Antiquarian Auctions

SA Auction #96 begins on 20 Jan 2022

US Auction #10 begins on 09 Feb 2022

David LIVINGSTONE (1813-1873) & Dr. John KIRK (1832-1923). - John LINDLEY.

The Vegetable Kingdom; or, The structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system.

Signed by both Livingstone & Kirk - taken on the Zambezi expedition.

Published: or the Author, by Bradbury & Evans, London, 1846

Edition: 1st

Reserve: $1,500


Estimate: $2500-3500

Bidding opens: 20 Jan 16:30 GMT

Bidding closes: 27 Jan 16:30 GMT

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David LIVINGSTONE (1813-1873) & Dr. John KIRK (1832-1923). - John LINDLEY (1799-1865).

The Vegetable Kingdom; or, The structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system.

London: published for the Author, by Bradbury & Evans, 1846.

Octavo (8 ½ x 5 1/4in; 216 x 133mm). Pp. [v-vii],’vii’, ix-lxviii; [1-]2-93 [94 blank, as usual], 95-908 (probably lacking [i/ii] [a half-title], but this copy with a front blank, and n.b. the frontispiece appears to have been part of pagination [iii/iv]). Wood-engraved frontispiece, numerous wood-engraved illustrations, numerous markings in ink and pencil, occasional notes in ink or pencil.  (Generally very clean, occasional light soiling or staining, pp.803/804 with a small burn-hole with resultant loss of a few characters).

Contemporary stout calf by Henderson  & Bisset of Edinburgh, for publishers/retailers Edmonston & Douglas, covers with triple fillet border in blind, the spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second compartment, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (upper cover detached).

Provenance: Dr. John Kirk (inscribed twice 1. On the title ‘John Kirk M.D. / British Hospital / Dardanelles / 1856’; 2. On the front free endpaper ‘Dr. Kirk / Zambezi Expedition / 1858’); these two inscriptions are each accompanied by David Livingstone’s signature (see images).

An important relic of 19th-century (colonial) exploration of Africa.  First edition of a work which probably started as an aide to a hobby for Dr. Kirk whilst he was in the Dardanelles and became an essential tool once he signed on as 'economic botanist and medical officer’ on Livingstone’s ill-fated Zambezi expedition. It seems to have been well received when it was first published, with a contemporary reviewer noting that no other botanical “work of anything like equal value exists either in our language or in any other” (British & Foreign Medical Review, Oct. 1846, p.555)

It appears that all the notes are by Dr. Kirk. The ink notes and marks were probably made by him during his service at the Renkioi Hospital in the Dardanelles; the penciled notes are probably later and were made during the Zambezi expedition. It is not clear why Livingstone signed the book as well, but to have the signatures of two of the main actors in the drama of the Zambezi expedition of 1858-1864 is very rare and adds considerably to the interest and value of the book. 

Listing of where the notes are to be found:

Penciled notes p.169, 288, 665 [includes ‘not on the Zambezi’), 673 – see images.

Ink notes (poss. Dardanelles?) 309, 411 (including Arabic), 440, 581.

Dr. John Kirk “served as an Assistant Physician in the Crimea in 1855 [and 1856] and on his return to England studied botany under the guidance of Sir William Hooker at Kew. Hooker then recommended him to Livingstone as botanist to the Zambezi expedition in 1857. “ (Christies).

Kirk' is now best known for his photographs, but his original intention seems to have been to employ photographs as aides in his work as the expedition botanist. The “photographs appear to have been produced outside his official duties. Many were for Kirk's own use ('I have a lot of photographs (negatives) in my trunks which are my own things entirely. They illustrate the botany only and would be of use with the Herbarium.' Letter to Alexander Kirk, 2nd May, 1860) or sent to his family and other friends and colleagues at home” (Christies catalogue entry)

The expedition as a whole “was castigated as a failure in many British newspapers of the time, and Livingstone experienced great difficulty in raising further funds to explore Africa. Nevertheless, the scientists appointed to work under Livingstone, John Kirk, Charles Meller, and Richard Thornton did contribute large collections of botanic, ecological, geological and ethnographic material to scientific institutions in the London. Along with Baines's oils and field sketches, Kirk's photographs remain the only substantial visual records of the expedition.” (

  • Binding Condition: Upper cover detached
  • Overall Condition: Acceptable given provenance
  • Size: 8 ½ x 5 1/4in; 216 x 133mm

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