1809 Salt / Havell View of Dixan, Abyssinia (Ethiopia)

The Town of Dixan in Abyssinia. - Main View

1809 Salt / Havell View of Dixan, Abyssinia (Ethiopia)


One of the Earliest Modern European Views of Ethiopia


The Town of Dixan in Abyssinia.
  1809 (dated)     17.5 x 23.5 in (44.45 x 59.69 cm)


A lovely aquatint view of the village of Dixan, near the present border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, encountered by Henry Salt on his travels through Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
A Closer Look
A charming scene displaying groups of men in the foreground, engaged in conversation, herding animals, and otherwise going about their daily business. On a hilltop in the background is a group of buildings, the town of Dixan, in which the peaked roof building near center may be a church. More hills can be seen further in the background.
Locating Dixan
The town seen here does not clearly match the name and location of any modern town, but its location can be approximated, based on the accounts of Salt and his associates, to be on the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Tigray, near Aksum and Shire, in the vicinity of the town of Rama. This is confirmed by the map included with Salt's account (also sold by us, as Abyssinia-salt-1814), where Dixan is found some fifty to sixty miles southwest of the modern village of Arafali (known to him as Zulla) at the bottom of the Gulf of Zula (known to him as Annesley Bay).

Salt, among the first modern Europeans to travel in Ethiopia, was the assistant and artist for George Annesley, Viscount Valentia, during his (1805 - 1806) trip to Ethiopia, part of a longer voyage, which was chronicled in Voyages and travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt, in the years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806. Salt sketched the (uncolored) plates for that book (including one of a view of mountains from Dixan), as well as for a separate book of hand-colored plates Twenty-four Views in St. Helena, The Cape, India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt that was published concurrently. Salt describes Dixan as being west of a mountain he referred to as Taranta, possibly Emba Soira, the highest mountain in Eritrea, or in any event in its vicinity.

Salt developed a deep admiration for the Baharnegash Yasous, the local ruler or chief at Dixan, who aided Valentia's party after it was caught in a downpour and had to leave behind its baggage and most of its food. On his return to Ethiopia in 1809, Salt deliberately charted a course through Dixan and was not disappointed; the Baharnegash Yasous gave considerable assistance (including protection) to Salt and his companions. Baharnegash Yasous was one of several figures sketched by Salt and included in Valentia's published account of his voyage.
Publication History and Census
This view was drawn by Henry Salt, engraved by Daniel Havell, and published by William Miller as plate No. XVII in Twenty-Four Views in St. Helena, the Cape, India, Ceylon, Abyssinia and Egypt. The entire work is well represented in in institutional collections, appearing in the collections of some thirty institutions in the OCLC, but is scarce to market. This view is only independently cataloged in the OCLC with the British Library (mislabeled as Plate No. XV). It is also recorded in the holdings of the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Henry Salt (June 14, 1780 - October 30, 1827) was a British artist, traveler, diplomat, and Egyptologist active in the first decades of the 19th century. Salt was trained as an artist and traveled extensively in Asia as secretary and draughtsman to George Annesley, the Veiscount Valentia. His first expedition, which lasted from about 1802 to 1806 involved travels to Cape Colony, the east coast of Africa, the Ethiopian Highlands, and India. His paintings from the expedition were published in Annelsey's 1809 Voyages and Travels to India. Afterwards Salt returned to Africa on a government sponsored mission to Ethiopia in the hopes of establishing diplomatic and trade relationships with the Tigrayan warlord Ras Wolde-Sillasie. Salt published the narrative of this expedition in his 1814 book A Voyage to Abyssinia, which also featured a collection of important maps. Today Salt is best known as an Egyptologist and collector of antiquities. In 1815 he was appointed British Consul-General in Cairo, where he dedicated himself to building a vast collection of Egyptian antiquities. Around this time, the ancient monuments and tombs of Egypt were a free-for-all for enterprising Europeans with a penchant for antiquities. Salt and other European adventurers, among them Italian Bernardino Drovetti, had hard reputations and were willing to stop at nothing to obtain choice pieces. Among Salt's top acquisitions are the head of Ramses II and the sarcophagus of Ramses III, located at the British Museum and the Louvre, respectively. Salt built three massive collections, each containing thousands of artifacts. Most of these pieces were acquired by the British Museum, where they rest to this day, though some did find their were to other institutions, such as the Louvre, and into various private collections. More by this mapmaker...

Daniel Havell (c. 1785 - 1822) was a British engraver and a member of the multigenerational Havell family of engravers, etchers, painters, and publishers. The details of Daniel's life and his place in the family's lineage have been disputed, in part because of the frequent use of certain names in the family, but in any event he appears to have trained in the family business in the late 18th and early 19th century. Daniel is listed as the engraver on most of the plates in Henry Salt's Twenty-Four Views in St. Helena, the Cape, India, Ceylon, Abyssinia and Egypt. Around 1815, he appears to have struck out on his own and produced views of sites around London and Cambridge instead of the exotic sites depicted in his earlier works. Details on his life and death are scant, but a 1826 book on the history of the theaters of London notes its plates as being engraved by 'the late Daniel Havell.' Learn More...

William Richard Beckford Miller (March 25, 1769 - October 25, 1844) was a prominent British publisher of the late 18th and early 19th century. He was born in Suffolk, the son of Thomas Miller, a well-known bookseller and antiquarian. He briefly studied art at the Royal Academy before shifting to training in the publishing industry under Thomas Hookham in London. In 1790, he started his own shop, specializing in large (quatro), richly-illustrated and colored volumes. As a result, in the first decade or so of the 19th century, the works he issued were especially popular. In 1812, Miller sold his business and its assets to competitor John Murray. Following his early retirement, Miller briefly tried his hand at farming and country life before returning to London, where he remained a respected figure in the publishing and bookselling world despite no longer being engaged in business. Learn More...


Salt, H., Twenty-four Views in St. Helena, The Cape, India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt, (London: William Miller) 1809.    


Very good. Edge trimmed unevenly. Sporadic spots of discoloration.


OCLC 850335918. Victoria and Albert Museum Accession Number SP.537:1. Annesley, G., Voyages and travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt, in the years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (London: Printed for William Miller by W. Bulmer and Co., 1809). Salt, H., A Voyage to Abyssinia and Travels into the Interior of that Country, Executed under the Orders of the British Government, in the Years 1809 and 1810... (London: F.C. and J. Rivington, 1814).