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Discusses Unannounced Exploration Plans and his Colossal Vienna Exhibit
Manuscript signed letter by Emil Holub dated 8/9, the day before leaving London for Vienna, therefore penned on 9 August 1889 as he was just beginning preparations for his grand exhibition in Prater Park which opened in May 1891. His correspondence describes the magnitude of the collection to be displayed, mentions the books which he was currently working on, and reveals little-known plans for another expedition to Africa. 8vo. 2 pages in a fine cursive hand. Double leaf letterhead with Holub's home address printed to top right margin, 55 De Beauvoir Road in London, watermarked 'Jordan Superfine', and measuring approximately 12 x 20 cm. An important correspondence for any Africana collection. The recipient of this letter is Erwin Arnold, renowned journalist and poet, also Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Telegraph, who arranged the journey of H.M. Stanley to Africa to discover the course of the Congo River, on behalf of the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph in conjunction with the New York Herald. [Stanley named a mountain after him.] In this correspondence, Emil Holub divulges his plans for a most ambitious fourth expedition to unexplored regions of the Congo and South Africa, specifically to Matoka in the Congo and some uncharted regions inhabited by the Mashukulumbe people. Owing to an extended bout with malaria and other diseases contracted in Africa, and possibly also financial struggles, Holub did not undertake the expedition. He did, however, in 1891, present a spectacular and highly successful scientific exhibition of over 13,000 specimens collected during his 10 years of African travels. Holub also refers to the making of his book, which would be published in Germany the following year, and the loss of 18 of his personal diaries which were taken by tribal men from his camp at the village of Galulonga in August 1886. Excerpts from the letter: "I have given up the idea to cross the A. [African] Continent from South to Luanda or to Zanzibar...." [footnote] "... at present not difficult to perform as the traders coming from South and the Central coasts with whom you may travel, meet on the Zambezi," "...for the sake of an exploration of the northern Matoka and the Mashukulumbe - countries which have not been visited by Europeans before." "The scientific results of the expedition... researches and collections in Natural History and ethnology might turn out to be the largest brought out from Africa by any expedition. These objects fill 154 cases and will take at least 18 months of time to have... everything ready for an Exhibition." "It was my intention to deal of every one of the branches of science to which I have devoted my labour during the journey in a separate volume, but the loss of 18 of my diaries at Galulonga makes this for some of these branches difficult." End Excerpts. Having travelled extensively in south central Africa gathering varied and valuable natural history collections, Holub returned to Austria in 1887 with an enormous collection of great scientific interest, with mammals, birds, ethnographic specimens, and much more. Indeed, this was the largest exhibition of African artifacts and animals at that time in Europe. Beginning in May of 1891, in Prater park, Vienna, Holub exhibited his monumental collection of some 13,000 specimens gathered on his expedition of 1883-1886, as well as those previously gathered in the 1870s, drawing the attention of numerous men of science, as well as the public. One year later the collection was transferred to Prague. The collection was later distributed amongst museums, scientific institutions and schools. At the same time as he was preparing for the exhibition, and at the time of this letter, Holub was writing his second book of travels (a German work describing his explorations in Africa 1883-1887), publishing papers for various societies and journals, and lecturing in Austria, Germany, England and France. In 1890, Holub published a two-volume work titled "Von der Capstadt ins Land der Maschukulumbe: Reisen im südlichen Afrika in den Jahren 1883-1887" [From Cape Town to the Land of the Maschukulumbe: Travels in southern Africa in the years 1883-1887]. Explorer Emil Holub (1847-1902) was eminently qualified to undertake travel in the Africa of his day. He was a doctor of medicine, a zoologist, a botanist, a hunter and taxidermist, an artist and cartographer, an avid collector of specimens and, above all, a keen observer. Where Livingstone broke new ground Holub followed to consolidate, to record, to add detail to the broad canvas painted by his eminent predecessor. He first arrived at the Cape in 1872. Dr Holub accumulated funds to allow him to make his three long expeditions from 1873 to 1879, by treating patients on the diamond fields. He collected a large number of ethnological specimens which were exhibited in Vienna after his return to that country in 1879. Emil Holub's compelling ambition was to follow in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone and, specifically, to reach Luanda by way of the Zambesi valley and across Angola. That he failed in his principle objective does not diminish his stature as a traveller-explorer nor, indeed, the fascination which modern readers will derive from his meticulous accounts of the journeys, the third of which took him to the upper reaches of the Zambesi River. He returned from his second trip to Southern Africa (1883-1887) with numerous collections which he displayed at an African Exhibition in Vienna in 1891 and in Prague in 1892. This was the largest Exhibition of African artifacts and animals at that time in Europe, and to this day probably the largest of its kind in Central Europe. It took 72 railroad cars to transport the exhibits from Vienna to Prague which included 513 stuffed, wild animals, 2,300 stuffed birds, 3,000 snakes and thousands of plants. In addition, there were replicas of African Villages to admire in their original size, complete with life-size models of African warriors. Most of the archaeological and anthropological items were donated after the exhibition by Holub to various museums around the world - they can be seen today in St. Petersburg, London, Madrid and Copenhagen. A total of 580 institutions world-wide received material from Holub. Holub is perhaps the best-known of Czech explorers, and made vast contributions to public understanding of Africa in the latter half of the 19th century.
      [Bookseller: Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts]
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