Important acquisitions

Sentences in the Fernandian tongue.

Author Clarke, John
Title Sentences in the Fernandian tongue.
Imprint Bimbia, Western Africa: Dunfermline Press
Date of Publication 1846
Language English, Bube
Notes This is a very rare vocabulary/phrasebook of the Bube language, compiled by a Scottish Baptist missionary, the Rev. John Clarke (1802-1879); only one other copy has been located (School of African Studies in London). Bube is a language spoken by the Bubi, a Bantu people native to the island of Bioko, known by Europeans as Fernando Po. In the early 1840s both Britain and Spain had a presence on the island, just off the coast of Cameroon, the British leasing naval bases on the island as part of their efforts to stop the slave trade in West Africa. Clarke's interest in African languages had developed in the 1830s, after he had been sent out to Jamaica by the Baptist Missionary Society of London and had encountered slaves of West African descent speaking a variety of languages and dialects. For his own personal recreation, Clarke had compiled vocabularies of these languages and passed on his interest to a young Jamaican protégé, Joseph Merrick, who became a pastor in the Baptist church. Following the emancipation of slaves in 1838, Jamaican Baptists, with support from London, decided to send a mission to West Africa to spread the Gospel to their relatives there. Clarke set off for Africa in 1840, with Dr G.K. Prince, as an advance party for the mission. In 1841 he arrived at Fernando Po, where he was able to continue his studies of the local Bube language for a few months. Suitably encouraged by the friendly reception he received on the island, he and Prince sailed to England, where they were to report on the prospects of founding a West African mission. They were, however, blown off course, ending up back in the Caribbean; this detour had the advantage of giving them the opportunity to recruit volunteers for their mission. In 1843 Clarke sailed to Fernando Po from London, via Jamaica in order to pick up his recruits. He arrived there in 1844, where Prince and Merrick and other missionaries were already established on the island. Clarke and Joseph Merrick subsequently went to mainland Africa, which remained the main goal of the Baptist mission, to continue their linguistic work. Merrick visited Bimbia on the coast of Cameroon and persuaded the king of the local Isubu people to allow the Baptists to found the Jubilee mission there. The Baptist missionaries appear to have brought a printing press along with them, or acquired one after they arrived, leading to the establishment of the Dunfermline Press in Bimbia. The press seems to have operated in Bimbia from 1846 to 1848, printing four Scripture translations by Merrick into the Isubu language and also Clarke's 16-page vocabulary, which contains a list of useful sentences and phrases in Bube with accompanying English translations. Despite Merrick's individual success, the overall Baptist mission in Cameroon was a failure. The local people were unreceptive, there were quarrels regarding inequalities between the European and Jamaican missionaries, and many of the missionaries were suffering from ill health, including Clarke. In 1847 Clarke left Africa, taking the majority of the Jamaicans home. He intended to return, but never did, travelling back to Britain in 1848 to recuperate from his illness. While he was back in England he published two works on African languages: "Specimens of dialects ... in Africa" and an "Introduction to the Fernandian Tongue". The latter is described as a second edition presumably referring to the 1846 vocabulary as the first edition. Both these works were printed in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a place where Clarke had close personal ties. He had been born near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, the son of a farm labourer, before moving to Berwick, where he joined the Baptist Church in 1823, later marrying the daughter of the local pastor, the Rev. Alexander Kirkwood. Clarke's works on the Bube language are some of the earliest works on the North West Bantu language. Although his publications were soon surpassed by those of more accomplished linguists, his pioneering efforts showed the link between the languages of the Cameroon coast and the Bantu languages of the Congo and South Africa. Clarke returned to Jamaica in 1852 where he spent the rest of his life. Before he left Britain he also published a memoir on his fellow missionary and linguist, Joseph Merrick, in 1850, the latter having died in 1849 during a voyage to England.
Shelfmark RB.s.2831
Reference Sources D.M. Lewis ed., The Blackwell Dictionary of Evangelical biography, Oxford, 1995 v. 1; S. Arderner [biographical note in], John Clarke Specimens of dialects, Farnborough, 1972 (facsimile of 1848 publication); Mundus Jamaica and Cameroons Missionary Papers, http://www.mundus.ac.uk/cats/10/1096.htm
Acquired on 09/12/11
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