William Cornwallis Harris

Harris was commissioned in the Bombay Engineers in 1823, promoted captain in 1834 and major in 1836. Invalided to South Africa for two years, on the voyage out he joined up with Richard Williamson, a Bombay civil servant, deciding to undertake a big game hunting expedition.

Harris journeyed to the Meritsane River where he encountered a herd of quaggas and brindled gnoos he estimated at 15,000 head. He bagged eland and was attacked by lion in the region. Crossing the Mariqua River, he hunted ostrich and white rhinoceros. Entering the Cashan Mountains, he collected elephant, the proceeded to the Limpopo Valley where he hunted buffalo and hippopotamus, with additional sport after giraffe, black rhinoceros, sable, and lion. Harris's work is valuable as it presents a detailed picture of the South African game fields prior to the growing pressure of civilization.

Howgego remarks that "Although primarily a hunting expedition, Harris covered much ground not seen before by Europeans, and on his way to the Vaal discovered the source of the Marique River, one of the head-waters of the Limpopo."

Mendelssohn draws attention to the two chapters on the Great Trek and the interesting map exhibiting the relative positions of the emigrant farmers and the native tribes.

Harris wrote an account of his hunting expedition, which is considered to be the first record of an African safari.

Harris' account was first published in Bombay in 1838, and I do not own a copy, as they are very scarce.

Narrative of an Expedition into Southern Africa, during the Years 1836, and 1837

from the Cape of Good Hope, Through the Territories of the Chief Moselekatse, to the Tropic of Capricorn

with a Sketch of the Recent Emigration of the Border Colonists

and a Zoological Appendix

Bombay : printed At the American Mission Press, 1838

Octavo. Lithographic frontispiece, and three other similar plates, folding lithographic map with some outline color, showing the movement of the Voortrekkers in the Great Trek.

The first issue of the first Bombay edition predates the first London edition (below) by a year. It appears there is also another issue of this Bombay edition, with nicer lithographic plates.

Below, for comparison, I include the two different styles of the 4 illustrations.

I suspect the difference in style is between the first and second issue of the Bombay 1838 edition.

The plates with double line borders are the later issue format, as in the copy in the Strange Collection and as illustrated in Volume One of 'The Catalogue of Prints in The Africana Museum' by R.F. Kennedy, 1975. 

The Bombay 1838 edition map

Below: another set of photos of the later issue illustrations (I found these on the Internet)

The Wild Sports of Southern Africa

Being the Narrative of an Expedition from the Cape of Good Hope

Through the Territories of the Chief Moselekatse to the Tropic of Capricorn

London : John Murray, 1839

The copy pictured below is in my collection

This copy is the nicest copy I have ever seen, without foxing

Some of the illustrations found in my 1839 copy of the London first edition

The map found at the end of the London first edition

My copy of the 1839 British first edition is for sale at $450

Contact Me if you are interested. 

The Wild Sports of Southern Africa

Being the Narrative of an Expedition from the Cape of Good Hope

Through the Territories of the Chief Moselekatse to the Tropic of Capricorn

London : Pelham Richardson, 1844, 4th edition

My copy of this rare edition is rebacked in the original red cloth binding, which is even more uncommon

The London 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions are preferred over the London first edition due to numerous color plates (the first edition has fewer plates, and none are colored)

Frontispiece and illustrated title-page

Second Title-Page


rebound copy of the London first edition, which is lacking 2 plates, though they are supplied in facsimile