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Lot 32: # - LIVINGSTONE, DAVID.

Sotheby's

July 13, 2006
London, United Kingdom

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Description

AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED, TO SIR MORTON PETO

describing his early attempts to navigate the Zambezi ("...We have been for more than a month exploring the delta of this river..."), his establishment of a base at Nyika (or Expedition) Island, the difficulties involved in navigating up the shallow river in his launch the Ma-Robert, the subsequent need for a new paddle-steamer as had been previously proposed by Peto and Livingstone's application to the Foreign Office for this boat, and with news of recent events in the area:

...The first news we got of the Portuguese was that they had been expelled [from] the country by the natives. This alters the aspect of affairs in the river for me, but as it happened before we came we cannot be blamed for what the Portuguese call rebellion[.] I visited a party of the rebels ... and though about 200 appeared well armed ready to dispute our progress on my calling out that we were English they raised a shout of joy and at once ran off to bring bananas & fowls for sale...

4 pages, 4to, Zambezi river, 21 June 1858, some off-setting and spotting

LITERATURE

G.W. Clendennen and I.C. Cunningham, David Livingstone: A Catalogue of Documents (1979), no. 0800

NOTE

a fine and detailed letter written just weeks after livingstone's arrival at the mouth of the zambezi on his ill-fated expedition of 1858-64. During his earlier exploration of the region in 1855-6, Livingstone came to believe that he had discovered in the Zambezi a navigable route to the African interior. This later expedition was intended to exploit this "highway", but, as this letter eloquently reveals, it rapidly became clear that Livingstone's previous estimation of the Zambezi had been over-optimistic. For the next five years or more, Livingstone and his party made painfully slow progress as they struggled against shallows, sandbanks, and cataracts. The Ma Robert (which Livingstone called the Asthmatic after the wheezing of its engine) was inadequate to the task, and this letter reveals that Livingstone almost immediately considered a replacement. He writes to Peto, a prominent contractor for railways and public works, of his desire for a paddle steamer that would only draw four or five feet, with which "we could even now go with ease up to Tete." A replacement boat, the Pioneer, was eventually commissioned and arrived at the Zambezi in January 1861 (see next lot).

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