Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde; Accompanied by a Geographical and Historical Account of those Countries.

London: A. Strahan for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1816.

4to (272 x 213mm), pp. xxx, 423, [1 (blank)]; hand-coloured aquatint frontispiece and folding engraved map by Thomson & Hall, hand-coloured in outline and with routes added by hand; a few light marks, occasional marginal tears or creases, some light offsetting, short, skilfully-repaired tears on map; contemporary half calf over marbled boards, the flat spine gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-piece in one, others with central flower tool, all edges speckled, modern calf-backed cloth solander box; extremities lightly rubbed and bumped, skilful repairs on joints, nonetheless a very good, clean copy; provenance: Peter Hopkirk (booklabel on upper pastedown; his sale, Sotheby’s London, 13 October 1998, lot 325).


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First edition. The distinguished traveller, soldier and colonial governor Pottinger (1789-1856) went to sea when he was twelve, and travelled to India in 1803 to join the marine service there. The following year, this position was exchanged for a cadetship in the East India Company’s army; in the meantime, ‘he studied in Bombay, and acquired a knowledge of Indian languages. He worked well, became an assistant teacher, and on 18 September 1806 was made an ensign, and promoted lieutenant on 16 July 1809’ (ODNB). In 1808 Pottinger was sent to Sind with a mission led by Nicholas Hankey Smith, the British political agent at Bushehr, and the following year, after Sir John Malcolm’s mission to Persia had been postponed, Pottinger and his fellow-officer Captain Charles Christie made a proposal to explore the lands between India and Persia, with the purpose of acquiring accurate intelligence on the little-known area. Their proposal was accepted by the government, and the two soldiers left Bombay on 2 January 1810 disguised as Indians, and travelled by boat to Sind and then overland to Kelat. From there they journeyed to Nushki, where they took separate routes: Christie went north to Heart and then to Esfahan by way of Yazd, while Pottinger travelled west through Kerman to Shiraz and thence to Esfahan, where the two men were re-united, having completed a remarkable, audacious, and most perilous journey of more than 2,000 miles through terrain that was frequently extremely inhospitable and uncharted.

This copy was previously in the celebrated travel library of Peter Hopkirk, the bibliophile, sometime Middle Eastern correspondent of The Times, and author of The Great Game (London: 1990), and a number of other works on Asia and the Middle East, who wrote in the preface to the auction catalogue of his collection, ‘without my own private library around me, I know that I would never have written my six books on Great Power rivalry in Asia’. Chapter 3 of The Great Game (‘Rehearsal for the Great Game’) is dedicated to Pottinger and Christie’s expedition. Hopkirk writes of Pottinger’s solo journey, ‘[w]ithout a map to guide him (none then existed), the 20-year-old subaltern had set off on a 900-mile journey across Baluchistan and Persia. He chose a route which for a further century no other European was to attempt, though earlier invaders had passed that way. The journey was to last three months and take him across two hazardous deserts, with only local guides to steer him between wells and the bands of murderous brigands. Despite sickness and other hardships, he maintained a surreptitious but detailed day-to-day record of all he saw and heard which could be of value to an invading army [...] In addition, he secretly charted his route on a sketch map, which later was turned into the first military map of the approaches to India from the west’ (Oxford: 2001 ed., pp. 43-44).

Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde is Pottinger’s account of a journey which bought recognition and fame to the two young men: ‘their enterprise and courage did not go unrecognised by their superiors who were delighted by the valuable intelligence they had brought back. Both were now earmarked as young officers of outstanding enterprise and ability. Lieutenant Pottinger, who was not yet 21, was destined for rapid promotion, a long and distinguished role in the coming Great Game, and eventually a knighthood’ and Pottinger’s book ‘thrilled readers at home, and [...] is today still sought after by collectors of rare and important works of exploration’ (op. cit. p. 56).

Ghani p. 305; Lowndes pp. 1932-1933 (‘A valuable and very interesting contribution to Asiatic geography’); Wilson p.178.

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