The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805, by Mungo Park


The original documents relating to Mr. Mungo Park’s last mission into Africa having been entrusted to the Directors of the African Institution by the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, with liberty to publish them, in case they should deem it expedient; the Directors now avail themselves of this permission, by publishing the papers for the benefit of Mr. Park’s family.

These documents, together with other papers furnished by Mr. Park’s connections and friends, which also form a part of the present publication, consist of the following particulars:

1. The original Journal of the expedition, officially transmitted by Mr. Park to the Secretary of State; containing several of Mr. Park’s drawings and sketches, illustrative of particular descriptions, which are copied in this publication.

2. The Journal, as translated from the Arabic language, in which it was originally composed, of Isaaco, a native African, commissioned in the year 1810, by the Governor of Senegal, to go in search of Mr. Park and ascertain his fate; which Journal was likewise officially transmitted to the Secretary of State.

3. A Memoir delivered by Mr. Park at the Colonial Office in the year 1804, relative to the plan and objects of the intended expedition into Africa; together with the Official Instructions which he received for his guidance; and two letters addressed by him to the Secretary of State, one, written shortly after his arrival at the Coast of Africa, and the other, at the time of transmitting his Journal, previously to his final embarkation on the Niger.

4. Several private letters of Mr. Park, principally written during the time he was engaged in this mission; which, together with the documents included under the last mentioned head, have been incorporated into the Account of Mr. Park’s Life, which is prefixed to the Journal.

It has before been stated, that the official papers are published under the authority of the Directors of the African Institution. It may be proper to add, that the individual, who has undertaken to prepare this work for the press, is alone responsible for the publication of the private letters, and for whatever else is contained in this volume, besides the official documents.

Of the papers before enumerated, the most important, and the only one which calls for any particular observation, is Mr. Park’s own Journal; respecting which, it may be necessary to apprize the reader that it was written without the slightest view to publication, being intended only (as he informed the Secretary of State, by his letter of the 17th of November, 1805) “to recall to his own recollection other particulars illustrative of the manners and customs of the natives, which would have swelled the communication to a most unreasonable size.” The work, therefore, which is now submitted to the public, can be considered in no other light than as the mere outline of a much more extended and detailed narrative, which it was the author’s intention to prepare for the press after his return to England.

A work, thus imperfect, and which the unfortunate fate of its author has prevented from being brought to a completion, is entitled to peculiar indulgence; and if those allowances are made, which candour and justice require, the editor confidently hopes, that Mr. Park’s Journal will not disappoint the public expectation. It will be found to contain several interesting particulars concerning Africa, not hitherto known, and to illustrate and confirm, in various material respects, some of the most important discoveries communicated in Mr. Park’s former Travels. It bears strong internal marks of truth and fidelity; and, perhaps, the very nakedness and simplicity of its descriptions and its minute details of petty circumstances, may be thought by some readers to convey a more accurate and distinct conception of the process of an African journey, and of the difficulties with which such expeditions are attended, than a more elaborate and polished narrative.

With a view of rendering the present publication more complete, and of gratifying in a certain degree that reasonable curiosity, which will naturally be felt by many readers of this Journal and the former Travels, it has been thought advisable to add a biographical Memoir of the Author. But as the events of Mr. Park’s life, with the exception of those contained in the works just alluded to, are few and unimportant, the editor has been induced, in the course of this undertaking, to deviate occasionally into other topics, more or less connected with the principal subject; in the discussion of which he has inadvertently exceeded the limits which he had originally assigned to himself. This circumstance has added considerably to the length of the Memoir and its Appendix; for which, he would willingly believe, that the interest belonging to the topics themselves, will be deemed a sufficient apology.

In preparing this Memoir, the editor naturally applied for information to Mr. Park’s family, and was much gratified by discovering, that some materials, with a view to a similar undertaking, had been collected by a brother-inlaw of Mr. Park, Mr. Archibald Buchanan of Glasgow; who, on being made acquainted with the editor’s intention, immediately and with the greatest candour, transmitted to him the whole of his papers.

These materials have been of great use in preparing the Memoir; in which the editor has likewise been assisted by much useful information which he has received from another brother-inlaw of Mr. Park, Mr. James Dickson, whose name will occur in the course of the ensuing Memoir; and also from Mr. Park’s two brothers, Mr. Adam Park of Gravesend, and Mr. Alexander Park of Selkirk, the latter of whom is unfortunately since dead.

The editor is likewise greatly indebted to Major Rennell and to Zachary Macaulay, Esq. for several interesting particulars concerning Mr. Park; and to the latter in particular, for much valuable information relative to the trade of this country with Africa, which will be found in the Appendix to the Memoir.

But his acknowledgments are due, in an especial manner, to Sir Joseph Banks; who has not only favoured the editor with the fullest communication of his correspondence with Mr. Park, and of his papers relating to this subject, but has in every other respect assisted and promoted the present undertaking with a kindness and liberality, proportioned to his sincere and constant friendship for Mr. Park, and to his uniform zeal for whatever he considers to be in any degree connected with useful knowledge and scientific discovery.

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It remains only to say a few words respecting the Map, which is prefixed to this publication. The readers of Mr. Park’s former Travels are already apprized, that the map which accompanied that work, was constructed by Major Rennell, whose interesting Geographical Memoir in illustration of Mr. Park’s first journey, was also annexed to the quarto edition. It would have been highly gratifying to the editor of this work, and most satisfactory to the public, if the same valuable assistance could have been obtained on the present occasion. But unfortunately, Major Rennell’s other engagements rendered this wholly impracticable. He had the kindness, however, to furnish the editor with some notes which he had taken, and with a construction of part of Mr. Park’s route in 1805, which he had traced out from the Journal now published, when it was formerly submitted to his inspection.

These papers together with Mr. Park’s Journal, were placed in the hands of a respectable artist, employed by the publisher to construct the map intended to illustrate the present work; at whose request the following statement respecting certain difficulties which have occurred in its construction, is subjoined.

“In compiling the map of Mr. Park’s route in 1805, much difficulty has arisen from the bearings of places not being mentioned in the Journal; and also in consequence of there being occasionally great differences between the latitudes and longitudes of places according to the astronomical observations, and the distances computed according to the journies. Considerable pains have been taken to reconcile these differences; but the general result has been, that it was found necessary in adhering to the astronomical observations, to carry Mr. Park’s former route in 1796 farther north, and to place it in a higher latitude than that in which it appears in Major Rennell’s map annexed to the former volume of Travels.”

London, March 1, 1815.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59