Journal of a visit to some parts of Ethiopia … With maps and other engravings.

London, John Murray, 1822.

Large 4to, pp. vi, [2], 333, [3]; with 6 maps and plans, and 12 lithograph plates (bound in a different order from Abbey); foxing to maps, some foxing to plates and offsetting to facing pages; overall very good in original brown-paper covered boards, later printed paper spine label; neatly repaired; price in French and ink stamp of the ‘American Antiquarian Society Worcester, Mass.’ to title, inscription at head of list of plates, ‘Presented to the American Antiquarian Society by Isaiah Thomas, May 30th 1823’ (see below).


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Journal of a visit to some parts of Ethiopia … With maps and other engravings.

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First edition, with interesting provenance, a ‘polished and amusing account’ (Moorehead) detailing George Waddington’s travels from Wady Halfa to Merowe in northern Ethiopia in the company of the troops of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

A fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Waddington was taking in the canals of beautiful Venice when by chance he happened to meet a fellow Cambridge fellow, the Reverend Barnard Hanbury. Rather than taking a spritz on the piazza, they decided to head to Cairo from where they planned to mount an antiquarian tour of Egypt. However, upon meeting Muhammad Ali, then planning to invade the Sudan, they were instead given permission to follow his son Ismail’s army into Egypt. ‘Dressed as Turks and accompanied by a young Irishman named James Curtin, two Maltese, and a setter dog named Anubis, they ascended the Nile as far as Merawe (= Merowe), where Ismail politely decided to send them back’ (Howgego). Returning to London, the two travellers published this account of their journey in 1822, which remains one of the primary sources for our knowledge of Muhammad Ali’s Sudanese campaign. A number of the illustrations which adorn the work (including the frontispiece) are the work of the French artist Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds, then resident in Cairo (and later an influential engineer in the building of the Suez Canal).

‘Waddington was destined to end a long life as a church historian, and as dean and then warden of Durham University, and was perhaps not ideally suited to describe a brutal filibustering expedition on the Nile … Nevertheless, he gave a polished and amusing account of his experiences, and he could write poetically about such things as the mirages which the Arabs called ‘the lakes of the gazelles’ because of the large herds then grazing in the desert. These mirages, Waddington says, really did seem to be “haunted by the antelope, as if she loved the banks of that fairy sea, and delighted to chase or graze upon its fugitive waters”’ (Moorehead; cf. Waddington p. 218).

Provenance: this copy was once owned by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831), a celebrated and influential American publisher and printer and founder of the American Antiquarian Society in 1812. Although the entirety of Thomas’ extensive library was bequeathed to the Society upon his death in 1831, the inscription in this copy states that Thomas presented the work to the Society personally in 1823.

Abbey, Travel 289; Fumagalli 149; Howgego W1; Ibrahim-Hilmy II, p. 314; Alan Moorehead, The Blue Nile (1962), pp. 173-4.

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