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Burton in West Africa

BURTON, RICHARD F.. (English) Wanderings in West Africa from Liverpoool to Fernando Po

London: Tinsley Brothers, 1863

Two volumes. Original purple-brown cloth. Folding map as frontispiece to Volume I, plate of the JuJu House as frontispiece to Volume II. Spines a touch sunned, light wear, but an excellent set.

First edition. This is Burton’s first book on his years in West Africa including detailed accounts of his amazing adventures inland. “Newly married and needing employment, Burton approached the Foreign Office for a consular position, hoping for the post at Damascus. Instead, he was offered the consulship at Fernando Po, a small, unhealthy island in the Bight of Biafra on the west African coast. When he accepted the position on 27 March 1861 he requested to retain his commission in the Bombay army, but he was struck from the list, thereby losing not only his half pay but also any prospect of a pension or sale of his commission, an action about which he always complained bitterly. Burton did not permit Isabel to accompany him to Fernando Po, which he described as ‘the very abomination of desolation’. He slipped away from the post at every opportunity for excursions on the African mainland or to meet Isabel in the Canaries or England. Although he loathed Fernando Po, he worked continuously at his writing with Wanderings in West Africa and Abeokuta and the Cameroons Mountains both appearing in 1863″ (ODNB).

Burton originally intended to issue the book anonymously, and a few copies are known with no name on the spine, but most often they are as here, credited to “R. F. Burton F.R.G.S.” on the spine and just “a F.R.G.S.” on the title page. This pseudonym “may have been a slap at the Royal Geographical society, for Burton was at odds with the organization’s leadership at the time over the matter of the Nile’s sources. The acerbic dedication was ‘to the true friends of Africa – not the “Philanthropist” or to Exeter Hall’” (Casada)

$4,700