Among the things we value most about a book is the author’s intimacy with the subject. Writers often seek to convey their special knowledge straight from the book’s title. Thus, travel writers tend to choose book titles that immediately take thereader to the places described between the covers. Prepositions are particularly important in the titles of travel books. So, in Condé Nast Traveler’s “The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time,” there are lots of “In” books. Think Down and Out in Paris and London, In a Sunburned Country, In Patagonia and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Where rivers are concerned, “On” books also get a look-in, with Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and Florence Nightingale’s posthumously published A Journey on the Nile. We won’t start to list the “To” or “Into” books …
But, if you’re looking for the most evocative preposition of the lot, think no further than “Among”. If you write Among the Hmong or Among the Monkeys, you are straightaway telling the reader that you have been in the midst of, surrounded by and intimate with the subjects: One of them, so to speak. You have shared their cooking pots and their fleas.
We start this month’s list with some outstanding “Among” books: Among the Zulus, Among the Bantu Nomads, African Hunting Among The Thongas and even Loose Among Devils. In J. Tom Brown’s Among the Bantu Nomads, we see “the result of forty years’ study of the people called Bechuana. During those years the writer has lived among them, has observed at first hand some of the customs referred to and has gained knowledge of others through conversations in their own tongue … ” Familiarity may well breed contempt, if George Agnew Chamberlain’s experience in African Hunting Among the Thongas is any indication. Hunting bibliographer Kenneth Czech notes that Chamberlain “admits to thoughts of murdering his gun bearer when the [man] spoiled a shot at a trophy nyala.”
Other books in this month’s list that convey the spirit of places both real and mythical are the beautiful Into Kokerboom Country and the reprint of William Timlin’s The Ship That Sailed to Mars. Timlin must rank second only to J.R.R. Tolkien among great fantasists with South African associations.
A remarkable collection of beautifully illustrated natural history journals is to be discovered in the volumes of Nature Notes, edited by Louisa Bolus and Sidney Skaife. Long runs of the pioneering South African journal are decidedly uncommon. For a small sample of the striking artwork featured, see the pictures in our description.
Intimate knowledge of South Africa’s human inhabitants can be gleaned from the forty-five journals of Familia: Quarterly Journal of the Genealogical Society of South Africa appearing this month. And, if you would like to gain a better appreciation of the works of one of South Africa’s greatest archivists, look out for The Collected Works of C. Graham Botha in Three Volumes, a limited edition.
Roy Campbell made as many enemies as friends. If you want to know why the great South African poet didn’t fit in with the mood of his place and times, read the first edition Flowering Rifle featured in this month’s list. It was Basil Fogarty’s copy, and has his bookplate.
We are pleased to announce that we have a new arrangement for getting South African orders to customers affordably through Fastway Couriers. The door-to-door service offers more than the post office, and is generally cheaper.
This month’s list can be found here:
We hope we have found something for you. As always, it has been good to be among friends.
Lindsay and Wendy
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Christison Rare Books · P O Box 24093 · Sherwood · Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape 6034 · South Africa
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