24 September 2002
STANLEYS ZANZIBARI SWORD
A Persian gold-mounted Shamshir, with curved single-edged blade, characteristic hilt, gold mounts decorated with scrollwork, flowerheads and running foliage, all in low relief, ivory grips bound with plaited gold wire at the base, and original leather-bound scabbard with gold mounts en suite with the hilt. 18th century, blade 30in. (76.5cm.), fitted with red leather and silver thread baldric with gilt metal clasp decorated with birds and Arabic inscription (a few small losses to leather, silver thread tarnished, some rust to blade); together with a carte de visite photograph of Barghesh bin Sayid Sultan of Zanzibar as a young man, signed by the Sultan in arabic.
A fine relic of the Emin Pasha Expedition, the sword given to him by Sultan Barghash, who had assisted him on all his previous expeditions. The Sultan of Zanzibar was now aged and died two months after Stanley arrived in Zanzibar in February of 1887. Stanley, under instructions from Mackinnon, tried to persuade Barghash to cede sovereignty of the mainland to Mackinnon's nascent Imperial British East Africa Company. This sword was handed over during his four week stay in Zanzibar and was carried by Stanley throughout the Emin Pasha Expedition. It was exhibited in the Stanley and African Exhibition at the Regent Gallery in 1890, Case 15, no. 3 Sword, richly mounted in gold, presented to Mr Stanley by the Sultan of Zanzibar on the departure of the expedition. This sword was recognised as a talisman by all the arabs during Mr. Stanley's Journey.
The carte de visite was presumably in Stanley's possession by 1878 when it was copied for the illustration on p.32 volume I of Through the Dark Continent, suggesting it was signed by the sitter in 1877 on his return to Zanzibar, after the Trans-African Expedition.
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