Mozambique’s first book

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The first book to be published in Mozambique was written by Jose Vicente da Gama, who hailed from Saligao in Goa. It was a civil, ecclesiastical, historical and administrative almanac of the province of Mozambique for the year 1859. The book was written in Portuguese and is mentioned by Aleixo Manuel da Costa, in his Dicionario de Literatura Goesa.

old bookJose Vicente da Gama held various municipal positions in Mozambique and also was a district judge and a procurator for the General Junta of the district. He was part of the interim government of the province in 1868-69. In addition he was magistrate for several terms; a member of the municipal council and its president; treasurer of an asylum for orphans; and, deputy-notary in the Accounts Department (at that time a considerably high public post).

Almeida de Eca, the well-known historian, in an interesting article published in Boletim Geral do Ultramar (Nos 341 and 342 of 1953) on the origin of the book in Mozambique, considered Saligao writer Jose Vicente da Gama’s “Almanaque” of great interest to Mozambican historiography. He noted that it was a rare book and he knew of the existence of just three copies of this book: one in the Geographical Society of Lisbon and two in his own possession. Here is the bibliographical description that Almeida da Eca gives us of the book with a facsimile of the frontispiece:

“It is a volume of 200 pages, the first six leaves and the last one are numbered. A map of the existing cisterns in the City of Mozambique and their capacity in cubic feet is inserted between pages 108 and 109, in a folded page; in same condition but in a larger format there is a ‘list of old officials of the first line of the Province of Mozambique (sic)’ with sayings on two sides, between pages 152 (in white) and 153.

“It measures 163 millimetres in length by 227 in height and a typographical mark 110 x 165 respectively. The predominant type (of printing) in the text is of the body 10, interlined with notes in the body, 6. The book is printed on pages of verge type of 2nd or even 3rd, a little thicker and of unpleasant appearance; the composition suffering is due to worn type, irregular printing, uncareful revision of the book, but overall the appearance of the book is not so poor.”

1 comment on Mozambique’s first book

  • Audrey Da Gama Pinto

    Dear Fr Nascimento

    I would be most grateful if you could let me know if I can obtain any more information about Jose Vicente da Gama. I believe he is my great-great-great grandfather.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Best wishes

    Audrey Da Gama Pinto

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