RARE FIRST EDITION OF LAING’S TRAVELS IN THE TIMANNEE, KOORANKO, AND SOOLIMA COUNTRIES, IN WESTERN AFRICA, 1815
LAING, Alexander Gordon. Travels in the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima Countries, in Western Africa. London: John Murray, 1825. Octavo, modern three-quarter red morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, uncut. $2500.
Extremely rare first edition of this compelling narrative of travel through Western Africa, with folding map of the region and seven illustrated plates, handsomely bound.
The author, Alexander Laing, began his working life as a schoolmaster. However, after he joined one of the local volunteer corps, he quickly found his calling in military service. His travels as a member of the military brought him around the globe, from Jamaica, to Honduras, to Sierra Leone and beyond. In 1822, by then a captain, he transferred to the Royal African Colonial Corps. Together with a small escort, Laing headed up the Rokel River, through the mountains of Koranko country to Falaba. He went on to find the source of the Rokel, but was barred from seeking out the Niger though it was within sight. Despite that disappointment, he made one considerable geographical discovery. By measuring the height of the Niger, he managed to establish that it could not possibly flow into the Nile—a question that still plagued many geographers. In 1825, Laing took his journals from his African journey and used them to produce this work. Travels provides an engaging account of Laing’s expedition, including observations on the life and culture of the people he encountered. He illustrated the book and provided a useful map. Most importantly, he provided an oral history of Solima Yalunka, which proved indispensable to later historians.
Folding map fine, minor offsetting from plates to facing text, interior generally quite nice, binding bright and fine. A handsome, near-fine copy.