FRY, WILLIAM ELLERTON. 1846-1930. "Occupation of Mashonaland," album containing 159 woodburytype prints (10 of which mounted as 2-part panoramas) on 41 leaves, letterpress captions below, folio (450 x 290 mm; images mostly 6 x 7¾ inches), 1891, original half morocco, upper cover gilt lettered, copyright notice pasted on front pastedown, inner hinges strengthened, rubbed.
One of as few as twelve copies of this work covering a key moment in the Scramble for Africa. In 1888 Cecil Rhodes had negotiated a treaty with King Lobengula of Matabeleland and Mashonaland, now parts of Zimbabwe. The treaty granted Rhodes the rights to mining and administration of the King's territories, although his intention had always been to occupy and annex the land. The Pioneer Column was assembled to this end, and marched 400 miles from modern Botswana into Zimbabwe, armed with rifles, field guns, machine guns and a large steam-powered electric searchlight - literally shining light into "darkest Africa."
Amongst the party was Frederick Selous, the explorer and hunter. Having spent over a decade shooting game and collecting specimens in the region, he was perfectly placed to act as guide and chief of intelligence to the Pioneer Column. (A Vanity Fair portrait of Selous is included in the lot.) Selous's assistant was William Ellerton Fry, who had spent almost twenty years in South Africa, initially as a farmer, and later as an astronomer. He was to be the official photographer to the Mashonaland Pioneer Column, and his reports of the expedition were published in The Graphic, concluding that "this magnificent plateau of Mashonaland ... is undoubtedly in every way adapted for European civilization."
Fry's photographs depict various military groups, the camp at Mafeking, ruins and views on the Crocodile River, the aforementioned floodlight, the camp and review at Macloutsie, laagers or wagon-forts, Matabele people, crossing several rivers, group of kaffirs, Chief Chibi, Mashona kraal, Mashonas bartering, baobab trees, trophy hippopotamus, inside kaffir kraal, Forts Victoria, Charter, and Salisbury, Khama Chief of the Bamangwatos and members of his family. A sequence of images covers the ruins of Great Zimbabwe which date from the eleventh century. J. Theodore Bent carried out the first detailed examination of the ruins almost immediately after Rhodes's expedition.
"Fry's photographs show the leader and and officers of the Pioneer Column and portray the strength of their expedition ... an orderly force in an unknown landscape" (Ryan, Picturing Empire). A very rare work, an inscription in the Bulawayo Public Library copy stating that the print run was only a dozen copies.
Provenance: Hugh C. MacDougall, US diplomat in Mozambique and Tanzania (bookplate).