Jul 30, 2020 - Sale 2543

Sale 2543 - Lot 308

Price Realized: $ 3,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,500
Anscher [aka Anszer], Abram (b. 1845) African Expedition, Autograph Manuscript. 295 loose octavo format leaves inscribed on both sides, an unpublished and unrecorded account, organized as a letter; [together with] five additional letters, more than 38,000 words; the main work addressed to Edith Delia Rogalski Roe (1864-1946), with other letters addressed to Edith's husband as of 1885, Israel Jackson Roe (1857-1926), her parents, Samuel (1836-1922) and Sarah Rogalski (1845-1897), and her brother Benny (born ca. 1865); written in brown ink, in a largely legible hand; describing adventures in Africa including big game hunting; trekking through the desert; interactions with local indigineous people (including royalty), and white missionaries, traders, and hunters; ethnographic, botanical, geological, and zoological observations, and more, by turns dramatic and amusing, interspersed with personal recollections of family and home, (Mariampol, in Suwalki, Poland, modern Lithuania), cultural and religious notes (Anscher and the Rogalskis were Polish-speaking Jewish immigrants to Chicago), and accounts of earlier adventures in Colorado, Utah, the California gold fields, and elsewhere; each page in a sheet protector, housed in two three-ring binders; a complete transcription is available upon request, 8 1/2 x 5 1/4 in. South & Central Africa, April 3, 1883-January 17, 1884.

Additional Details

Anscher's exciting account of his adventures in Matabeleland, the Transvaal, along the Zambezi River, and beyond contain many details of great interest. The vignettes are dramatically delivered. An immense boa constrictor drops out of the treetops, strangling a springbok before his eyes; he finds a five year old girl with a broken leg, the only survivor of a village massacre, sets her leg, nurses her for a month, and eventually conveys her to a missionary station; a young zebra joins the group, incurring the jealousy of the team's dogs; a large lizard is trained to sleep in a tent (after his teeth are removed, for safety); lions kill oxen; Anscher meets a mother and father who have walked 300 miles to reclaim their two teen-aged enslaved sons from a local chief. "But neither the man's looks nor ornaments excited the smallest emotion in the bosom of the chief, and when he was solicited by one who felt something of a father's love to pity the old man who had walked so far and brought his all to purchase his own children, he at last replied with a sneer that one of the boys died last year and for the other he wants an ox at least. 'But I have not even a goat,' pleaded the old man, 'the Matabele have taken all I had and destroyed my hut.' A sigh, it was a heavy sigh, burst from his bosom, one dead and the other not permitted to see anymore. The chief walked off while the man sat leaning his head on the palm of his hand, and his eye fixed on the ground, apparently lost to everything but his grief. On taking up his trinkets to retire, I told him to keep up a good heart, that I would try to get him his boy. He started at the sound of my voice, kneeled before me and laid down his trinket saying, 'take all this, but get me back my boy.' I got him his boy for a colored blanket and 1 lb. of tobacco."

When sad and homesick, Anscher recalls his time in Chicago. He also makes many references to the Jewish faith, enjoys recounting old stories from the Talmud and the Torah, and complaining about the Christian missionaries in Africa. "Mr. Row is a Protestant missionary, and though he is anything but a bigoted zealot, or an infallible religious ass, as the majority of his cloth are yet for the sake of an easy life and comfortable provision for old age, has chosen the path of the missionary, where he is able to profess one thing and think and practice another. There are but too many men in this world of unreasonable beliefs, who by theological impositions are able to prey and flourish upon popular ignorance."

Anscher's trail goes cold after January of 1884, when this massive missive was put in the post. He was heading deeper into the interior of Africa, up the Zambezi. He was also working on a journal, and taking photographs; the existence of any other material, and his ultimate fate, are currently unknown. A complete transcription of the manuscript is available upon request.