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Henry Koster

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Henry Koster

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Last update: 16/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Son of an English businessman from Liverpool, John Theodore Koster, Henry Koster was born in Lisbon, Portugal. The correct date of his birth is unknown, but his arrival in Recife, on 7 September 1809, states he was 25 years old.

Considered to be one of the most important chroniclers on Northeast Brazil, Kostertravelled to Brazil in search of a tropical climate to cure his tuberculosis.

He played an important role in the social, artistic and even political life of Recife at the time. He made many friendships, met governors, plantation barons, businessmen and Colonels.

He spoke Portuguese fluently, which made some people doubt his nationally, treating him as the ‘Brazilian’ Henrique da Costa.

In 1810, feeling better from the disease that afflicted him, he decided to travel by horse to Paraíbaand from there to Fortaleza, in Ceará. He returned to Recife at the beginning of February 1811,and by the end of the month was travelling again, this time by sea, to Maranhão, from where he returned to England.

On 27 December of the same year, he returned to Recife and travelled to the semi-arid region of Pernambuco. When he returned, he leased the Jaguaribe plantation, on Itamaracá Island, becoming an agriculturist and plantation baron.

As a good observer, he made detailed notes of all he saw on his travels and in daily life. He became part of Brazilian life, getting to know its people, their ways and customs, roaming the streets with the most different classes of the population and attending the parties of the local society.

Returning to England in 1815, he decided to write a book about Brazil. It was published in London under the title Travels in Brazil,in 1816. The work was a great success in Europe, with various editions published in several languages. The first Brazilian edition of the book, with a translation by Luís da Câmara Cascudo, was published in 1942, under the title of Viagen sao Nordeste do Brasil (Travels in the Northeast of Brazil).


Koster did not intend to return to Brazil, but at the conclusion of the book and feeling the return of tuberculosis, he returned to Pernambucoin 1817.

He then moved to Goiana, in northern Pernambuco, in the search for a better climate for his health. According to information from another English traveller, his contemporary James Henderson, Henry Koster returned to Recife at the end of 1819, where he passed away at the beginning of 1820, being buried at the English Cemetery, in an unmarked grave.

Recife, 29 june 2004.
(Updated on 28 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.

sources consulted

ANJOS JÚNIOR, João Alfredo dos (Org.). Viajantes ingleses no Nordeste do Brasil no século XIX.  Recife: Fundaj; Instituto de Documentação. Biblioteca Central Blanche Knopf; The British Council, 1991.  [Não paginado]. Catálogo de exposição bibliográfica.

SILVA, Leonardo Dantas. Viajantes: a paisagem vista por outros olhos. Ciência &Trópico,Recife, v. 28, n. 2, p. 249-260, jul./dez. 2000.

SOUTO MAIOR, Mário; SILVA, Leonardo Dantas (Org.)  O Recife: quatro séculos de sua paisagem. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana; Prefeitura da Cidade do Recife, Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1992. p. 78.


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Henry Koster.. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009