Richard Burton rare books
Larger than life – The Explorer Sir Richard Burton
Frequently described within his own lifetime as the most interesting figure of the nineteenthcentury, Burton was one of the greatest explorers to come out of England.
A brilliant, charismatic man, Burton combined being a great scholar and a daring adventure. Fluent in some twenty-nine languages, and combined with his somewhat Mediterranean looks, he was able to pass himself off as native in many countries in the Middle- and Far East which enabled him to gainan insight into different cultures usually denied to travellers.
Born in 1821, his first career was in the British army in India. Here he served as an intelligence officer. He was known as “Ruffian Dick” on account of his love of fighting. He wrote the first modern account of Goa, Goa and the Blue Mountains in 1851, and followed this with two important accounts of Scinde, a politically sensitive area.
After this he made the journey for which he is probably best remembered, the Hajj to the sacred Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina, disguised as a pilgrim. His account, Personal narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, 1855-56, is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of travel ever published. Travelling as an Afghan Pathan , he became the first European to travel between the Holy Cities. He had intended to traverse Arabia but was frustrated in this by fighting amongst the tribes. Burton performed all the rituals of the Hajj and was so affected by the
experience that on his return to London he formed a company to enable pilgrims to reach Mecca more easily.
Burton’s next great adventure was to the forbidden city of Harar in East Africa, where no European had ever entered. Disguised as a merchant called Haji Mirza Abdullah, he met the ruler, spent ten days, and returned safely to Berbera. On the coast of Somalia that Burton’s party was attacked and he got a spear through the face. The account of this journey is found in First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856.
Undaunted by this, Burton set out again in Africa, this time to explore the Lake regions. This he undertook with one of his companions from the Harar excursion, John Speke. The purpose of the expedition was to find the Jebel Kumri, or the "Mountains of the Moon." They discovered Lake Tanganyika, but with failing health they were forced to return to Kazeh to recuperate. Following this,
Burton sent Speke off by himself to investigate a large lake. Speke became convinced that this was the source of the Nile; a conclusion disputed by Burton which led to their falling out and, probably, Speke's mysterious death. The published account, The Lake Regions of Central Africa, 1860, contains Burton’s first attack on Speke in print.
During his life he published forty-three volumes on his explorations and almost thirty volumes of translations. Burton’s genius and his fearlessness should have made him a valuable asset to colonial England, but he was an outsider, a restless wanderer with a strong dislike of authority who delighted in shocking polite society with tales of cannibalism and drinking from human skulls. His fascination with, and exploration of the intimate customs of different cultures, led to publication of such works
as The Perfumed Garden and the Kama Sutra. His translation of the Arabian Nights was also considered to be quite shocking. Burton died in 1890. After his death his wife burned most of his manuscripts so we will never know the full extent of his genius.
Illustrated Benares edition, number 12 of 1000 sets; 17 vols, 8vo, (24.7 x 16.5 cm); numerous photogravure plates from etchings, drawings and paintings, with tissue-guards, titles in red and black, marbled endpapers, endpapers a little toned; contemporary half blue morocco, spines gilt in compartments, gilt lettering to spines, spines faded, top edges gilt, others uncut, boards slightly marked, corners a little rubbed, overall a very good set.£3,750
First edition, first issue. 2 vols, 8vo, half-titles to both volumes, xx, 360; viii, 400 pp., two lithographed frontispieces, folding map sometime laid-down on fine linen with old green morocco title label, in pocket at end (neat repair to pocket), 25 lithographed plates, 11 folding, including 10 calligraphic plates lithographed in brown, original mustard cloth, covers ruled in black enclosing lettering, spines lettered in black, tiny closed tear to head of rear joint vol. i, an excellent copy.£2,750
First edition. 8vo, vii, 271pp., folding map frontispiece, original blue cloth gilt, blind-stamped, gilt R.G.S device on spine; an excellent copy.£250
First edition, 2 volumes, 8vo, xii, [i], 503; vi, [i], 519 pp., folding map 4 plans, 11 plates, original brown cloth gilt, gilt pictorial vignette to upper cover, small waterstain to first frontispiece outer margin, neat repairs to spine extremities and inner hinges, a very good set.£5,000
First edition, 8vo, 195 pp., 4 pages ads at end, 3 maps, original purple-brown cloth gilt, small repairs to spine extremities, light wear to covers, a very good copy.£2,500
First edition, 8vo, viii, 488 pp., coloured frontispiece map, 12 plates, original dark grey decorated cloth with bevelled edges, ruled and lettered in silver and gold, a fine copy.£950
First edition, second issue. 8vo, xxxviii, 648 pp., 4 coloured plates, 7 illustrations in text, 2 maps, original brick red cloth gilt, spine slightly darkened, neat repairs to spine, modern ownership inscrpition to half title, a very good copy.£1,650
First edition, 2 volumes, 8vo, xviii, 412; viii, 468 pp., 12 tinted woodcut plates, 22 woodcut illustrations in the text, folding tinted map, original red cloth gilt, neat repairs to spine extremities, '90' in ink to titles, a very good set.£3,750
First edition, 2 volumes, 8vo, [xiv], 354; vi, 381 pp., half-titles to both volumes, with coloured lithograph frontispiece, 2 folding maps, 3 in text illustrations. Original red cloth, black border top and bottom enclosing gilt design of a nugget of gold in double-lined black frame, spine lettered in gilt, black endpapers, a fine copy.£4,500
First edition, 2 volumes, 8vo, xvii, , 386; vi, 412 pp., 2 frontispieces, original purple cloth gilt, a fine set.£4,000