First Editions and Rare Books about Africa from the collection of a gentleman who lived for many years in Kenya.
Books About Africa
Our collection of rare books about Africa features a number of fascinating books from across the continent, dated from the mid-1800s onwards, and contains a number of topics and genres, from autobiographical writing to historical accounts. Africa is a vast continent with a wealth of cultures and histories that have been set down over time, and we have first editions on the natural landscape, wildlife, and history of Africa. Our collection of books on Africa features an array of first editions by explorers, naturalists, and historians, with books on topics from across the continent.
Many of the 19th century volumes in the collection are Africa travel books, written by those who visited, describing their findings and experiences. One such example of a particularly noteworthy edition is the collection of journals by David Livingstone, the famous missionary, whose travels made him something of a hero in the eyes of Victorian England. His missionary work took him around central and southern Africa, and he also was famous for seeking the source of the Nile. Livingstone’s views are an insight into 19th century opinions on colonisation and imperialism and attitudes towards expansion, and an early example of one of our books about African culture.
Another 19th century travel guide in the collection is Across Africa by Verney Lovett Cameron. Lovett Cameron was the first English traveller to cross Africa from its west coast to its east along the equator. This account of his travels is in two volumes, published in 1877, with illustrations and maps of his travels, making this one of the best books about Africa at the time it was written. His work contains many suggestions for how he thought to bring about commercial development in Africa, and how to open up the continent to the rest of the world
Among our interesting books about African history is also Permanent Way, the historical account by M F Hill on the development of the transport system in East Africa. The book is split between two volumes, one focussing on the official history of the transport system and the other on the railways, complete with maps for reference.
For safari and wildlife enthusiasts, Abel Chapman’s On Safari is an interesting edition focussing on hunting and naturalism in Africa, particularly on the natural history of South Africa. Though from a family of hunters, Chapman was also responsible for saving the Spanish Ibex from extinction and also for establishing the first game reserve in South Africa, making it one of the best books to read while on safari. Though some of his opinions on hunting may be controversial to a modern audience, Chapman was also interested in preservation of wildlife, and worked on plans to prevent damage being done by over-hunting.
Among our African books that focus on nature, Frederick Courteney Selous’s African Nature Notes and Reminiscences is an early account, from 1908, of a conservationist's impression of Africa. Selous is thought to have inspired characters from the popular adventure genre, such as Allan Quatermain in King Solomon’s Mines. Throughout his travels, he also collected specimens for museums, and his travels greatly contributed to contemporary knowledge of the area around what is now Zimbabwe, making it an early African culture book. While, like some of the other writers here, his hunting may not sit well with a modern audience, many of the specimens he brought back from his travels are still in museums, and have contributed to a greater understanding of the natural world in Africa and conservation.
Other volumes on the natural landscape of Africa include RCF Maugham’s Zambezia, a comprehensive description of the flora and fauna of the Zambezi river valley. Originally published in 1910, it has been held in high esteem by scholars for its value and contribution to creating a solid base of knowledge on African wildlife for subsequent generations. As well as looking at the natural world, Maugham also describes the cultures of the people he encounters along the way, and the impact of Portuguese settlers, making it also an interesting book on African history and common perceptions at the time.
For those more interested in books on ancient African history and visual arts, David Roberts’s Lithographs and Diaries charts the experiences of the 19th century painter in Egypt, where he created a vast number of drawings on his findings, on which he based painting and lithographs. Our edition from 1996 puts Roberts’s drawings side by side with photographs, illustrating the changes that have taken place over the course of time.