Musée No:737.136

Musée No:737.136

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Architectural Detail of Column at Assuras

Artist: James Bruce

Date: 1730 -1794

The Scottish explorer James Bruce (1730-1794), Laird of Kinncaid, is a very enigmatic historical figure, surrounded by conspiracy theories and rumours of Masonic influence. He was a descendant of the famed Bruce family. He was the first modern explorer of tropical Africa and introduced Ethiopia to the Western world. Bruce became consul general in Algiers in 1762, but he took nearly a year to reach the city. He travelled through France and Italy, investigating and sketching Roman ruins. He travelled extensively and studied many antiquities of North Africa especially Ethiopia, recording what he saw in fine drawings. From 1769 onwards he dedicated himself to finding the source of the Blue Nile, located in 1770, but it was dangerous and harrowing trip – he was held hostage by various warring factions, caught dysentery, fought in battles, etc. He returned to London in 1774 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. His arrogance and temperament made him difficult and his stories hard to believe. He retired to his Scottish estate and in 1780 he started writing his vivid account of his travels, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790), which is considered one of the epics of African adventure literature.

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