The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a pair of perspectives on the customs of peoples of West Africa, works by Jules Verne on African travel, replete with richly detailed illustrations, and much more.
Trade and Travels in the Gulph of Guinea, Western Africa, with an Account of the Manners, Habits, Customs, and Religion of the Inhabitants (1851)
By John Smith
John Smith was a 19th-century surgeon and trading captain “to one of the first mercantile houses in England.” Smith made several voyages to West Africa where he came into “contact with a great number of the inhabitants” and “witnessed some extraordinary scenes.”
Though well-traveled, Smith’s own cultural assumptions are prominent in his account. In explaining his focus on a single West African country, Smith writes, “the inhabitants of one nation…will really include a description of many others, inasmuch as those different barbarous countries on the West Coast very nearly resemble each other in their customs, morals, and manners.”
The author regrets the occasion of some coarse expressions and allusions to be found in this work; but, as the people he gives an account of are in so debased a state as to render the conveying anything like a correct notion of them otherwise, impossible, he deems any farther apology unnecessary.
Smith’s cultural bias, in this case specifically his religious belief, is also displayed in the introduction to a chapter on myths: