“A BIBLE OF ITS KIND”: DOUGHTY’S TRAVELS IN ARABIA DESERTA, VERY SCARCE 1888 FIRST EDITION
(ARABIAN PENINSULA) DOUGHTY, Charles M. Travels in Arabia Deserta. Cambridge: University Press, 1888. Two volumes. Octavo, original green cloth, uncut.
First edition of this classic of Arabian travel, illustrated with numerous plates, maps and in-text wood engravings, and folding map printed in color laid into a pocket at the rear of Volume I, as issued. Very hard to find in such nice condition in the original cloth, and with an intriguing provenance, from the library of British Arabist, colonial agent and diplomat Colonel Samuel Barrett Miles.
The result of a journey in the 1880s undertaken to explore the geographical origins of Christianity, Travels in Arabia Deserta is one of the most important and influential works produced on Arabia. First published in this extremely small edition in 1888, Doughty's book remained obscure until it was reissued in 1921 at Lawrence's urging and with his introduction. In it, Lawrence writes, "I have studied it for ten years, and have grown to consider it a book not like other books, a bible of its kind… It is the first and indispensable work upon the Arabs of the desert… There is no sentiment, nothing merely picturesque, that most common failing of oriental travel-books. Doughty's completeness is devastating. There is nothing we would take away, little we could add. He took all Arabia for his province, and has left to his successors only the poor part of specialists. We may write books on parts of the desert or some of the history of it; but there can never be another picture of the whole, in our time, because here it is all said, and by a great master."
From the collection of British Arabist and colonial agent Colonel Samuel Barrett Miles, with bookplate in each volume indicating that this work from his collection was donated in his memory by his widow to the Bath Public Reference Library, with location notations on front free endpapers, discreet blindstamps to title pages, final text leaves and folding map, and date due slips at rear of each volume. Miles was appointed Political Agent and Consul in Oman, in 1872, and spent many years there and in the Gulf region—around the same time that Doughty was exploring the peninsula. Like Doughty, Miles made several journeys into the interior of the country to gain a better understanding of the people, leading him to publish several papers with the Royal Geographical Society. Five years after his death in 1914 his widow published the book he had been working on, The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf.
A splendid, about-fine copy with distinguished provenance.