Book Review

By Peter Dignan

To own a copy of Hans Meyer’s book detailing the first ascent of Kilimanjaro you either had to have at least £2000 to buy the English edition or there was always the choice of purchasing the German edition for around £200. This has changed and the book is now available through Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Prints for under £40.

The book gives a great insight into the East Africa of the late 1800’s, from the hustle and bustle of Zanzibar to the tribes of the Kilimanjaro region. Meyer’s talent is in the detail and the book takes the reader on a descriptive journey over land, from the coast of what is now Kenya to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

The book details the western history of Kilimanjaro and documents the first two failed attempts Meyer made before returning for his triumphant summit bid in 1889. The text is accompanied by 40 illustrations and photos from the expedition, it also includes 3 maps of Kilimanjaro created in 1889 by Meyer.

Like many explorers of his generation Meyer was motivated by political reasons as much as exploring for the sake of exploring. He was a geographer by trade and there is a large section of the book entitled Geography & Commercial Prospects. In this section Meyer details everything from the rock formations of Kilimanjaro to the prospects of trade with the indigenous peoples of East Africa.

The Appendix of the book gives a detailed list of everything Meyer took with him on the expedition, everything he collected on the expedition and a lot of other meticulous information relating to the adventure. Like many of his generation Meyer was a stickler for detail and because of this the book gives a very detailed account of the expedition.

Overall the book is worthy read for those interested in Kilimanjaro or African exploration from the 1800’s. The book is typical of exploration books of the period in the way that the western world viewed the African continent for the taking but we can see through Meyers writing that he had a lot of respect for the local people and tribes unlike many of his counterparts from the same period. Hans Meyer was a geographer, a mountaineer and a good story teller and his book can now be enjoyed by new generation.

Author's Bio: 

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience. Whether it is for charity, pleasure or personal achievement Lava Expeditions can quote your climb Kilimanjaro costs and you'll be on your way to the top of the world!