Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Meccah and Medinah

Richard F. BURTON

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BURTON, Richard Francis. Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Meccah and Medinah. London and Belfast: William Mullan & Son, 1879. Octavo, original green beveled cloth gilt. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

Third edition, revised, of “a most remarkable work of the highest value” (T.E. Lawrence), Burton’s scarce and important illustrated narrative of his journey to Mecca, inscribed by Burton: “In memory of our pleasant hours at Trieste with affect[ionate] regards. Richard & Isabel, 22. Dec 1881.” With three folding plans, one color folding map, and 27 in-text illustrations.

After years of studying Oriental 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 Mohammed’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). First published in 1855-56 as Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca. Burton revised and abridged the three-volume 1874 third edition for this “third edition, revised.” “The map in this edition is colored, in which state it has not appeared before” (Penzer, 54). Penzer, 44-54. Casada, 49-50. In 1872, Burton was made consul at Trieste, Italy, a post he held until his death there in 1890. Isabel, cited in the inscription, was Burton’s wife. Bookseller ticket.

Occasional scattered light foxing to interior. Expert repairs to folding plan of El Medinah and inner paper hinges. Light rubbing to extremities of bright original cloth. A near-fine copy, most scarce inscribed.

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