Oriental Album

James Augustus ST. JOHN   |   Emile PRISSE D'AVENNES

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PRISSE D’AVENNES, Emile. Oriental Album: Characters, Costumes, and Modes of Life in the Valley of the Nile. London: James Madden, 1848. Elephant folio (15 by 22-1/2 inches), contemporary cloth boards rebacked and recornered.

First trade edition of this beautifully illustrated survey of Egyptian “modes of life,” with lithographic frontispiece portrait of botanist George Lloyd, to whom the work is dedicated, additional chromolithographic title page, and 30 large tinted lithographs finished by hand of contemporary Egyptian dress.

“Few 19th-century Orientalists possessed so prodigious an intellect, such a trove of talents, so insatiable a curiosity or so passionate a commitment to record the historical and artistic patrimony of ancient Egypt and medieval Islam as Emile Prisse d’Avennes. Prisse succeeded brilliantly, yet he failed to achieve the stature to which his successes entitled him. He remains, as arts writer Briony Llewellyn calls him, ‘a shadowy figure in the history both of Egyptology and of European response to Islamic art… Over time, Prisse’s exposure to ancient Egypt awakened him to the perishability of human inventions and led him to a more profound purpose, later extended to Islamic culture: to reproduce the finest examples of arts and architecture and to set them, through the study of original documents, in their historical, social and religious context. With the science of Egyptology still in its infancy and much of Arab or Islamic art history still hidden, these were formidable tasks… During his early years in Egypt, wherever his work took him, the insatiably curious young man eagerly tramped through ruins, drew maps and plans, sketched and wrote descriptive accounts of ancient cities and modern villages” (Mary Norton). Prisse’s Oriental Album is a visual documentary, in 30 magnificent folio tinted lithographs finished by hand, of the people, costumes and way of life in the Nile Valley, with commentary by the noted Orientalist James Augustus St. John. This edition was published simultaneously with a deluxe issue, containing hand-colored plates with additional coloration, mounted on heavy card-stock. See Colas 2427; Hiler, 724, 772; Blackmer 1537; Brunet IV:885; Graesse V:449.

Plates expertly cleaned. A beautiful copy in fine condition.

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