Friday, August 05, 2011

Rare South African book recalls Luke Limner

I just came across this BBC article about a rare South African book believed to be the first French book, as well as the first travel narrative, published in South Africa. The book, whose title translates in English to Account Of The Wreck Of The French Ship The Eole In April 1829, was discovered by Dr. David Culpin of St. Andrews University.

The book is also important because the survivors of the shipwreck provide detail about contemporary events, including their interactions with indigenous people, the Xhosa, who were featured in a book I sold earlier this week: Red Blanket Valley, by Joan A. Broster

But there's another book I'm reminded of that I haven't let get away: Pen & Ink Sketches in Parliament, by Limner; published by the “Monitor” Office, Castle-Street, Capetown (South Africa) in 1855. I wrote about this interesting little volume nearly five years ago on this blog. See Hunting a Limner in South Africa, 1855.

Interesting in its own right, it still pales in comparison with Dr. Culpin's treasure. But it needs no translation into English and it's chock-full of contemporary views of Capetown life as well as ads for Capetown merchants.

Also important is the fact that Luke Limner was the pseudonym of an important book designer of the 19th century: John Leighton. Leighton was a writer (satirist), as well as a designer of books, fine bindings, and bookplates.

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