I suppose that whenever people think of the Himalayas, they think of Everest. And why not? The highest peak on Earth, the scene of so many displays of courage, the tragic loss of life, the ultimate challenge for Man.
Yet it wasn’t always thus. For many it is foremost a wondrous land with unique wildlife, outstanding natural beauty, and a heartland for Buddhism.
One of the leading nineteenth-century Western scholars of Buddhism was Brian Hodgson. He spent some twenty years from 1825 to 1844 as a British diplomat in Kathmandu, deeply immersed in all aspects of Nepalese life, culture, and religion. A collection of essays by him was published in 1874 under the title Essays on the languages, literature and religion of Nepal and Tibet. It is quite a scarce work whose not very catchy title belies its interest and importance.
One of the most visually appealing Himalayan treks is provided by the famous Greek photographer and mountaineer, Nicholas Tombazi. In 1919 he produced a typescript, Tours in Darjeeling and Sikkim, for very limited circulation (probably only a handful of copies were made), of a tour which he made with S.J. Vlasto.
It is the account of two circular journeys starting in Darjeeling, the first to Sikkim, the second to the passes of Tibet. This copy has 28 tipped-in photographs by Tombazi which enliven the narrative no end. The mystery of the publication is why it was never taken up by a commercial publisher.
In 1921, C.W. Anderson, had published by Thacker in Calcutta, To the Pindari Glacier a Sketchbook and Guide. We have only been able to trace 3 copies of this book.
It was intended as a visual guide as to what to expect when walking the glacier, located south-east of Nanda Devi, in autumn. A charming book which takes us on a tour of villages, often with just a view of buildings, written in a marvellous deadpan style: 'There is ample accommodation at the Dak bungalow for those who do not mind a few rats and a rather dilapidated staff …'