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A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea, Divided into the Gold, the Slave and the Ivory Coasts. Containing a Geographical, Political and Natural History of the Kingdoms and Countries: With a Particular Account of the Rise, Progress and Present Condition of all the European Settlements upon that Coast; and the Just Measures for Improving the several Branches of the Guinea Trade. 

BOSMAN Willem (1705.)

£2000.00 

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First English edition. Folding map, and 7 engraved plates. 8vo. Contemporary panelled calf rebacked, final 2 quires browned. [viii] 493 [18] index [3] ads.pp. London, Knapton, 

The author spent 14 years on the Gold Coast and his work, which consists of a series of letters descriptive of that country, provides many valuable references to the customs and history of the native people. "Usually regarded as the standard work concerning the Gold Coast of this period" (Cardinall). 

 

Willem Bosman first arrived in Guinea in 1698 age 16 as an agent of the Dutch West India Company, which was already well established in the region, being one of the few truly successful trading posts of the WIC. By 1698, he had achieved the powerful role of Chief Merchant, however due to political infighting within the company ranks, he retired to Holland age 29 in semi-disgrace. He then set to writing his Accurate Description..., first published in Dutch in 1704, but translated into English and French the following year. 

 

It was an instant success, and served as the standard work on the region for more than a century, perhaps due to his easy and entertaining style, which according to Albert van Dantzig, is best appreciated in the original Dutch: "Bosman wrote for the ordinary man, with ordinary man's language, frequently spiced with saucy descriptions and rather crude jokes. The latter were omitted by his somewhat prudish English translator". The illustrations in the first English edition are also reduced and consolidated onto fewer plates - in the Dutch and French each fort is given a full page, whereas the English groups three or six together, much simplified. 

 

Predominantly addressing the Gold Coast, there is also much material on flora and fauna, as well as 3 letters specifically on the subject of the Slave Coast. "It is a major source for the Dutch slave trade during second half of the seventeenth century, and provides an interesting picture of international rivalry, current trade, and the wretched and depraved existence of the European factors stationed permanently at the coast" (Howgego). In light of this, it is widely referenced on both sides of the abolition debate, most notably by Benezet in his Caution and Warning to Great Britain (1766). 

 

Provenance: Ownership inscription in ink to front flyleaf, "Norton Court Jan 10th 1721 J. Godfrey". See: Nichols. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, Vol II. (1812) pp.283: "Mr. Godfrey (who was related to Sir Edmondbury) was a person of learning and had a good collection of antiquities; and also of coins and medals, which after his death were sold at auction. His library (containing about 1200 valuable volumes) was bought for 100l by T. Osborne, who sold it again to Mr. Webb before it was unpacked." Later 18th century bookplate for Elden Hall to front pastedown, through which is just distinguishable that of Webb, over which it has been applied. Beneath is the 20th century Reynolds Stone bookplate of a Charles Benson.

 

Cardinall, 256; Dantzig, Albert van. Willem Bosman's "New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea": How Accurate is it? History in Africa. Vol. 1 (1974), pp. 101-108; Howgego I, cf. F58.

 

Stock Code: 226249