August 24, 2011

Unpublished Documents on the History of the Seychelles Islands Anterior to 1810

This compilation of documents is an important source for the study of the early history of the Seychelles, an archipelago located in the western Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. Previously uninhabited, the islands were explored by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in the early 1500s. In the 1740s, the French sent expeditions from the Isle de France (present-day Mauritius) to the Seychelles, and on November 1, 1756, Captain Corneille Nicolas Morphey, commander of the French East India Company frigate Le Cerf, took possession of the islands in the name of the King of France and the French East India Company. Settlement began in the 1770s with the establishment of plantations to produce, with imported slave labor, crops such as cotton, sugar, and rice. The British seized the islands in 1794 and gained permanent control of them in 1814 at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. This book, published in 1909 in Mahé (the capital of the then-British crown colony of the Seychelles), includes the texts of the most important French documents relating to the history of the islands from 1742 to 1810. The documents were gathered from major libraries and archives in Paris, the Archives of Mauritius, and the City Library of Caen. Also included is a listing of early maps of the Seychelles. The Republic of Seychelles became an independent nation in 1976.

Bahrain and Jemama

Heinrich Ferdinand Wüstenfeld (1808–99) was a German Orientalist who specialized in Arab history and literature. He studied at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin, and taught at Göttingen from 1842 until 1890. This work is an analysis, based on Arab sources, of the geography of Bahrain and of the province of Yemama, located in present-day Saudi Arabia. Wüstenfeld noted in his introduction that Bahrain and Yemama were the least-known parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Only three Europeans—in 1819, 1862–63, and 1864—were known to have traveled through these regions, and none had completed a thorough geographic survey of the territory they traversed. Wüstenfeld’s short book was an attempt to expand geographic knowledge of the two regions by drawing upon the works of Arab geographers and poets and analyzing their use of place names over the centuries. The work contains a map and an alphabetical list of place names, in Arabic and in German.

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.

Moslem Egypt and Christian Abyssinia; Or, Military Service Under the Khedive, in his Provinces and Beyond their Borders, as Experienced by the American Staff

William McEntyre Dye (1831–99) was a graduate of the United States Military Academy, a former colonel in the United States Army, and a veteran of the American Civil War. In late 1873, Dye entered the service of Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt and Sudan, who was recruiting, with the assistance of General William T. Sherman, American officers to serve as advisors in his army. Egypt was at that time formally still part of the Ottoman Empire, but it exercised a high degree of autonomy. Dye served as assistant chief of staff in the Egyptian expedition against Abyssinia (Ethiopia), which Ismail Pasha launched in 1875 to conquer territory on the Red Sea coast. This book, published after Dye’s return to the United States, contains an extensive, first-hand account of the Abyssinian campaign. Despite the involvement of the foreign officers, Ismail Pasha’s army suffered serious defeats in November 1875 and March 1876, which Dye described and analyzed. The book is also noteworthy for its accounts of expeditions undertaken for the khedive to Kordostan in central Sudan and Darfur in western Sudan. The appendix contains an annotated list of 25 American officers (veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies and navies) connected to military service in Egypt between 1869 and 1878.

Cairo to Kisumu: Egypt-Sudan-Kenya Colony

Cairo to Kisumu: Egypt-Sudan-Kenya Colony was the fifth in a series of books known as Carpenter’s World Travels, written by Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) in the 1920s and published by the Garden City, New York, firm of Doubleday, Page & Company. Carpenter was an American author of books on travel and world geography whose geographical readers were popular in American schools in the early 20th century. Cairo to Kisumu is not an account of a single journey, but a composite based on the notes Carpenter made on several trips to Africa over many years. Included are chapters on Egypt, Sudan, the Suez Canal, transport on the Red Sea, Aden (in present-day Yemen), the port of Mombasa, the Uganda Railway, Nairobi, big-game hunting, the British role in East Africa, and the African peoples, including the Kikuyu and the Masai. Carpenter’s books reflected the prejudices and preconceptions of his day, but they brought knowledge of the wider world to many Americans. The Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress consists of the photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings. It includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives.

New Journey into the Land of the Negroes, Followed by Studies on the Colony of Senegal, and Historical, Geographical, and Scientific Documents

Anne-Jean-Baptiste Raffenel (1809–58) was a French colonial official, who in 1846 was commissioned by the French navy to undertake a voyage of exploration to the interior of Africa. Raffenel left France in mid-May 1846 and returned in June 1848. Volume one of this two-volume work is an account of Raffenel’s fourth-month journey from France to Senegal and his travel throughout the colony, which included visits to many Senegalese towns and regions, such as Saint-Louis (Ndar), Bakel, Bambouk, and Makana. Raffenel described the governing structure of the colony, the distribution of tribes, and the cultural and religious customs of the people. Volume two is a compilation of documents relating to French colonialism in Africa, beginning with the voyage to the Canary Islands by navigators from Dieppe in 1364 and concluding with the results of mid-19th century scientific expeditions. Included are numerous engravings, a detailed foldout map, meteorological tables, and a linguistic explanation of the Arama language with an accompanying glossary of Arama words and their French equivalents.