Hardcover, London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860. First Edition. Octavo, pp. xvi, 412; xvi, 468. Two Volumes. Volume 1: Frontispiece color portrait of an ivory porter, 5 more color plates, 8 illustrations in the text. Volume 2: Frontispiece color portrait of the navigation of Tanganyika Lake, 5 more color plates, 14 illustrations in the text, 2 appendices, index, 1 fold-out tinted map. Both volumes bound in half-calf with pebbled green cloth and marbled endpapers, and gilded top page edges. Bindings have moderate wear, especially at corners. Scattered age spotting to pages, some offsetting.
According to Alan Moorehead, this is the best of all the African exploration books. Larry McMurtry believes it to be one of the best travel books ever written. The Lakes Region of Central Africa is Burton's compelling narrative of the expedition he and John Speke undertook from Zanzibar to Lake Tanganyika and back. They were the first Europeans to accomplish the trip and the first to see Lake Tanganyika. Speke was the first European to cross Taganyika. Later in this expedition, Speke became the first European to see Lake Victoria, the fabled source of the Nile.
Burton was in command of the expedition and it was his language and cultural skills that made the exploration possible. Because he was fluent in Arabic and Hindustani and developed a working knowledge of Swahili, Burton was the only member of the expedition with a chance of communicating with everyone - Speke, porters, Arab slave traders, and local Africans. Armed Arab slavers were found throughout Central Africa and an expedition's success or failure often depended on their whims. It was through Burton's conversations with Arab slave traders that the expedition learned of the existence of Lake Victoria.
The expedition nearly killed Burton and Speke. Both came down with horrible fevers and severe weakness. Both suffered from hunger and the loss of most of their supplies, including nearly all of their scientific equipment, although Burton was able to get food from Arab slavers. Burton needed to be carried part of the way and was too ill to see Lake Victoria. Speke endured long bouts of partial blindness and became deaf when a beetle crawled into his ear and he attempted to remove it with a knife.
Once they were both back in England and recovered from their illnesses, Burton and Speke had a severe falling out. The men were temperamentally vastly different people already irritated from spending 3 years together and the disaster of their first expedition. Speke publicly proclaimed Lake Victoria to be the source of the Nile even though he had very little scientific proof. He had been half blind when he saw the lake and was unable to venture upon its waters. Burton publicly ridiculed Speke's claims and insisted Lake Tanganyika was the source of the Nile, even though he knew it almost certainly was not. Speke's account of their expedition can be found later in this catalog. ; 8vo 8" - 9" tall; 880 pages. [Item #77231]