“A REMARKABLE WORK” (T.E. LAWRENCE): FIRST EDITION OF BURTON’S RAREST TITLE
BURTON, Richard Francis. Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855-56. Three volumes. Octavo, early 20th-century three-quarter navy morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt. Housed in a custom slipcase. $11,000.
First edition of “a most remarkable work of the highest value” (T.E. Lawrence), Burton’s scarce and important illustrated narrative of his journey to Mecca, with five full-page color chromolithographs, eight tinted plates, one black-and-white plate, three plans (two folding), and a folding map. Handsomely bound.
After years of studying Muslim customs and manners, Burton offered his services to the Royal Geographical Society "for the purpose of removing that opprobrium to modern adventure, the huge white blot which in our maps still notes the Eastern and Central Regions of Arabia" (Penzer, 44). Burton resolved to wend his way to Mecca to observe Muslim rites witnessed by few westerners. Donning a variety of disguises and learning the mannerisms common to Islam— how to dress, eat, sit, sleep, pray, etc.— Burton was accepted as a native. Over the course of his journey he visited the prophet Muhammad's tomb (which was located not, as many Christians had hitherto believed, in Mecca, but in Medina); commented extensively on the practice of female circumcision; and brought back the first accurate observations by a Westerner on the holiest of Muslim holy cities, Mecca. In his bibliography of Burton's works, Norman Penzer remarks, "I questioned Colonel Lawrence [i.e., "Lawrence of Arabia"] about the accuracy of Burton's description of the journey to Mecca and Medina, and he said that it was absolutely correct in every detail" (Penzer, 7). Bound without publisher's catalogue at rear of Volume I. Penzer, 44-50.
First several leaves of Volumes I and II with some chipping to edges not affecting text, rehinged and with some expert repairs, affecting frontispieces, title pages, and two folding maps. Minor rubbing to joints, morocco-gilt bindings sound and quite handsome. An extremely good copy.