AN INSCRIBED COPY OF ESTRIDGE’S RARE, PHOTOGRAPHICALLY-ILLUSTRATED ACCOUNT OF THE SEYCHELLES

Six Years in Seychelles; with Photographs from Original Drawings.

[?London: ?the author], 1885.

4to (202 x 163mm), pp. [4 (title, verso blank, dedication, illustrations)], 59, [1 (blank)]; mounted photographic frontispiece and 29 mounted photographic plates, all after Estridge, one folding lithographic map, and one double-page letterpress table in the text; occasional light spotting, offsetting, or marking affecting text and plates, some photographs slightly faded; original hard-grained tan morocco, boards with gilt-ruled borders, upper board lettered in gilt, modern lemon-yellow endpapers, all edges gilt; a few light marks and scuffs, extremities lightly rubbed and chipped, skilfully rebacked and recornered, nonetheless a very good copy of a rare work; provenance: ‘From the author’ (presentation inscription on title, manuscript correction on p. 56, presumably in the author’s hand) – S.F. Hassan, Mombasa, 3 January 1953 (ownership inscription on verso of frontispiece) – Humphrey Winterton (booklabel on upper pastedown; his sale, Sotheby’s London, 28 May 2003, lot 248).

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First edition. Following a period in the army, Estridge (1837-1902) was appointed Collector of Customs at Mahé in the Seychelles (probably in 1880), and held the position until 1885, when he returned to England. In 1886 he took up the position of Receiver and Accountant-General, British Bechuanaland (and was elected a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute in the same year), remaining in the country until 1888, when he retired to England.

Six Years in Seychelles provides an overview of the islands and their history, commerce, architecture, geography, and natural history. Estridge provides much information on the flora and fauna, printing extracts from the report compiled by John Horne (the Director of the Botanic Gardens, Mauritius, who visited Mahé from 1871 to 1874 and published his notes in 1875), and discussing plant-hunting trips undertaken at the behest of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, the Director of Kew, and a visit in 1884 from the celebrated botanist and artist Marianne North, who ‘greatly enjoyed the place, and was enraptured with the palms &c.’ (p. 51; North’s recollections of her visit and plant-hunting expeditions with Estridge appear in chapter XV of Recollections of a Happy Life (London: 1892), where he is identified as ‘Mr. E.’). Another notable visitor was Gordon of Khartoum: ‘[w]e found him most pleasant and chatty. He greatly admired and was deeply interested in the Seychelles, and said he thought Praslin must have been the Garden of Eden’ (loc. cit.).

In one passage, Estridge records the effects in the Seychelles of the eruption of Krakatoa on 27 August 1883 and the consequent tsunamis: ‘[i]t began at about 4 p.m. [...] and a tidal wave suddenly came rushing at about four miles an hour, and reaching a height of about 2½ feet above the usual high springs. It receded in about a quarter of an hour, leaving boats high and dry. It then returned, and the same thing continued all next day, only varying in the time, each movement taking about ten minutes, and the height reaching about 10 inches. I noted from 10.15 a.m. till 1.05 p.m., that the sea flowed and ebbed 17 times. At 5 p.m. the sun was clear and bright; at 6 p.m., sunset, there was a lurid glare all over the sky; at half-past six the glare got much brighter; and at a quarter to seven it disappeared. The sky all day was slightly hazy [...] We were not aware till after the arrival of the Mauritius mail what caused this, but then learnt what it was and the great destruction it had caused. Even now the shores of the various islands are covered with pumice-stone’ (pp. 51-52).

The work is dedicated to the soldier and administrator Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844-1908), who was Chief Civil Commissioner Seychelles Islands from 1874 to 1875 and from 1879 to 1880, and ended his career serving as the Governor of Trinidad, Natal, Sri Lanka, Madras, and, finally, Tasmania. The number of copies issued of this privately-published work is unknown, but the expensive and laborious technique of illustration with mounted photographic prints (which appear to be platinum prints, but do display untypical traces of a coating), suggests that the edition was not large. Certainly, only three copies of Six Years in Seychelles can be traced at auction since 1975 in Anglo-American auction records: the Brooke-Hitching copy (Sotheby’s London, 30 September 2014, lot 452, rebacked), the present copy, and the Bradley Martin copy (12 December 1989, lot 1536, hand-coloured and inscribed to the author’s parents). To these can be added a further five in institutional libraries in the UK at Cambridge (2), Oxford (2), and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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