The production and publication of Captain Henry Butler's South African Sketches (1841)
Studies in Travel Writing, 12, (2), . (doi:10.3197/136451408X329734).
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This essay examines the circumstances surrounding the compilation and publication of Captain Henry Butler's South African Sketches (1841). Focusing on documentary evidence relating to the production, distribution and reception of this illustrated book of hunting scenes, the essay argues for the importance of considering the context and mechanics of publication in assessing the book, its physical appearance and content and, ultimately, its place in nineteenth-century travel writing about the British Empire.
The role of the author in mediating the content of the book in the course of the production process is explored through the correspondence that was exchanged between Butler and Ackermann, his publisher. Butler's correspondence also indicates how the demands and concerns of a prospective readership influenced the work.
The essay concludes by placing the information about subscriptions, production costs and distribution in the wider context of the market for illustrated books of hunting scenes in the period. Butler's book was only one among many that explored and reflected the hunting prospects, landscape scenes and political circumstances of southern Africa in the nineteenth century. However, as an illustrated travel book that was an item of conspicuous consumption with a clearly defined readership, it is an important representative example that yields much information for students of travel writing in an imperial and colonial context.
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