Source and activity 3

River scenery engraving

Engraving of river scene with men in boat
River scenery engraving.
[NLS reference: MS.42433]
View larger engraving

This is the proof engraving entitled 'River Scenery on the West Coast', with annotations of David Livingstone and Murray. It was included in Livingstone's book 'Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa', 1857.

In the sketch, you can see Livingstone sitting in front of the boat looking through binoculars.

Understanding who is telling the story

Pay attention to how Livinstone is sitting. Now, notice how the Africans in the boat are positioned. What does this tell us about the relationship to each other? Who is in charge? Are they tense or relaxed?

Now examine the rest of the sketch. Think about whose perspective we are seeing this scene from. Is it from the African’s or from one of Livingstone's companions? What message do you think we’re supposed to get from it?

Understanding a new landscape

Now have a close look at the trees and the river. What sort of landscape does it appear to be? Is it realistic or idealistic? Is it welcoming and serene or scary and foreboding? Do you think it’s the type of place a 19th century European would want to visit?

Try to imagine being a traveller here, imagine the sounds, the smells. Compare the African scene in this picture with images you might find elsewhere on the web about Africa.


Themes in focus: David Livingstone

Find out more about David Livingstone in NLS collections

David Livingstone is one of a number of authors featured in the John Murray Archive.


The David Livingstone collections are listed under ‘L’ in our Guide to Manuscripts Collections


Search the John Murray Archive catalogue for material relating to David Livingstone.

David Livingstone on the web

Visit Livingstone Online for detailed information about the explorer and to view his letters online.


The Royal Geographical Society website has factsheets, quiz and image gallery on David Livingstone and his travels.

NLS learning for you

If there's a topic you'd like more information about or if you have any suggestions for learning, email us.

Speak me