Livingstone's lost letters revealed
February 4, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

For 140 years rare manuscripts that record the private thoughts and opinions of David Livingstone, the Victorian explorer and missionary, were hidden from the public eye due to their fragile condition and frequently indecipherable text. Today a trans-Atlantic academic and scientific team, launches a major project with the publication of Livingstone's Letter from Bambarre – a spectrally-imaged 'lost' letter from Livingstone's final African expedition, written to his friend and future biographer Horace Waller.
posted by notsnot (4 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Very nice! I've been part of another project that's digitising some of Livingstone's letters (those to his publisher), and I can testify that his handwriting is scrawly as anything. Still a treat to read, though!
posted by Catseye at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2011

Through careful editing, therefore, Waller secured Livingstone's place in British iconography as a saint and champion of the oppressed but he was economical with the truth when it came to the man himself.

I live around the corner from Livingstone's birthplace, and was fed a strong dose of Livingstone hagiography in school history classes. It always made him seem flat and uninteresting in a cardboard-cutout Victorian explorer kind of way. The new documents look like they provide a different perspective on him that might help draw a more rounded and interesting portrait. I haven't been to the Livingstone Centre for years, but it might be time to take another peek.
posted by Jakey at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2011

Interesting reading, thanks for the post. I happen to live a few blocks from Livingstone College, a black college in North Carolina named after him.
posted by pappy at 2:15 PM on February 4, 2011

Thanks for this. It's fascintating. I certainly didn't realise how extremely ill he was.
"Livingstone was suffering the aftermath of dysentery, fever, pneumonia, and horrific tropical eating ulcers on his feet and legs, which ate through muscle, tendons and bone. His old complaint – severe blood loss from chronic prolapsed haemorrhoids – exacerbated his weak condition."
posted by Lezzles at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2011

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