PARK, Mungo (1771-1806). Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa performed under the direction and patronage of the African Association in the years 1795, 1796, and 1797. London: W. Bulmer and Co. for the author, and sold by C. and W. Nicol, 1799.
4 (262 x 205mm). Engraved portrait frontispiece by T. Dickinson after H. Edridge, 5 engraved plates, 3 folding maps, one hand-coloured in outline, and 2 leaves of engraved music. (Light browning to early and final quires, offsetting from plates, frontispiece and quire 2P spotted, C4r and S1v both slightly soiled, lacking half-title but including the list of subscribers, and the postscript between p. xxviii and p. 1. Finely-bound in early 19th-century blue straight-grained morocco gilt, sides with double gilt fillet, spine in 6 compartments with raised bands, directly lettered in two and dated at foot, gilt turn-ins and board edges, gilt edges. Provenance: William Pitt Amherst, Earl Amherst of Arracan (1773-1857, armorial bookplate); Viscount Mersey, Bignor Park (booklabel).
A FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION of this great classic of travel literature which became so immediately popular that three editions were published in 1799. Mungo Park, the seventh of 13 children, was born on the farm which his father rented from the duke of Buccleuch. Obtaining a surgical diploma from Edinburgh University, he sailed to Sumatra as assistant-surgeon on board the Worcester East Indiaman in 1792, and published an account of eight new Sumatran fishes in the Transactions of the Linnean Society. Knowing that the African Association were looking for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, who had died in the Sahara after being sent out to discover the source of the Niger in 1790, Park successfully volunteered his services with the support of Sir Joseph Banks. On 21st June 1795 he reached the Gambia and ascended the river 200 miles to a British trading station near Pisania, and on 2 December, accompanied by only two negro servants, he started for the interior. Crossing the upper Senegal basin and the semi-desert region of Kaarta, he was impeded by constant difficulties, and at Ludmar was imprisoned for four months by a Moorish chief. Park relates how on 1 July 1796 he escaped alone, and with nothing save his horse and a pocket compass. On the 21st of the same month he reached the long sought after Niger at Segu, becoming the first European to gaze on its waters. On his return journey, he followed the Niger as far as Bamako, tracing the course of the river for some 300 miles and eventually reaching the kingdom of Mandingo on 14 September. Here he fell ill, and but for the kindness of a negro in whose house he lived for seven months, would have died. He reached Pisania again on the 10 June, 1797, and returned to England by way of America on 22 December. With its abundance of incident and unaffected style, his narrative of the journey forms both a great travel book and a work which is valued "for its scientific obervations on the botany and meteorology of the region, and on the social and domestic life of the negroes." PMM 253.