LIVINGSTONE (DAVID)  Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to the Editor of the Times, 25 January no year [1857]

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Lot 99
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to the Editor of the Times, denouncing attempts by George Routledge and other unscrupulous publishers to cash in on his fame and declaring that only the volume to be published by John Murray will give a true account of his recent travels, 57 Sloane Street, London, [?] 25 January no year [1857]

Sold for £ 3,500 (US$ 4,210) inc. premium
Property of a descendant of Robert Cooke, David Livingstone's publisher
Autograph letter signed ("David Livingstone"), to the Editor of the Times, denouncing attempts by George Routledge and other unscrupulous publishers to cash in on his fame and declaring that only the volume to be published by John Murray will give a true account of his recent travels (" Advertisement signed ʻGeorge Routledge and Co Farringdon St.' which seems to be an unblushing attempt on the part of a publisher to get money by false pretences. It purports to be ʻLIVINGSTON'S' discoveries in central Africa with a map revised by himself.' Now as I am engaged in writing a narrative of my own travels and discoveries with the hope that the profits of the work may assist in the education of my children... it does seem hard to think of Messrs Routledge and Co. coming forward and by a barefaced public lie try to filtch the profits out of our hands..."); he goes on to explain that "I have all along felt extremely anxious to give a truthful account of the new region, and am now, though certainly no adept in book making, giving my entire time to a work to be published by Mr Murray of Albermarle St in which I hope the reader will have presented to him the very ideas which were formed in my own mind in passing through the country" and that he has revised no map but that "Mr Arrowsmith is engaged on one which will have my sanction"; ending with the tirade: "In Africa we are often troubled by hyaenas – low, dastardly, greedy hideous brutes – much given to cowardly filtching, when very troublesome at Kolobeng I used to bait a gun with a piece of meat at the end of our house and the fools shot themselves. Now if you will kindly publish this note in the ʻTimes' I am sure your paper will perform the service of the baited gun for every one will soon know that my travels are not published by Routledge & Co..."; marked at the head in pencil "Never sent", 6 pages, light dust-staining but overall in good and attractive condition, 4to, 57 Sloane Street, London, [?] 25 January no year [1857]


  • ʻI AM ENGAGED IN WRITING A NARRATIVE OF MY OWN TRAVELS AND DISCOVERIES' – Livingstone begins work on Missionary Travels, and takes the occasion to attack the "hyaenas – low, dastardly, greedy hideous brutes" wanting to cash in on his fame, especially Messrs George Routledge with their Narrative of Dr. Livingston's Discoveries in South-Central Africa, From 1849 to 1856. Reprinted By Arrangement from the "British Banner" Newspaper. With an Accurate Map (1857). In the event of course, his own book became what is widely regarded as the best-selling and most influential journal of exploration of the Victorian age. (In the words of Printing and the Mind of Man, ʻThe geographical results of his journeys were of supreme importance, and made it possible to fill in great stretches of the maps of Central Africa which hitherto had been blank'.)

    Livingstone had returned from his great west-east traversal of Africa a few months earlier and found himself a national hero: ʻDuring the time Livingstone spent in England, between December 1856 and March 1858, he received a measure of praise and adulation which, even in view of his impressive geographical achievements, strikes one today as excessive, The Royal Geographical Society gave him their gold medal, as did most other similar organisations on the Continent, he was granted the freedoms of half a dozen major cities, became an honorary D.C.L. of Oxford University and finally had a private audience with Queen Victoria... After a few months he was so well known in London that he had to be careful where he went in case he was mobbed. On one occasion he narrowly escaped being crushed by a large crowd in Regent Street. In church, if he was recognized, the service would break up in chaos, with people clambering over the pews to try and shake his hand' (Tim Jeal, Livingstone, 1973 (1993), p.163).

    Even before his return from Africa, he had been approached by Roderick Murchison, President of the RGS, who told him that the country's leading firm of geographical publishers, Murray's, was eager to publish an account of his work in Africa, a formal proposal being put to him three days after his arrival by the head of the firm John Murray III (who only two years later was to add further lustre to his firm's reputation by publishing Darwin's Origin of Species).

    The terms offered Livingstone were unusually generous. On 5 January Murray told him that although it was standard practice to divide any profit equally, he offered in this instance to undertake the entire cost of publication, including the engraving of illustrations and maps, in return for only one-third of the profits (rather than the usual half). On 19 January, Murray wrote again, offering Livingstone a two thousand guinea advance on his share of the profits. He ʻalso noted that the firm would be on hand to provide "literary assistance," an indication perhaps that Murray was all too aware that explorers were rarely naturally gifted writers' (Louise Henderson, ʻPublishing Livingstone's Missionary Travels', Livingstone Online, 2015).

    Livingstone began work on the book in late January. Meanwhile other publishers were increasingly keen to cash in on the hero's fame: ʻBoth Livingstone and Murray were becoming increasingly frustrated by attempts both within and beyond Britain to produce rival volumes. Each of these piracies claimed to be the product of Livingstone's hand or to have his full consent although these claims could not have been further from the truth. Both men worried that these projected publications would undermine the popularity of Missionary Travels when it was finally published and that they would also result in inaccurate claims about Africa being wrongly attributed to Livingstone. They were so worried about such eventualities that they went to lengths to dissuade the public from taking these works seriously, utilising letters columns, book adverts and even the space of the finished published volume itself to draw attention to the wrongdoings of less respectable publishing houses' (Henderson).

    A similar, if less unguarded, attack on unauthorised publishers was to be made in a preface to Missionary Travels which was, however, abandoned before publication (Livingstone Online, liv:003010). Routledge's spurious Narrative did, as feared, appear before Missionary Travels; but it did not, as feared, have any detrimental effect on the sales of Murray's volumes, which when it did appear on the shelves on 10 November were phenomenal and which did more than enough to provide for Livingstone's family.

    To judge from its provenance, this letter was sent to Murray's rather than directly to the Times and, to judge from its docket ("Never sent"), was suppressed; although we have not as yet been able to ascertain the exact wording of the letter of protest that was published in the paper on 28 January.
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