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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)
(1990)

Introduction,   pp. 1-7 ff.


Page 3

Professor Leon Bourdon.   I am therefore solely responsible for faults in
the
translation.
Dating the text
We have no exact information either as to when Alvares wrote his account
- the
Dedication and Prologue are undated and the account contains few dates -
or as
to when it reached completion in the form in which we now have it. Although
Part I of the account is shorter and much less well informed than Part II,
giving rise to the suspicion that Alvares began by writing an account of
Sierra
Leone  to which he later added an account of the Northern rivers and coasts,
the
final draft must have been written in the order we have it since he refers
several   times   in  Part II to what he has already written        in Part
I
(2/2/9,2/8/4).<13> It is likely that he began the account when lonely
after the
departure of Father Barreira in 1608, and the few post-1608 events he bothers
to
date are in years between 1609 and 1612 (1609 - 1/3/1,1/4/4,2/2/2,2/10/6;
1610 -
1/9/1,2/2/8,2/25/1,2/25/6;  1612   -   1/3/12,2/2/8,2/2/11,2/15/7),  with
  the
exception that in Chapter 15 of Part II he refers to the present year 1613'
(2/15/6). A reference in Chapter 10 of Part II to a present sent to a local
king by    'Brother Franciso Pereira' almost certainly cannot have been written
earlier than 1613.<14> All this suggests that the account was written
in 1612
and 1613.
The final chapter of the account begins with a statement to the effect that
Alvares did not intend, when he began writing, to discuss the history of
the
mission, but having been solicited by his 'dearest friends' to include
information about it (in fact he had mentioned it frequently), he now adds
a
copy of his 'Annual Letter for 1611 and 1612'. This report - in this version
-
has a footnote referring to events dated to June 1613.<15>   This 
 footnote is
additional to another version of the report, perhaps the original version,
which
Alvares sent to the Cape Verde Islands in April 1613. The account formally
ends with Chapter 26, but the manuscript continues with material that appears
to
derive fram Alvares and may well represent additions he drafted with the
intention of working them into a revision and enlargement of the account.
It
does however seen that at one stage he thought the account was carrplete,
since
he prepared a Dedication and a Prologue. The Dedication is to Father Claudio
Aquaviva, the Jesuit general who died or3l January 1615. But since Alvares
may
not have heard of the death for many months, he may have prepared the dedication
as late as 1615, although 1613 or 1614 is perhaps more     likely.  However,
a
reference in the Dedication to the affairs of Sierra Leone having became
'a
battleground for various opinions' probably refers to the Augustinian belittling
of the Jesuit mission, and if so is most likely to have been written after
1613.
The additional material begins with Alvares' annual report for 1613, which
he
probably wrote   in April 1614.     But it includes a footnote reference
to 'the
visit of the Portuguese in 1614', suggesting that the footnote was added
not
earlier than   1615.   The other additional material consists of an account
of
Barreira's visit to Bena in 1607, which could have been written at any post-1608
date; and two chapters of considerable ethnographic interest.   One deals
with
the Susu, and the other with secret societies among both the peoples of the
rivers and coasts North of Sierra Leone (Bagas, Susu, etc) and the Sierra
Leone
peoples.   It is possible, since Bena is in Susuland, that the three chapters
were intended to go together, and just possible that Alvares was filling
out a
gap in his account, between Part I and Part II, where he leaps from the Biafada
to Sierra Leone, ignoring the intermediate coast and the Susu interior. Be
that
as it may, none of these chapters includes a date.
The latest dates appear in footnotes. Not having seen the manuscript I do
not
-3-


 


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