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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

New Book

Succumbed  to my book addiction on Saturday and bought myself a book. Not just any book but a facsimile copy of Wild Sports Of Southern Africa. By Captain Sir William Cornwallis Harris. This book is a reprint of the 5th edition, published 1987, by C Struik, Pty Ltd, Cape Town. First edition of this book published in 1840.

Captain Cornwallis Harris was an officer in the Royal Corps of Engineers stationed in India. He received his commission at the age of sixteen. I wonder how many sixteen year old's would be able to do the same today. The book was the result of a trip taken through Southern Africa in the years 1836 - 1837. 

The area of Southern Africa north of the Orange to the Limpopo river, was wild and unexplored, this was the area Cornwallis Harris explored.

A very interesting and well written book, not only about hunting but full of social commentary, regarding the various tribes encountered, their customs, and traditions. He also describes the political situation and the devastation caused by the wars of extermination unleashed on the tribes of Southern Africa by Shaka, the Zulu chief, and Mzilikaats, the Matabele chief. Between them they murdered tens of thousands and left huge tracts of Southern Africa depopulated. (Hundreds of thousands? No one knows how many. Whole tribes were wiped out.)  

Dust jacket of the book.

Title page and illustration on the facing page. Cornwallis Harris did all the illustration in the book. All officers in the Engineers Corps those days had to be able to make good sketches and drawings, no cameras to photograph with.

Mode of transport, ox wagon.

Illustration of an elephant, with huge herds in the valley below. The author describes the country as teeming with game, to numerous to count. All gone now.

Illustration of Wildebeest, or Gnu.

Hunting buffalo.

Title of this illustration, Pretty Bushmaid, (Bushman). While she was distracting the wagon drivers and herdsmen, her compatriots stole and slaughtered all the trek oxen, leaving them stranded on the African veldt. (Some things never change.) Fortunately they were able to purchase more oxen from Trekkers (pioneers) who took part in the mass migration of Afrikaans farmers (Boers) from the then Cape Colony, over the Orange river, to the north and north east. This trek is known in our history as the Great Trek, 1836 - 1838. Cornwallis Harris also gives a first hand description of this event.

Lingaap, a Matebele warrior.

Title of this illustration Trauey the Griqua maid. Trauey, diminutive of Gertrude, was the daughter of a Griqua chief, kidnapped by the Matabele, and ended up in Mzilikaatz, the Matabele Chiefs harem.

Griqua's were mixed race people of white and Khoi Khoi (Hottentot) stock. White deserters from the Cape fled to the Orange river where they took Khoi Khoi wifes. The Griquas wore European dress, were expert horsemen and deadly shots with a rifle. Most of them were no more than brigands and  terrorised the area along the Orange river. 

I tried to photograph the map, the bottom page actually has to overlap the top page to show the map correctly. An epic journey if ever there was one. Click on the photo to enlarge. 


Kay L. Davies said...

What a wonderful book to add to your addiction, Phillip. I am much impressed by the illustrations. My youngest brother is an artist, but I'd hate to think of him going into the same profession as young Cornwallis Harris, at such a period in history.
Fabulous book for anyone interested in South African history, however. I'm very pleased you got it.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Desiree said...

At the risk of sounding like Kay's echo, what a wonderful book, Phillip! I know my hubby would find it as enjoyable as you. Thank you for reviewing it so beautifully.

Joyful said...

I'm a book lover and it looks like you've found a gem. It's is hard to believe that people married, left home or went on long expeditions at such young ages back then. But then, they also didn't live as long so I guess they were "old" by the standards of the time when they set off in the world. Enjoy your book!