PRESENTED BY THE AUTHOR TO A MEMBER OF SPEKE’S NILE EXPEDITION

The life of Prince Henry of Portugal, surnamed the navigator; and its results: comprising the discovery, within one century, of half the world. With new facts in the discovery of the Atlantic islands; a refutation of French claims to priority in discovery; Portuguese knowledge (subsequently lost) of the Nile lakes; and the history of the naming of America ...

London, A. Asher & Co., 1868.

Large 8vo (27.5 x 19.5 cm), pp. [2], lii, 487, [1 blank], with handsome coloured frontispiece portrait, 10 plates/maps (some folding, some with colour), and a large folding skeleton chart of Africa; light dampstaining to upper margins; very good in contemporary quarter green roan over green cloth, spine and upper cover lettered in gilt, binder’s ticket of Virtue & Co., London, to rear pastedown; some splitting to joints and wear to spine, a few marks to covers; author’s presentation inscription to half-title (‘Colonel J.A. Grant C.B. C.S.I. &c with best regards from R.H. Major’) and his ALS to Grant, dated 12 Feb. 1878, to front pastedown.

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The life of Prince Henry of Portugal, surnamed the navigator; and its results: comprising the discovery, within one century, of half the world. With new facts in the discovery of the Atlantic islands; a refutation of French claims to priority in discovery; Portuguese knowledge (subsequently lost) of the Nile lakes; and the history of the naming of America ...

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First edition (published in 70 large paper copies), presented by the author to the Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant, who accompanied John Hanning Speke on his famous Nile expedition of 1860-63.

Major’s Life is an authoritative history of the epoch-making Portuguese voyages and discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, including claims for the Portuguese discovery of Australia. Major had a long career at the British Museum, serving from 1867 as keeper of the newly created department of printed maps and plans. He edited numerous works for the Hakluyt Society, also serving as its secretary, and was secretary and vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society.

In his enclosed letter to Grant, Major writes: ‘I cannot tell you what a real pleasure it is to an overweening fellow like me, who have an affection for a book that cost me six years of hard research, to find that I have two large paper copies left, and that you will kindly do me the honour of accepting one of them ... primarily it speaks of that great series of discoveries instituted by him [Prince Henry], which opened up our knowledge of the great continent with which your own name is undyingly connected ...’

While Grant was not with Speke when he identified the source of the Nile at Ripon Falls, Lake Victoria, he shared in the fame which resulted from the expedition, receiving the gold medal of the RGS in 1864. His written and visual records of east Africa – preserved at the National Library of Scotland – are truly remarkable.

Borba de Moraes (1983), p. 510; Sabin, 44069.

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