London: John Murray, 1826. 4to. lxviii, 335; [iv], 269,  pp. FIRST EDITION. With 38 full-page engraved plates (1 colored), including a large folding map, and 6 vignettes. Item #15041
First edition of a valuable account of an expedition exploring the lower River Niger. The British government was interested in commencing trade with the West African states, so in 1821, they sent Denham to join Clapperton and Dr. Walter Oudney on a mission to reach Bornu (now Nigeria) from Tripoli. Because of apparent personality conflicts (said here diplomatically), they split up after first reaching the capital and becoming the first white men to see Lake Chad. Denham stayed to survey the southern portions of Lake Chad while Clapperton and Oudney journeyed west toward the Niger River. Oudney, however, only made it about a third of the way and died in Murmur. Clapperton continued west, but was prevented from passing beyond Sackatoo by the local Sultan. Ultimately, the expedition returned to England having failed to find the Niger, but having opened much of north central Africa to European knowledge.
This book is based upon Denham's journal, with a chapter by Dr. Oudney on the excursion to the mountains west of Mourzuk. The last part by Clapperton, reports on his westward journey, which includes an account of Oudney’s death. The engravings, after drawings by Denham and Clapperton, are engraved by Edward Finden, one of the finest steel-engravers in England at the time. Appendices include translations of various letters and manuscripts from languages of Bornou, Begharmi, Mandara and Timbuctoo, as well as observations of the natural history of the area.
Denham (1786–1828) was an English soldier, explorer of West Central Africa, and ultimately Governor of Sierra Leone. Denham’s exploits are briefly mentioned in Jules Verne’s Five weeks in a balloon (1863). Clapperton (1788-1827) was a Scottish naval officer and explorer. Oudney (1790-1824) was a Scottish physician and African explorer. What makes this work such as fascinating read is the combination of the contentious relationship between the main parties and the ultimate unfolding of the story itself, especially how the local rulers dealt with the explorers.