Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language, as Spoken at San Salvador, the Ancient Capital of the Old Kongo Empire, West Africa: Preface


William Holman Bentley (1855–1905) was born in Sudbury, United Kingdom, where his father was a Baptist minister. After working for a time as a bank clerk, he was accepted by the Baptist Missionary Society for its new Congo mission and, in April 1879, he sailed for the Congo with three other missionaries. In January 1881, Bentley and H.E. Crudgington became the first Europeans to establish a route inland from the mouth of the Congo River to Stanley Pool, site of present-day Kinshasa. While building mission stations and traveling throughout the interior of Africa, Bentley worked at mastering the Kongo language. In 1884, he returned to England on furlough, taking with him a Congolese assistant, Nlemvo, who worked with him on the compilation of the Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language, which was published in 1887. The document shown here is the preface to the dictionary, which was published separately one year earlier, in 1886. In the preface, Bentley described the small number of European sources he was able to use in researching the Kongo language, the assistance given to him by Africans, Nlemvo in particular, and the methods he used to compile the dictionary, which included sorting and correcting 25,000 slips of paper containing words and their definitions.

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Baptist Missionary Society and Trübner & Co., London


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2 plates, [vii]-xxii pages ; 22 centimeters

Last updated: September 18, 2015