The Discovery of River Gambra (1623)

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Author: Jobson, Richard

Year: 1999

Publisher: Hakluyt Society

Place: London


xvi+341 pages with 2 colour plates including frontispiece, 13 half tone plates and illustrations, 8 line drawings, 3 maps, bibliography and index. Small quarto (10" x 7") issued in blue cloth with gilt lettering to spine and pictorial sailing ship to front cover. Edited by David P Gamble and P E H Hair. Third Series, volume 2. First edition.

In 1623 Richard Jobson published an account of a 1620-1621 English voyage up River Gambia, during which a party, led by himself, penetrated to a point some 460 miles up river. The purpose of the voyage was to make contact with the gold trade of the West African interior, but in this there was little success. However, Jobson's account of the river, its commerce, natural history, peoples, religions, and politics, was the earliest to appear in print, in this fullness of detail, in any language. it was also the earliest detailed account of any part of Black Africa, by an Englishman. Although, in contemporary English, a probing of access to a new trade might be accounted a "discover", the voyage was only to a limited extent and "exploration". The English had been preceded in River Gambia by the Portuguese, who since the 1450s had voyaged and traded up-river, nearly as far as Jobson went. Part of Jobson's account therefore deals with the Portuguese - or rather Afro-Portuguese - presence. The English, trading in nearby Senegal only from the 1850s, penetrated River Gambia only from the 1580, penetrated Gambia only in 1618. Three English voyages, of 1618, 1619 and 1620-21 (the earlier ones evidenced in Jobosn's account) produced such heavy losses in men and money that an English presence in the river was not resumed until the 1650s. Portuguese accounts of the river existed in Jobson's day, but the major ones only in manuscript. Following the editors' Introduction, Part I of the present edition contains three Jobson texts: his book, the extracts from his "Jounrall" published by Purchas in1 1625, and an extant manuscript petition to the Crown. For comparison, Part II supplies translations of the earlier accounts of the river, by Portuguese or Portuguese agents. The Jobson material is extensively annotated. Jobson's account, almost entirely original, has special in its author's observations on the African scene, particularly those on the African peoples and individuals encountered. Jobson discusses such topics as local agriculture and trade, the role of Islam, political culture, and the position of women. Despite the limits of his experience, his observations are seemingly accurate and generally perceptive, as well as being (perhaps unexpectedly) often tolerant and even sympathetic.


A fine copy in like jacket.

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