ABYSSINIA - Autograph manuscript journal by William Charles Barker, Indian Navy, of the expedition to Shoa to present gifts from the Indian Government to the Emperor Sahla Selassie [great-grandfather of Haile Selassie], June 1841-February 1842, approximately 130 pages, written on rectos only, some versos with later infant scribbling, some dust- and dampstaining, original half sheep over marbled boards, 4°.
The expedition was commanded by Major William Cornwallis Harris (see preceding lot). The party included Lieutenant C.D. Graham, Assistant Surgeon R. Kirk, the naturalist Dr Roth, an escort of European soldiers, local guides, 180 camels, 35 mules and 17 horses. The expedition was accomplished despite fierce tribesmen, rugged terrain, murders and other dangers which provoked Barker to declare: "All that can be said of this country is that it is worthy of its possessors".
Barker describes in detail personalities encountered, food and customs, the Emperor's court and various events, including the massacre of some 4,000 Galla tribesmen.
"September 25th. At about 8 o'clock in the morning we were summoned to the Presence whither we accordingly proceeded in full dress.
The King was seated in the Porch of the Palace, surrounded by his Courtiers. A Persian carpet was placed at the foot of the Steps, and several Hassocks for seats for our use .... A short time afterward Itoo Lestowald appeared with his Troop of Menials, 400 in no. who are attached to the Royal Household ... and ... act as spies for the monarch ... These men came in dancing, shouting and capering about like madmen, each furnished with a Rod of green rushes. On entering the 'Presence' at a given signal they all made a most terrific shout, and threw their rods down at the foot of the temporary Throne ... We were graciously received and accomodated with Bread, raw meat & mead ... The Review commenced by Itoo Kotama bringing forth his gallant band of gun men in number about 600 - chanting forth songs in praise of the 'Bounty of the Trinity' and shouting defiance to his enemies..."
At the end of September, Barker receives orders to return to his ship. The Emperor furnished him with an introduction to the Emir of Harrar and he left the Harris embassy and made his own way to Aden, describing his adventures and the personalities he met in vivid detail.
Cornwallis Harris was knighted for his successful negotiation of a treaty with Sahla Selassie. He published an account of this mission in Highlands of Ethiopia (1844).
Barker edited his text and printed it under the title Narrative of a Journey to Shoa, cloth, 4to. A copy is included in the lot. (2)