Collecting Articles and Features

The Books of Henry Rider Haggard

The Books of Henry Rider Haggard – Henry Rider Haggard was one of the most popular Victorian novelists of the period. He wrote over 60 books, mainly adventure novels set mostly in Africa, but he is most famous as a founder and pioneer of the Lost World literary genre with titles such as She: A History of Adventure, King Solomon’s Mines and the Allan Quartermain novels. His novels captivated audiences with their tales of adventure in far-off lands. In many ways, Haggard was the Indiana Jones of his day. He even had a long and eventful life that would have been worthy of one of his own novels. We take a  brief look at the incredible life of Henry Rider Haggard and his most famous novels whose influence can still be felt in modern works like Indiana Jones and The Mummy. But for collectors, Haggard’s novels are prized possessions, with first editions fetching high prices at auction.

Henry Rider Haggard books
A good collection of first editions of Henry Rider Haggard’s novels and non-fiction, including copies of all his rare early works. Including Cetywayo and His White Neighbours, Dawn, King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quartermain and She. Sold for £5,100 at Bonhams, March 2021.

Early Life and Career

Henry Rider Haggard was born, the eighth of ten children, in Norfolk, England in 1856. His father William Meybohm Rider Haggard was a solicitor and his mother Ella Doveton was  an author. Unlike his brothers he did not attend public school but went to Ipswich Grammar School. After leaving school he failed to enter the army and was resigned to enter the British Foreign Office.

Haggard never entered the BFO and ended up in South Africa in 1875 as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. A year later he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. It was an historic period in the region with much changed witnessed by Haggard including the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal  in April 1877. Haggard is believed to have raised the Union flag and read out much of the proclamation for the event.

Haggard returned to England in 1879 he married a friend of his sister, Marianna Louisa Margitson (1859–1943) in 1880, and the couple travelled to back Africa together. After only two years they moved back to England in 1882, settling in Ditchingham, Norfolk, Louisa Margitson’s ancestral home. His time in South Africa was pivotal and his first book in 1882 was a political work on the situation in South Africa. Followed by a series of novels including Dawn in 1884. Haggard studied and practiced law to pay the bills but finally ending up in Hammersmith in 1885. It was here in 1885 that he completed King Solomon’s Mines (published September 1885).

The book was great success and Haggard retained 10% royalty. The book and its lead character Allan Quatermain (also the title of the sequel) were a product of its time with the wealth being created from Colonial Africa with the ‘Scramble for Africa’, the opening up and finding of ruins of ancient lost civilisations of the continent such as Great Zimbabwe, and the larger-than-life adventurers whom he met on his travels most notably Frederick Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham. Haggard followed the Quatermain books with She which is considered the first of the Lost World genre of books and is considered to be one of the best selling books in history selling 83 million copies by 1965,

Haggard continued to write until his death in 1925 at the age of 69. In all, he wrote over 60 novels, many of which were set in Africa or other parts of the British Empire. His work heavily influenced later writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and it remains some of the most exciting adventure fiction ever written. His novels have been translated into more than 60 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide.

SHE: A timeless classic about love, loss, and adventure

Widely considered to be one of the first examples of the Lost World literary genre, SHE by Henry Rider Haggard has captivated readers for generations. Fist published in book form in 1887 following serialisation in The Graphic magazine between October 1886 and January 1887, the story follows the exploits of explorer Leo Vincey, who journeys to a remote African kingdom in search of the truth about his mysterious ancestor. Along the way, he falls in love with the beautiful queen Ayesha, whose secrets threaten to destroy them both.

Haggard She A History of Adventure 1st UK edition Longmans Green 1887
Haggard (H. Rider). She. A History of Adventure, 1st UK edition, Longmans, Green, 1887, 1st issue, with the misprint “Godness me” on line 38 p. 269, two chromolithograph plates, orig. blue cloth, gilt, bevelled edges, bookplate on the front pastedown, together with Ayesha, The Return of She, 1st ed., Ward Lock, 1905, thirty-two plates by Maurice Greiffenhaten, orig. blue cloth, gilt, Sold for £340 at Dominic Winter Book Auctions, DEcember 2005.

Leo Vincey is a young Englishman who sets out on an expedition to Africa in search of answers about his family history. Accompanied by his friend Horace Holly and their guide Ahmed Abdullah, Leo journey’s deep into the African interior until they finally reach the lost kingdom of Kor. There they meet Queen Ayesha, the self-proclaimed immortal ruler of the kingdom.

Ayesha quickly falls in love with Leo, and she makes him her consort. But when Holly discovers her dark secret—that she is actually a centuries-old witch who has been using black magic to keep herself alive—he vows to stop her at any cost. This sets off a chain of events that leads to tragedy and heartbreak for all involved. Will Leo and Ayesha be able to overcome the odds and stay together? Or will Horace Holly’s quest to destroy Ayesha tear them apart forever?

Today, first edition copies of She: A History of Adventure are very collectable with good copies selling for £300-£500 / $450-$700

An Overview of “King Solomon’s Mines”

 “King Solomon’s Mines” is a classic novel by Victorian novelist Henry Rider Haggard. First published in 1885, the book tells the story of Allan Quatermain, a British explorer who ventures into Africa in search of a lost city of gold. Along the way, he and his companions facemany dangers, including wild animals, treacherous natives, and deadly diseases.


King Solomons Mines by H Rider Haggard
King Solomons Mines by H Rider Haggard

Allan Quatermain is a professional hunter who lives in South Africa. When he is approached by Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Goodenough, two Englishmen who are looking for Curtis’ missing brother, he agrees to help them on their quest. The three men are joined by Umbopa, a native chief, and set out into the African wilderness in search of the lost city of Kukuana.

During their journey, the group encounters many challenges, including hostile natives, dangerous wildlife, and difficult terrain. Ultimately, they succeed in finding the lost city—but not before facing some harrowing experiences that they will never forget.

First editions of King Solomon’s Mines are also very valuable, with fine copies often selling for five-figure sums from rare book delaers.

Allan Quatermain Series

In addition to King Solomon’s Mines, Haggard also wrote a series of novels featuring the character Allan Quatermain. The series includes five books in total: King Solomon’s Mines (1885), Allan Quatermain (1887), Maiwa’s Revenge (1888), Jess (1890), and Finished (1917). First edition copies of each book in the Allan Quatermain series are valuable on their own but collectors often seek out complete sets which can be quite rare and therefore very costly.