O Brasil!


Henry
Koster, Travels in Brazil (1817).  (Click
here for the record)


This
is one of the many fabulous books on Brazil that we have in the Watkinson.  Henry Koster (1793-1820) was the son of a
Liverpool merchant; his father sent Koster to Pernambuco for his health, and to
act as an agent.  The sixteen-year-old
did some exploring and gained strength, eventually buying an island (Itamarac√°)
and colonizing it.  As one bookseller
recently wrote, “though Koster had no intention of writing a book about Brazil,
his friends urged him to do so, as did Robert Southey, whom he had met and
befriended in Portugal in 1801, and whose library he used.”  (We also have Southey’s famous 3-volume History of Brazil, 1810-19, published by
the same house as Koster’s book). 

 

Koster.jpg

 

To
give you a taste, this is one of the many cool images (a sugar mill), and part
of the rather gruesome description of its operation in vol. 2, pp. 141-3:

 

“The
mills for grinding the canes are formed of three upright rollers . . . two men
and two women are employed in feeding the mill with cane; a bundle of it is
thrust in between the middle roller and one of the side rollers, and being
received by one of the women, she passes it to the man who stands close to her,
for the purpose of being by him thrust between the other side roller and that
of the centre . . . the negroes who thrust the cane in between the rollers have
sometimes allowed their hands to go too far, and one or both of them having
been caught, in some instances, before assistance could be given, the whole
limb and even the body has been crushed to pieces.  In the mills belonging to owners who pay
attention to the safety of their negroes, and whose wish it is to have every
thing in proper order, a bar of iron and a hammer are placed close to the
rollers upon the table (meza) which supports the cane.  The bar is intended to be violently inserted
between the rollers in case of accident, so as to open them, and thus set at
liberty the unfortunate negro.  In some
instances I have seen lying by the side of the bar and hammer, a well-tempered
hatchet, for the purpose of severing the limb from the
body, if necessary.”

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