Guide to the Sarah Bowdich Lee Manuscript on African History and Geography, 1830s


Sarah Wallis Bowdich Lee was an English naturalist, author, and illustrator. This collection consists of an untitled, apparently unpublished, 1830s manuscript (439 pages) about African exploration, history, geography, and culture.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Sarah Bowdich Lee manuscript on African history and geography
Lee, R., Mrs., 1791-1856
0.5 Linear Feet, 1 box; 439 pages
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

Collection consists of one untitled holograph manuscript (439 pages) written by Sarah Bowdich Lee discussing African history, exploration, geography, and culture. It appears to date from the 1830s, and was apparently never published. The pages are grouped into loosely bound signatures, with no title page or binding for the text.

Lee's manuscript is an untitled work on Africa that is a survey of European knowledge of the continent as of approximately 1830. It does not appear that Lee saw many of the nations she describes. She writes that she selected many of the "details from the narratives of those whose names alone inspire confidence." The manuscript's watermarks date between 1814 and 1828.

The first portion of the manuscript (about pages 1-100) recount African history, exploration, and colonization. The second portion of the text discusses African regions and kingdoms, including Egypt (114, including a description of the ancient pyramids and tombs, and contemporary Muslim inhabitants); Nubia and Sudan (141; includes a description of local wildlife, population, and the slave trade); Abyssinia (165); the Red Sea (180); Darfur and Kordo-far (188; unicorns are mentioned on 194); Cyrenaica (207); Tripoli (216); Fezzan (225); Bornou (240); Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco (283); Senegal (297, includes descriptions of French colonization, the gum trade, Baobob trees, and wildlife); Gambia (306, including descriptions of the British settlement Bathurst); Sierra Leone (322); Ashantee (340); Dahomey (355, including a description of the king and his court); Gabon (381); Congo (388); Portuguese Angola; Cape of Good Hope (399, including a description of Cape Town); and the African islands of Mauritius, Madagascar, Madeira, the Canaries, and others.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Sarah Bowdich Lee Manuscript on African History and Geography, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

(1 items, 439 pages)
Box 1

Historical Note

English author, illustrator, traveller, zoologist, botanist, and pteridologist.

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The Sarah Bowdich Lee Manuscript was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1975.

Processing Information

Processed by Meghan Lyon, February 2016