Wednesday, November 30, 2022 - 00:00

We are pleased to be able to offer you the recently published Burchell’s African Odyssey. A brief introduction to this book is set out below. It is being offered to JHF members at a cost of R340. Should you be interested in purchasing this, or the Burchell’s Travels book (available on order) kindly contact me telephonically, or by email. Either book would make a wonderful Xmas present!

Barbara | 060 813-3239 | mail@joburgheritage.org.za


Book Cover


William Burchell was an English romantic, man of science and traveller. He came from a horticultural / gardening family. He embarked on an epic four year trek across Africa in a custom made wagon. His journey lasted from 1811 to 1815. He was 29 when he set off from Cape town. He had spent a few years on St Helena but this was his first visit to South Africa. His journey was to the north of Kuruman to Litakun – now Dithakong. It was a remarkable feat of travel and exploration. His objective was to gather specimens of flora and fauna and to document and catalogue all he saw.

His was travel with the purpose of observing, empathetic listening and learning about the landscape and the people he encountered. Burchell was an accomplished artist and sketched and painted in watercolours and oils. His woodcuts are iconic. His collection of 63 000 specimens of plants, bulbs, insects, reptiles and mammals underpinned the modern study of South African zoology and botany. He published his two volume book on his outward journey, called Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa in 1822. His story ended in August 1812. Sadly Burchell never published his book on his return journey from Litakun to Cape Town. Now some 200 years later, Roger Stewart and  Marion Whitehead in their book, Burchell’s African Odyssey, reveal the return journey of 1812-1815.

They walk in the footsteps of Burchell. Their book fills a void and provides an accessible overview of Burchell’s five years of African travel. Most significant of all they have reconstructed the lost three years and meticulously reconstructed the journey complete with superb illustrations. The authors have drawn upon primary and secondary sources, including Burchell’s letters and the detailed map he created to record his trek.

Burchell is again brought to life and emerges as a hero of South Africa. This is a wonderful introduction to Burchell. I found myself reaching for my own 1953 Blatchworth Press edition of the Burchell travels.

It is also a lovely companion volume to Susan Buchanan’s book Burchell’s Travels, the Life, Art and Journeys of William John Burchell, published by Penguin in 2015. The Buchanan book recounted the Burchell travels and sojourn not only in South Africa but also on St Helena, a journey to Brazil and travels in Europe. It offered an overview of Burchell’s long life.

Kathy Munro

Objects Artefacts Books
Wednesday, October 19, 2022 - 21:06

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