8vo, pp. xv, [i, blank], 221, [1, blank], [200, with erratic Arabic pagination], text in English and Hindustani, with a coloured frontispiece (offset onto title); a very good copy in contemporary speckled calf; extremities rubbed, rebacked to style; from the library of the King’s Inns, Dublin, with its stamp on verso of title and on Hindustani title.
US $481 €393
First edition. A first-hand account of eighteenth-century intrigue and court politics, involving George III, the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, and a motley cast of supporting characters. Al-Din, initially an employee of various Britons, undertook a mission to Britain between 1766 and 1768. The embassy itself was headed by a Scot, Archibald Swinton, and from the outset doomed by Mughal misconceptions of British court politics. The emperor sought British military intervention, in the face of the East India Company’s firm opposition, an unlikely outcome rendered still more improbable by the combination of Al-Din’s lack of English and Swinton’s rather relaxed approach to his diplomatic mission.
Despite the forlorn nature of the embassy, Al-Din provides a thoughtfully observed account of England and France from the perspective of an educated Muslim courtier, covering everything from the challenges of keeping halal to the merits of Georgian architecture.
Alexander, a young army officer when he made these translations, provides both Hindustani and English abridgements of Al-Din’s account. The parallel texts are intended both for Indian and English readers, and their dual-printing is a fine example of the cultural mélange the later Raj produced.
Wilson p. 5.
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