4to, pp. xvi [i.e. xv], [1, errata], 478; with half-title, folding map, and 4 engraved plans; some light spotting and foxing, occasional light marginal marks; very good in contemporary speckled calf, gilt Greek key border to covers, spine gilt in compartments with red and green morocco labels, marbled endpapers, gilt turn-ins, yellow edges; some splitting to joints and wear to spine and corners.
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Travels in Arabia, comprehending an account of those territories in Hedjaz which the Mohammedans regard as sacred … Published by authority of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior of Africa.
First edition, in one volume, recounting Johann Ludwig Burckhardt’s journey to Mecca on behalf of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior of Africa in 1814.
Born in Lausanne to the famous Basel-based Burckhardt family, Johann Ludwig – or John Lewis, as he was later known in England – joined the African Association in London in 1808 with the initial intention of further exploring the Niger river. Having taken courses in Arabic at Cambridge and London, further supplemented by a seven week stay in Malta, he arrived in Syria the following year disguised as a Muslim of Indian origin, and spent the next four years travelling through Syria and Nubia. By 1814 Burckhardt was in Jeddah, sick with fever, having just crossed the Red Sea from Abyssinia. It was at this time that Muhammad Ali Pasha, then in Mecca, heard of Burckhardt’s presence nearby and summoned him.
‘Burckhardt expressed a wish to visit Mecca as a Muslim pilgrim, and the pasha, although he was aware of Burckhardt’s nationality, consented, provided he could satisfy a competent committee of Muslim examiners. Two learned doctors of the law questioned him and pronounced him not only a Muslim but an exceedingly learned one. After this Burckhardt dined with the kady, or chief religious judge of Mecca, said prayers with him, and recited a long chapter of the Koran; having thus placed himself on the best of terms with the authorities, he went as a pilgrim to Mecca, acquitting himself as a good Muslim. It is unlikely that any Christian or European had accomplished this feat before, and the penalty of discovery would probably have been death. Burckhardt, however, mixed freely with the pilgrims without being suspected, and spent September, October, and November of 1814 in Mecca, and in the following January joined a caravan to Medina in order to visit the prophet’s tomb. Here he was again laid low by fever, probably malaria, until April, when he returned in an exhausted condition, via Yanbu’ al-Bahr, to Cairo, arriving in June’ (Oxford DNB).
Burckhardt died in Cairo in 1817 at the age of just 32. A first posthumous edition of his journals, entitled Travels in Syria and recounting several expeditions undertaken between 1810 and 1816, was edited by the retired military officer and fellow of the Royal Society William Martin Leake and published in 1822. This was followed, in 1829, by the present volume, which recounts Burckhardt’s journey to Mecca in 1814 and was edited by the British orientalist William Ouseley. Included are a folding map depicting Hejaz and Tihamah, and four plates with detailed plans of Mecca, Mount Arafat, a pilgrim camp called ‘Wady Muna’, and Medina. In the judgement of Leake, Burckhardt’s account is ‘the most accurate and complete account of the Hedjaz, including the cities of Mekka and Medina, which has ever been received in Europe’.
Blackmer 239; Gay 3606; Howgego, B76.
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