Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
Autograph manuscript signed ('T. Baines' in four places) of a journal of his first journey into the South African gold fields, Transvaal and Matabeleland, 12 May 1869 - 2 April 1870, inscribed on fly leaf to 'The Directors of the S.A.G.F.C.' [sic]/care of E. Oliver Esq Secty/South African Gold Fields Exploration Company/41- Threadneedle Street London', 80 leaves in pencil, the remainder carbon copy, with occasional markings and corrections in another hand in blue or red pencil, or ink, including 18 marginal sketches of wildlife, landscape, or shifts of camp life, and three sketched maps of river systems, 207 leaves, 4to (numbered 119-325), (traces of old stitching on inner margin, wear to outer margin, tear at lower margin of f.309 with loss of approximately 8 words), boxed. Provenance. The Directors of the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company.
THE JOURNAL OF AN INFLUENTIAL PIONEERING EXPEDITION; AN IMPORTANT AND UNRECORDED MANUSCRIPT BY A NOTABLE EXPLORER
The present journal covers approximately the first half of Baines's first journey as agent of the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company, describing the incidents of the journey north from the borders of the Transvaal Republic into modern Zimbabwe as far as Maghunda, including his encounters with tribesmen, traders, missionaries and wildlife, his negotiations with the chieftain Umnombate for permission to explore, his prospecting for gold near the Hartley Hills and his early interviews with the last Matabele King, Lobengula (or Nobengulu), and not least descriptions in rare detail of the daily practical business of pioneering travel in southern Africa.
That Thomas Baines's two trips as the agent of the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company (he died of dysentery on the eve of a third) bore no immediate fruit might almost be seen as a tribute to the incompetence and apathy of the Company in the face of his indefatigable efforts - although the sheer fecundity of detail in the journals may have proved bewildering to them. His survey, published posthumously as Gold Regions of South East Africa (1877), was nevertheless an important influence on the subsequent development of gold mining in southern Africa. That work, and his journals, are equally, quite apart from their contributions to the cartography and geography of the region, an important early source (comparable to the Reverend Robert Moffat's Matabele Journals) on the Matabele in their last generation of independent existence, and perhaps the primary source for the character and history of Lobengula, their last King.
Baines's journals of his explorations were published in 1946 as The Northern Goldfields Diaries of Thomas Baines (ed. J.P.R. Wallis), in which, however, the editor did not consult the present manuscript. Baines was a scrupulous diarist, and habitually made three carbon copies (in an entry for 2 September 1870 he annotates a sketch made in his diary to show a Matabele 'the power of producing four sketches at a time with black paper'); he would dispatch these in batches whenever an opportunity occurred - the present manuscript represents his first five consignments. For his edition Wallis consulted manuscripts of the journal in the then Southern Rhodesian Archives, in the library of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and in the Royal Geographical Society, all of which he describes as 'imperfect', and presumes the dispatch of a full series to the secretary of the S.A.G.F.C. The present manuscript represents part of that series, the primary copy, and is complete within its date range, with a high proportion of original manuscript to carbon copies, enabling the recovery of a small number of words and phrases which had not registered in carbon copy in the other manuscripts.
Thomas Baines was born in King's Lynn, and apprenticed as a coach painter. His first appearance in Cape Colony, in 1842, attempting to make a living as an artist, led to his accompanying British troops during the Kafir wars of 1848 to 1851. Subsequent expeditions were the exploration under Gregory of North-west Australia (where a river and a mountain are named after him, later to be joined by the southern African tree-aloe, Aloe Bainesii), Livingstone's Zambesi expedition, from which he was ignominiously dismissed as artist and store-keeper, and Chapman's expedition to Victoria Falls, which he was the first to draw in detail. His publications include Explorations in South-West Africa (1864), an account of the Victoria Falls expedition, and, with William Lord, Shifts and Expedients of Camp Life (1871), the indispensible guide.