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First Footsteps in East Africa; or, An Exploration of Harar.

London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1856.

Price: $17,500.00

About the item

First edition. Two maps, 4 color lithograph plates, and 7 illustrations in text. xlii, 648 pp. 1 vols. 8vvo. WITH THE RARE APPENDIX IV. Prize binding in violet cloth over bevelled boards, front cover and spine lettered in gilt, back cover stamped in blind, a.e.g. An attractive prize inscription on the front flyleaf. Minor soiling, spine faded, spine ends and inner hinges professionally repaired. Very good copy of a true rarity. Penzer pp. 60-63, Casada 35; Spink 16.

Item #366685

“Exceedingly rare and practically unobtainable" (Penzer).

Barely a year after returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina Burton set out once again in disguise, this time as an Arab merchant, with the intention of travelling to the closed city of Harar (in modern-day Ethiopia). Despite achieving his primary objective, the expedition was overshadowed by the death of Lieut. Stroyan and the loss of stores and personal possessions in a skirmish whilst they were encamped on the beach at Berbera. It was the first expedition on which he was accompanied by John Speke.

The test of rarity is the presence (as here) or absence of Appendix IV, A Brief Description of Certain Peculiar Customs. Burton anticipated that the content — the subject of female infibulation in East Africa — would be problematic and sought to elude the censor by translating the text into Latin. This ruse did not, however, fool the publisher. The appendix was speedily removed and replaced with a cancel reading “It has been found necessary to omit this Appendix”.

Appendix IV comprises the sectional title and one leaf of text (leaf QQ, pages 593-594), with a small slit for cancellation to the bottom margin (seen similarly in other copies). It is said there is a vanishingly rare second leaf with an additional page of text and a blank verso but this is contradicted by Appendix V, signed QQ2. (A copy in the Crewe Collection at Trinity College Cambridge, presented by Burton, includes a second leaf of text in manuscript.) It was also mooted that surviving copies with Appendix IV were retained “for Burton’s use” (Catalogue of Valuable Books, … of Sir Richard Francis Burton, London, Spink & Son, 1976) but it is more likely some first issues were initially put aside then later bound in various hues of cloth gilt as school prize copies; a hypothesis bolstered by the number of examples both in the prize binding and bearing prize inscriptions