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Zarafa by Michael Allin

Zarafa by Michael Allin

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The true story of a giraffe’s journey from the plains of Africa to the heart of post-Napoleonic France

by Michael Allin

Headline Book Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0747222991, black and white photographs and illustrations in text, illustrated end papers (maps), illustrated frontispiece, hardcover, dustjacket

Near Fine Condition, minor edge and shelf wear, dustjacket also shows minor edge and shelf wear, no inscriptions (see photographs)

“She was an intriguing royal gift and one that certainly caused a stir among the people of nineteenth-century France.  On Tuesday 31 October 1826, a young Masai giraffe – Zarafa – landed incognito outside the bustling port of Marseilles.
Zarafa was the first living giraffe Europe had seen in almost 350 years and the first of her kind ever to arrive in France.  She was a politically motivated tribute to Charles X from Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, who hoped to forestall European intervention in his war against the Greeks.  The gentle animal, however, soon became an adored celebrity in her own right and the embodiment of an era in French history rich in new scientific and cultural ideas.
Captured and tamed in the Ethiopian highlands, Zarafa travelled 3,500 miles down the Blue Nile and the Nile and then across the Mediterranean.  After wintering in Marseilles, she was carefully and lovingly walked the 550 miles to Paris by one of the premier savants of the time, Etienne Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire.  Along the way, through villages and vineyards and from cottages and chateaux, the entire population was captivated by the ‘beautiful African’.  In Lyons, a crowd of 30,000 people turned out to see her.  In Paris, the king, enthralled by his long-awaited curiosite, put Zarafa on daily exhibition in le Jardin du Roi.  She became the rage of the city, providing a subject for songs, poems and political satires and the inspiration for fashion a la Girafe as women coiffured their hair so high that they had to sit on the floors of their carriages, men sported chic elongated hats and ties, and the children playing in the parks ate gingerbread giraffes.
Michael Allin’s book is not only the enchanting story of the giraffe’s epic journey.  It is also a tale imbued with history.  Linking primitive Africa with post-Napoleonic France, Zarafa was a symbol of an age fascinated by progress and the unfamiliar, an amazing creature that captured the hearts and imagination of men and women throughout Europe.”


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