Contemporary purple morocco, expertly rebacked to style over blue morocco. Covers with elaborately gilt panels, spines with gilt compartments and lettering, all edges gilt. Some offsetting from plates, map with some minor fold tears. ZZ4 of volume II with a one-inch tear to upper blank margin (not affecting any lettering). Hinges starting. With previous owner's bookplate on front pastedown of each volume. Overall, a very good, tight and clean copy.
In 1805, naturalist and explorer William J. Burchell “was appointed by the East India Company ‘schoolmaster and acting botanist’ at the island of St Helena. While there he made the acquaintance of General Janssens, the last Dutch governor of the Cape, and of Dr Martin Lichtenstein, then a young physician on the governor’s staff, and afterwards a celebrated Berlin naturalist. Furnished with letters of introduction from them to the chief Dutch and German residents, Burchell set off to the Cape with the intention of exploring the interior of South Africa. A party of Hottentots were his sole companions and assistants in more than three years of exploration, during which he made large collections of mammalia...He only published the first part of his Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa (1822-24), a book written in excelent style and illustrated from his own drawings” (Prideaux).
“The most valuable and accurate work on South Africa published up to the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and embracing a description of a large part of the Cape Colony and Bechuanaland at this period. Theal (‘History of South Africa, 1795-1834’) remarks that the author was ‘a man of talent, an easy writer, and scrupulously exact in his descriptions,’ and according to Sclater he was ‘a most skilful and well-trained zoologist and botanist, and his observations are all accurate and methodical.’ Burchell penetrated as far as ‘Lattakoo’ (afterwards known as Kuruman), and during his explorations, which extended over a period of four years, made important collections of the fauna, flora, and curiosities of the country, together with a large number of drawings. Generally speaking, Burchell appears to have been favourably impressed by the Boers...The author’s name is perpetuated in the country by the appellation of ‘Burchell’s Zebra’ (equus burchelli), a species of quagga discovered by him ‘in the country immediately to the north of the Orange River...he was also the first to mention the existence of asbestos in this part of the country. The illustrations in the volumes are characterized by great beauty and accuracy, and it is stated in the Preface that, ‘in order to ensure greater correctness in the vignettes, the author has made all these drawings upon the blocks themselves’; the coloured plates are particularly admired, and the drawings from which they were engraved were prepared with great care by the artist, and were untouched by any other hand. The work is now extremely scarce, many copies having been broken up in the middle of the nineteenth century for the plates” (Mendelssohn).
Abbey, Travel, 327. Mendelssohn I, p. 224. Prideaux, pp. 239 and 329. Tooley 116.
HBS # 64970 $12,500