionary of Namibia (2012).


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