BRUCE, James (1730-1794). Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 1768...1773. -- Select Specimens of Natural History collected... [Appendix]. Edinburgh: G. G. J. & J. Robinson, 1790.
5 volumes, 4to (288 x 224 mm). 55 engraved plates, 3 engraved folding plans, 3 engraved folding maps (one with 7-in. tear crossing image with old repair verso, one with short marginal tear), 4 leaves of Ethiopian dialects; engraved vignettes on titles. (Lacking half-titles, title-page to vol. III with closed 5 ½-in. tear crossing a letter and laid down and with closed tear to second leaf crossing letters, marginal repairs to a few plates, a few leaves with minor spotting or soiling.) 19th-century quarter brown morocco, spines gilt (some light rubbing or wear to corners and extremities). Provenance: The Oriental Club (gilt stamps to foot of spines, bookplates, and small stamps to a few leaves).
FIRST EDITION. Bruce of Kinnaird had studied Arabic and Ethiopic and was British Consul at Algiers. Believing the source of the Nile to be somewhere in Abyssinia, Bruce travelled from the Red Sea coast (near present day Eritrea) and reached Gondar where he spent three years at the royal court. By 1770 he had jointed an expeditionary force which brought him within reach of his goal -- to the spring south of Lake Tana form which the Blue Nile rises -- and was forever convinced this was the source of the main Nile. He remained in the Sudan and Egypt until returning to Scotland in 1773, but disillusioned by the reception he received there did not publish his journals until 1790. It is however "one of the most splendid narratives in the literature of African explorations" (Hallett, Africa to 1815).
[In Volume I:]
On front flyleaf Vol. I (possibly inserted at an early date) is an unsigned late 18th- or early 19th-century autograph manuscript relating the circumstances of James Bruce’s death. 2 pages, 4to, foremargin chipping and trimmed with some loss to text on page one. “On the 26th of April 1791, Mr Bruce entertained [some?] company at Kinnaird House with his usual Hospitality [&] Elegance. About eight o’clock in the Evening when [the] guests were ready to depart, he was handing one of the Ladies down stairs, when having reach’d the seventh or eighth step from the bottom his foot slipped, & he fell down headlong…[he] expired on Sunday the 27th, the 64th year of his life.” Also describes Bruce’s enduring reputation and describes his contributions to Thaddeus Mason Harris’s Natural History of the Bible. Blackmer 221; Hilmy I:91; Nissen ZBI 617.