- Translated Bosman Finally Corrected
As the only person on Planet Earth who read every paper in History in Africa, I find it especially invidious to choose only one of them as having a singular impact on my ways of thinking. After due ratiocination I ended up cheating by choosing a "paper" that is almost a book in disguise. This is Albert van Dantzig's ten-year-long series on the English translation of Willem Bosman's A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea... . In the end, this was published in no fewer than nine parts between 1974 and 1984. There were several reasons why I finally gravitated to this piece. Firstly, it helped provide needed momentum to get History in Africa off the ground. Many journals, not least in African studies, get founded, but not funded. As a consequence, a few issues appear, and then nothing. At the time I had no reason to [End Page s7] imagine that History in Africa would be different; the fact that it proved to be is owing to the contributors to the first few volumes, whose work managed to attract other contributions, and things mushroomed.
Closely akin to this is the fact that the serial publication of Van Dantzig's work showed that History in Africa was willing - and now able - to publish studies that could not be canvassed in the "standard" article length (say 6,000 to 10,000 words), but also had no hope of being published separately (more on this below). This of course was long before the invention of the World Wide Web made it practicable, even attractive, to publish matter of this kind (intermediate length, limited audience, potentially interactive).
Finally, at the time this was one of only a few examples of legitimate text criticism in the lists. Certainly, some text editions qua editions had appeared previously, both in article and book form, notably a series of studies of Sierra Leone and environs by Paul Hair, whose work appeared principally - and obscurely - in Sierra Leone Studies. As for book-length studies, these largely took the form of reprints of early editions with rag-tag editorial notes appended. These were intended to support the new and burgeoning field of African history as well as take advantage of the library market. Minimal standards were acceptable, perhaps even required, by publishers that saw interested parties largely in marketplace terms. They were helpful in the short run, but in the long term probably had a negative impact by making it more difficult for truly learned editions of the same works to be published.
Most of these early publications were European travel accounts. Of these, Willem Bosman's generally eyewitness account of European life on the...