'a model of what a work on primitive races should be, and how the subject should be treated' (sir clements r. markham)
WHIFFEN, Thomas William. The North-West Amazons. Notes of Some Months Spent among Cannibal Tribes. London, Constable, 1915.
8vo. Original dark-blue cloth, boards ruled in blind, spine ruled and lettered in gilt, top edges trimmed, others uncut; pp. [2 (blank)], xvii, [1 (blank)], 319, [1 (blank)]; half-tone frontispiece, 54 half-tone plates, 3 maps, one folding, and 2 large folding maps by Stanford's Geographical Establishment after Whiffen, illustrations in the text, some full-page; extremities lightly rubbed and bumped, light offsettiing onoto free endpapers, scattered, generally light spotting, otherwise a very good copy in the original cloth.
First edition. An account of travels through the Amazon in 1908-1909 by the soldier and traveller Captain Thomas Whiffen, FRGS, FRAI, which is dedicated 'to the memory of the late Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace O.M.' (p. [v]). Whiffen explains the background to the book in his introductory chapter: 'In the spring of 1908, having been among the Unemployed on the Active List for nearly two years on account of ill-health, and wearying not only of enforced inactivity but also perhaps of civilisation, I decided to go somewhere and see something of a comparatively unknown and unrecorded corner of the world. My mind reverted to pleasant days spent in the lesser known parts of East Africa, and at this moment I happened to come across Dr. Russel Wallace's delightful Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro. His spirited adventures, and the unique character of the country through which he passed and the peoples he met, fascinated me. I thought of attempting to complete his unfinished journey up the Uaupes River, and imagined I would be able to secure in South America all the instruments and materials such an expedition required. There lay my initial error. My inability to obtain anything of the sort hampered me in scientific research, so that these chapters must simply be regarded as impressions and studies of native ways and doings, noted by a temporary dweller in their midst. Difference of technique, industry, ability, and scientific knowledge may in the light of future investigations reveal errors or misapprehensions that must bring me into conflict with those who may go there better equipped and with greater understanding. But in any critical appraisement it must be remembered that these tribes are changing day by day, and every year that passes will increase the difference between the Amazonian native as I knew him and as he may be when studied by my successors. So far as in me lies, I have here set forth an account of what he was when I travelled in his forest solitudes and fastnesses' (pp. 1-2).
Whiffen's work was well-received on publication, and Sir Clements R. Markham's conclusion of his review in Man characterises this: '[Whiffen's] book is a model of what a work on primitive races should be, and how the subject should be treated. The results of most careful, persevering, and judicious studies on the spot have been put together and presented to the reader with quite unusual ability and skill' (vol. XVI, p. 76).