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MOZAMBIQUE / PORTUGUESE COLONIAL EXPANSION: Memoria ácerca do districto de Cabo Delgado por Jeronymo Romero segundo tenente do Armada.


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Jeronymo (Jerónimo) ROMERO (fl. 1840s – 1860s).


Memoria ácerca do districto de Cabo Delgado por Jeronymo Romero segundo tenente do Armada.


Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1856.


Large 8° (24.5 x 15.5 cm): 40 pp., preserving original printed yellow paper wrappers, 1 folding lithographed map (69.5 x 35 cm), recently bound to period style in half maroon calf over marbled boards with spine elaborately debossed in gilt (Very Good, overall clean and crisp, just some light tide-marking to upper inner corners of text, map clean and crisp, binding with light shelf-wear).




Jeronymo (Jerónimo) ROMERO (fl. 1840s – 1860s).


Supplemento á memoria descriptiva e estatistica do districto de Cabo Delgado com Noticia ácerca do Estabelecimento da Colonia de Pemba.

Lisbon: Typographia Universal, 1860.

Large 8° (23 x 14.5 cm): 1 portrait, viii, 164 pp. (including 1 folding chart), 1 p. errata, preserving original printed pink paper wrappers, 1 folding lithographed map (68.5 x 50 cm), recently bound to period style in half maroon calf over marbled boards with spine elaborately debossed in gilt designs (Very Good, overall clean and crisp, map with only very faint spotting in a couple places, binding with light shelf-wear).

A highly important and complementary pair of works that feature the first scientific and detailed description of the Cabo Delgado district, the strategically important northernmost region of Mozambique, as well as the ultimate insider’s account of the first serious European attempt to colonize the mainland of the territory, written by Jeronymo Romero, a Portuguese naval officer, cartographer and the district’s governor, who spearheaded Portugal’s efforts to develop Cabo Delgado; featuring 2 large maps, predicated upon Romero’s original surveys, that are major landmarks in Mozambiquan cartography, as the first accurate, detailed maps of coastal Cabo Delgado and the critical Pemba area (today home to the provincial capital, the city of Pemba, a major commercial port and tourism centre – the works are very rare on the market, especially found together, as they were issued separately 4 years apart.


Cabo Delgado is today the northernmost province of Mozambique, running 350 km along the coast of the Indian Ocean between the Rio Lúrio and Rio Romuva (which today marks the Mozambique-Tanzania border), and extending almost the same amount inland.  The region has traditionally been home to the Makonde, Makua and Mwani peoples.  Arabs and Portuguese traders had visited the coastal areas for centuries, often trying to conduct slaving raids, but the local peoples often managed to stymie their efforts. 

While the Portuguese founded a trading post on Ibo Island, one of the Quirimbas Islands off the coast of Cabo Delgado, which they fortified in 1609, for the next two and a half centuries their presence on the mainland was very light, despite its significant latent agrarian and natural resources wealth.

In the wake of Portugal’s loss of its prime colony, Brazil, in 1822, the country developed a renewed interest in further developing Portugal’s existing colonies, and most notably Mozambique and Angola.  Generally, while the Portuguese had maintained towns and forts along the coasts of these countries since the 16th century, and organized slaving raids into the interiors, the vast majority of Mozambique and Angola were not under effective Portuguese control. 


Moreover, in the era before the ‘Scramble for Africa’, Portugal knew that its lightly held claims to Mozambique and Angola were vulnerable to the ambitions of rival European powers.  The British Navy, under the guise of enforcing their ban on the maritime slave trade, were constantly sailing off the coat of Angola and Mozambique.  Many thought that these patrols were a prelude to land grabs, as much as they were motivated by abolitionist sentiment.  Moreover, Zanzibari slavers were trying to expand their reach into northern Mozambique, and the Cabo Delgado district, in particular. 


However, expanding the Portuguese presence in its Africa colonies was easier said than done.  Focusing upon Mozambique, the country was home to several powerful and generally well-led indigenous nations that had long successfully resisted Portuguese attempts to colonize the country beyond their coastal enclaves.  Additionally, much of the land was quite wild and forbidding by European standards, with rugged terrain, dangerous animals, and tropical diseases.  Comprehensively colonizing Mozambique would be very expensive on the front end (note that Portugal was very short of capital), even if these costs would supposedly be far outweighed the by the eventual rise in natural resource revenues.  Indeed, for these reasons, several modest attempts to colonize the mainland of Cabo Delgado had failed.  


However, there was a strong ‘expansionist’ movement in Lisbon, led by the Liberal grandee, Bernardo de Sá Nogueira de Figueiredo, the Marquis de Sá de Bandeira (1895 – 1876), who served five terms as the Portugal’s prime minister (1836-7, 1837-9, 1865, 1868-9 and 1870) and otherwise as senior cabinet minister.  This sentiment held that that Portuguese Empire could thrive if it gained more revenues from its African realms and had to comprehensively colonize these lands (like Cabo Delgado) to prevent them from being taken by rival powers.  In essence, they believed Portugal had no choice but to act. 

Enter Jeronymo (Jerónimo) Romero: The Visionary of Cabo Delgado

Jeronymo (Jerónimo) Romero, the author of the present works, was for some years an important figure in the Portuguese Navy and colonial affairs in Africa, yet surprisingly little is known about his life.  Even Portugal’s foremost biographer, Inocêncio Francisco da Silva, writing in 1859, could find very little on the subject.  However, it is believed that Romero was a native of Spain, perhaps born somewhere around 1810, who at some point immigrated to Portugal and joined the navy.  At least as early as 1842, and for some time thereafter, Romero was the commander of the naval brig Caçador Africano, which regularly sailed between Mozambique, Goa and Rio de Janeiro.  He is recorded as having been promoted to the rank of 2nd lieutenant in 1850.


From 1848 to 1855, Romero was permanently posted along the coasts of Mozambique, whereupon he gained an in-depth knowledge of the country.  In the early 1850s, Romero became interested in the notion of colonizing the Cabo Delgado region.  His enthusiasm was shared by the Marquis de Sá de Bandeira, who became Romero’s patron.


It was under the marquis’s influence that, in 1853, Romero was appointed as the Governor of the Military District of Cabo Delgado.  This jurisdiction, while technically comprising all the immensity of Cabe Delgado, only had practical authority over the Quirimbas Islands and a handful of mainland native villages controlled by the Makua people, who had friendly relations with the Portuguese.


Romero immediately set about upon a reconnaissance and diplomatic tour of Cabo Delgado, seeking to identify the best locations for settlement and the presence of natural resources and to treat with local tribal leaders.


The Present Works in Focus


Presented here are two works by Romero, that while published separately by different printers four years apart should essentially be seen as volume I and II of the same story.


The first work, Memoria ácerca do districto de Cabo Delgado, is Romero’s official report of his reconnaissance / diplomatic tour to Cabe Delgado that he summitted to the Marquis de Sá de Bandeira, who was then the Colonial Minister, dated March 15, 1855, and which was published her the following year in Lisbon by the Imprensa Nacional.  Importantly, the present work is the first serious academic-quality, data driven description and analysis of northernmost Mozambique, and includes the first accurate detailed map of the coastal part of the region, Mappa da Costa Oriental da Africa desde Cabo-Delgado até Moçambique.  Basing his narrative on his own extensive firsthand experiences, Romero reveals himself to be a talented writer with a perceptive mind, who masters economy of expression, providing only useful and intriguing information.


Romero commences the text with a general description of the Cabo Delgado district, before focusing upon the Quirimbas Islands, which were then the only established locations of Portuguese permanent settlement in the region.  He describes the colonial district capital of Ibo as being home to 2,442 people of with only 467 were Free Christians, while 1,355 were slaves, and the rest being a mixture of Free Muslims and ingenious peoples (note that slavery was legal in Mozambique until 1869).  The town of Ibo, where Romero ran his administration, was home to modest Portuguese government buildings and several trading houses.  He next goes on to cover the 3 other islands in the Quimibas chain that were home to Portuguese settlements, being Quirimba, Fumbo and Matemo, which were home in total to only about 400 people, of which half were slaves.  He also descirbes the 24 of the Quirimba Islands that were not inhibited.


Moving on to the ‘Terra Firme’, or mainland, Romero discusses that 9 local Macua villages which were then under full or partial Portuguese authority.  Of these, six villages, being Pemba, Montepes, Quissanga, Pangane, Lumbo and Mucimba were home to Portuguese crown officers, who technically governed these places and reported to Romero at Ibo.  Three other Macua villages, Lurio, Pemba and Tungue were still under the control of their tribal chiefs but had long agreed by treaty to be subject to Portuguese authority and protection.  In total, these tributary villages had a population of 1,440 freemen and 5,154 slaves (the Macua kept slaves).  The villages were surrounded by verdant farm fields, but they only yielded subsistence crops, as, in Romero’s opinion, the locals did not practice efficient agrarian methods.


Romero then systematically evaluates Cabo Delgado’s attributes and its suitability for colonization.  He elaborates on his comments about agriculture, noting that modern methods should be to be introduced to support mass production of crops and livestock beyond a subsistence basis.  In terms of commerce, he notes that the region was underdeveloped, although commodities such as ivory, tortoiseshell, rice, manioc and precious hardwoods and various tree products are abundant and would be excellent export commodities.  In return, the indigenous peoples expected to receive European manufactured goods and cotton.  Romero believed that the new customs house at Ibo, established in 1853, would act as a major conduit for trade.


Importantly, Romero identifies Pemba and Tungue as the best places for colonization, owing to their fine natural harbours, the friendly nature of the local peoples, and their supposedly gentle climate and fertile soils.  However, he cautioned that the settlements would have to be guarded by a fulltime corps of 150 soldiers, most of whom would have to be Europeans.  Moreover, Cabo Delgado would have to be connected to regular steamship routes, providing a connection to Europe.


Romero broaches the issue of slavery, but notes that he should not comment on the subject as it is “before the courts”.  Indeed, while slavery was still legal in Mozambique, and was supported by many of the colonial grandees, many powerful abolitionist figures in Portugal, notably the Marquis de Sá de Bandeira, were pressing the justice system to make it illegal (it would be phased out between 1869 and 1879).


The work includes an excellent, large format map, Mappa da Costa Oriental da Africa desde Cabo-Delgado até Moçambique (69.5 x 35 cm cm), that is importantly the first accurate general map of the coastal areas of northernmost Mozambique.  Predicated upon Romero’s own scientific surveys, it captures the sophistication of the littoral, with it numerous bays, coves, and the archipelago of the Quirimba Islands.  All coastal towns and villages are depicted, headlands and landmarks are noted, while copious hydrographic data details the inshore waters.  The map would have been an ideal aide for Portuguese military officers and civilian strategists for planning where to and how to colonize Cabo Delgado, or to respond to any security threats, either caused by the indigenous peoples or foreign interlopers.


The second work, Supplemento á memoria descriptiva e estatistica do districto de Cabo Delgado com Noticia ácerca do Estabelecimento da Colonia de Pemba, features Romero’s ultimate insiders’ account of the first serious European attempt to colonize mainland Cabo Delgado.  Romero recalls that he recommended Pemba as the site for new Portuguese colony.  The plan was to create an agrarian settlement, protected by a large fort with a permanent garrison.  Pemba had a large and stellar natural harbour, and Romero proposed to locate the colony on the end of point at the south entrance of the bay (a site later known in colonial times as Porto Amélia).  Lisbon approved the first phase of Romero’s plans.  He personally led the establishment of the colony, commanding the navy schooner Angra, transporting a small party of soldiers to create the Colonia de Pemba, arriving on December 8, 1857 (as such, the colony was informally known as the ‘Colonia 8 Dezembro’).


Romero’s narrative is followed by a diary of the colony’s early days, and then a discussion of the Cabo Delgado district’s finances, an updated and expanded statistical analysis of the region, and discussions on its commerce / trade, customs, fisheries, public health, and public education.


Finally, there is an account of Romero’s efforts to suppress the maritime slave trade.  It was still common for foreign vessels to attempt to buy captured Africans along the Cabo Delgado coast and to transport then abord, even though this was illegal both under Portuguese and international law.  Romero recounts how the Angra schooner intercepted a French slaving vessel, the Maria Carolina, off Ibo Island on October 20, 1857, and the following year 105 Africans were liberated from another slaving vessel.


A highlight of the work is the large folding map, Carta da bahia e do territorio de Pemba na costa oriental de Africa, Carta da Baía e do território de Pemba na costa oriental de África (68.5 x 50 cm cm), that has the distinction of being the first accurate and detailed map of the Pemba territory, today home to the capital of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province and a key commercial port and tourist hub.  The map, made after exhaustive hydrographic and littoral terrestrial surveys by Romero and his men, was printed in Lisbon by the Lithographia Belga, a publishing house run by Belgian immigrants that specialized in fine graphics, and seems to have been also issued separately, in addition to being included within the present book.


The map embraces the broader are of Pemba, with is stellar natural harbour, on the righthand side, and the great circular interior basin, surrounded by low mountains and hills, in the centre.  The bay features detailed hydrographic information and shows the anchorage of Romero’s’ vessel, the ‘Escuna Angra’, while an image of the ship adorns the lower left corner of the composition.  Numerous native villages, surrounded by farm fields, are shown to dot the countryside near Pemba Harobur.  The inset in the lower right depicts the main area of the Colonia de Pemba, on the tip of the peninsula that guards the southern side of the entrance of the harbour.  Note that this map is futuristic, as it depicts Romero’s envisioned plan for the settlement, as while the colony had been founded, many of the details shown here had not yet been realaized.  On the Pont Pampira, to the left, is the civilian settlement, while connected by a road 2 km northeast, is the military establishment at Ponta Miranembo.  Here Romero envisioned the construction of large hexagonal fort 70 to 100 metres in diameter, along with supporting structures.  Originally named ‘Forte de S. Luis’ (later known as Forte Romero), the fort that was eventually built on the site was much smaller than the original plan, although it was hexagonal; its ruins still survive to this today.  In the upper part of the composition is the ‘Perfil da serranias ou cordilheiras de Pemba’, which depicts the profile of the mountains surrounding the Pemba territory.


Epilogue: The Portuguese Colonization of Cabo Delgado Delayed


The Colonia de Pemba did not last long, for a variety of reasons.  First, once the venture was on its feet, Romero left to travel to attend to other matters.  This robbed the colony of effective leadership.  Second, João Tavares de Almeida, the Governor-General of Mozambique (in office 1857-64) was not supportive of the colony, seeing it a costly diversion, and situation not helped be the fact that he and Romero vehemently disliked each other.  The governor-general proceeded to starve Pemba of funds and resources.  Third, Pemba’s location proved technically difficult to settle.  While its harbour and climate were good, the landscape was hard to tame, and the colonists / soldiers were alarmed at dusk every evening as leopards and lions prowled the grounds.  By 1862, the civilian colonists left Pemba, leaving the place to its beleaguered military garrison.


In 1863, a hexagonal fort was built, as planned, at Ponta Miranembo; however, it was much smaller than Romero’s original design.  The garrison remained miserable, and Governor-General Tavares de Almeida ensured that it received little relief.  The post was abandoned in January 1865, with the troops retreating to Ibo Island.


The colonization of Cabo Delgado would have to wait some decades.  The Portuguese government eventually outsourced this responsibility to the Nyassa Company (Companhia do Niassa), a British-backed private chartered concern.  They re-established a town on the original site of the Pemba Colony in 1904, which was named Porto Amélia.  Since restored to the name of Pemba, this city is today the capital of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province and a major commercial port and tourism centre.


A Note on Rarity


There is at least a dozen institutional example of both works outside of Portugal.  However, the works, especially found together, only very seldom appear on the market.  The Rare Book Hub does not list any examples of the Memoria ácerca do districto de Cabo Delgado as having appeared on the market, while it notes 2 listings for the Supplemento á memoria descriptiva alone, which appeared at auction, in 2009 and 2010.


References: [re: Memoria:] Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: H.G. 10014//1 P.; OCLC: 38104098; [re: Supplemento:] Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: H.G. 10014//2 P., OCLC: 15034517; Hilary C. PALMER and Malyn D.D. NEWITT, Northern Mozambique in the Nineteenth Century… (Leiden, 2016), p. 65.

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