BRUCE, JAMES. Travels to discover the source of the Nile, In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773. Edinburgh: J. Ruthven for G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1790. 5 vols., 4to, 292 x 232 mm. (11½ x 9 1/8 in.), contemporary russia gilt, spines with green and black morocco lettering-pieces, edges yellow-stained, rubbed, some chipping, upper joint of vol. 1 cracked, vol. 3 upper joint starting, lacking half-titles, marginal tear to Mm1 in vol. 1, large marginal chip to 4Y4 in vol. 3, one map slightly torn at guard, some light showthrough of engravings, occasional slight offsetting of text to plates, occasional light foxing or disocloration. FIRST EDITION, engraved vignettes on titles, engraved arms on dedication, 3 folding engraved maps, 58 engraved plates of which 43 relate to natural history and the remainder to antiquities, hieroglyphics, etc., 4 letterpress leaves of Ethiopian dialects inserted between pp. 400 and 401 in vol. 1. Blackmer 221; Nissen ZBI 617 (calling for 57 plates). John Entwhistle Esq., armorial bookplates.
James Bruce, a Scottish wine merchant, arrived at the source of the Blue Nile in November 1770 and claimed it as the source of the Nile of the Ancients, although the White Nile, whose confluence with the Blue Nile he reached a year later, was known to be the larger river. Although his work was immediately popular, it was criticized by other explorers as being unworthy of credence. Nonetheless, "few such monuments exist to the energy and enterprise of a single traveller," and "the substantial accuracy of every statement concerning the Abyssinian travels has since been amply documented" (DNB). The work remains particularly important for its portrayal of Ethiopia.