"TO SEEK THE TRUE, TO GLAD THE HEART, SUCH IS OF LIFE THE HIGHER LAW": RARE FIRST EDITION OF BURTON'S KASÎDAH, ONE OF ONLY 200 COPIES, IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
[BURTON, Richard F.]. The Kasîdah (Couplets) of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî: A Lay of the Higher Law. Translated and Annotated by his Friend and Pupil, F.B. London: Privately Printed [Bernard Quaritch], . Slim quarto, original yellow stiff paper wrappers respined; pp. (iv), 34. $6800.
Very rare first edition, first issue, of this distillation of Sufi thought, generally considered to have been written by Burton, rather than just translated by him, as claimed on the title page. Penzer speculates that the entire first edition, including first and second issues, did not exceed 200 copies. "Very few of these copies were sold, and the remainder were returned to Burton" (Penzer). Desirable in the original yellow wrappers.
Burton's final years were spent as the British consul of Trieste. "In the flood of 'translations' that was to pour out of the Trieste years, there was one, The Kasidah, that was not a translation at all but a highly creative, though puzzling, summary of his thought… Burton had followed a standard Sufi poetic form, the qasida… a monorhymed poem, which, among the Arabs (and the Persians, Turks, and other Muslims), is used to express the poet's own experiences and emotions, often mystical, and might also be a means of displaying his eloquence and erudition, filled with obscure allusions and complicated antitheses. The earlier Sufi poets employed the qasida as a meditation on God. Burton, who came across the form in Sind and in his Persian studies, used his as a meditation on 'non-God'… The quantity of copies was limited—not more than 200 were run off, possible proof that Burton did not intend The Kasidah as a commercial rival to the Rubaiyat [translated by Edward FitzGerald]—and was distributed among Burton's friends. Only 100 copies went to bookstores, and not many of them were sold. Reviews were virtually nonexistent, and it seemed that The Kasidah would be listed among Burton's failures, but after his death it was printed over and over again, in various formats, to the extent that the bibliographer finds it difficult to assemble an accurate record of the many editions" (Rice, 437-38). First issue, without the date on the title page. "The first issue (undated) was very small indeed, and later in the year the second issue appeared. The entire first edition did not in all probability consist of more than 200 copies, and Messrs. Quaritch state that under a hundred were sold" (Penzer). Penzer, 97-98. Bookplate of Charles C. Auchincloss (1881-1961), lawyer, stockbroker and book collector.
A clean bright copy with only minor edge-wear to original paper wrappers. A most desirable copy.