Volume One OnlyWilliam J. Burchell. Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa. Volume I Only. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1822.
First edition. One quarto volume only of the two-volume set. [xii], 582, 4. Ten hand-colored aquatint plates, some folding (lacking the tissue guards), and numerous wood engravings by the author. Folding map. Frontispiece. Half-page errata slip bound in immediately preceding the Preface. "Hints on Emigration to the Cape of Good Hope" bound in at the rear of Volume I, preceding the map. Lacks the half-title page, the tissue guards, and the final blank.
Full polished calf with gilt-ruled boards. Rebacked to style, incorporating panels from the original spine (?) and with a new gilt-ruled and lettered black leather title label. New endpapers. Some scarring to boards, with wear to edges and corners. Joints beginning to split at head of spine; foot of spine chipped. Foxing and offsetting throughout, both of which are most evident on the frontispiece and title page. One fold-out plate, though completely intact, is almost detached from its mounting guard. Two bookplates to front pastedown. In generally very good condition. From the Professor John Ralph Willis Collection of Rare Africana.
Abbey Travel 327. DNB. Mendelssohn 1.224.
William J. Burchell (1781-1863), an English naturalist who had served a botanical apprenticeship at Kew, eventually ended up an artist and author who used his talents to chronicle his travels. His journey through Africa began at Cape Town in 1811, and before he returned to the Cape in 1815, he had traveled 4,500 miles. Along his way he amassed a huge, extensive collection of specimens such as plants, insects, and seeds. After his return home from Africa, he was asked to present testimony on his travels before the British House of Commons, testimony that ultimately help spur emigration to South Africa.
The result of Burchell's South Africa journey is this acclaimed work, "[t]he most valuable and accurate work on South Africa published up to the first quarter of the nineteenth century" (Mendelssohn). The account is "remarkable for the excellence of its literary style and the fidelity of the numerous illustrations. Some of the panoramic views were executed on the then practically unknown principle of scenographic projection on the surface of a revolving cylinder. [...] A third volume was projected but never published" (DNB). Not only were few copies printed (Abbey cites 750 copies of Volume I and only 500 copies of Volume II), many copies have been broken over the years in order to sell the stunning plates individually; as such, a complete and intact set of this beautiful book is now quite scarce.
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