Another Journey to Libya: the Beechey Expedition

by sarahkburke

Remains of an Ancient Mausoleum at Ptolemeta

Frederick William Beechey and Henry William Beechey, Proceedings of the expedition to explore the northern coast of Africa, from Tripoly eastward. London: J. Murray, 1828. [HOLLIS]

Solitary Palm Tree at Arar

Recently we shared images from Robert Smith & Edwin Porcher’s 1864 publication on Cyrene, Libya.  In this post, we’ll show some older images, from the 1828 publication of half-brothers Frederick (1796-1856) and Henry Beechey (1788/9-1862).  Frederick, a naval officer, was commissioned to survey the coast of North Africa in 1821.  Henry, a painter, was appointed to join his brother in order to assess and illustrate the antiquities of Cyrenaica.  From copious notes and drawings (many of which are now in the British Museum) they produced this book, which includes aquatints and engravings of sites and scenery as well as important topographic maps.

Plan of the Ruins and Environs of Cyrene

Frederick and Henry were sons of the portrait painter William Beechey (1753-1839).  Both were well-traveled.  Frederick served as a naval officer in India, the lower Mississippi, and the Pacific; he also accompanied John Franklin and William Edward Parry on their expeditions to the Arctic.  In 1855 he was elected president of the Royal Geographical Society.  Henry worked on excavations in Thebes and Egypt before his work in Libya; later in life he emigrated to New Zealand.

Remains of a Christian Church at Ptolemeta

John Murray was founded in 1768 and at the period of this book’s publication it was one of the most sought-after publishing houses in England.  John Murray published Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and Charles Darwin.  The firm also published many 19th-century travel accounts, the Beechey expedition among them.