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Charles Doughty - Travels In Arabia Deserta Limited Edition - ( Item 118584 )

Published in London by Folio Society. 2013. First Thus. 2 Fine Hardbacks. No inscriptions or bookplates. Fine slipcase. Limited to 780 hand-numbered copies of which this is number 593. Preface by Rory Stewart. Introduction by T. E. Lawrence. 2 volumes, 1,328 pages in total. Numerous integrated llustrations. Text printed on wove paper with approximately 200 integrated illustrations. 52pp plates printed duotone on art silk paper. Half bound in goatskin. Hand marbled paper sides by Jemma Lewis. Halftones printed on art silk paper. Fabriano endpapers. Gilded top edge. Ribbon marker. Map is mounted onto book cloth and then bound into a buckram book case. Buckram slipcase holds books and map. Book size: 11 x 6. C Charles Doughty travelled on foot and rode by camel around an area the size of France, a region so desolate that it was occupied by just a few tens of thousands of people. Initially he travelled with the Haj, the sole Christian in a caravan of 6,000 Muslim pilgrims. At Madain Saleh, half-way to Mecca, he studied monuments left by the ancient Nabataean civilisation, before travelling into the desert interior alongside a Bedouin family and other nomadic groups. He reached the city of Unayzah, and finally Jeddah, in 1878. This Folio edition celebrates the masterpiece born from his journey. Doughty's odyssey was perilous in the extreme. There were long marches across harsh, rocky terrain, sometimes through the night. The sun was perilously hot, the nights cold and the winds fierce. Arriving at Madain Saleh, he finds the air fetid and the tombs bleached: 'Sultry was that midday winter sun, glancing from the sand, and stagnant the air, under the sun-beaten monuments.' Elsewhere he recalls a heat so intense that 'we seemed to breathe flames'. His health poor even before he began his journey was an abiding concern. What's more the Bedouin diet, with its staples of camel's milk, dates and occasional meat, was extremely lean. He observed: 'The Arabians inhabit a land of dearth and hunger, and there is no worse food than the date, which they must eat in their few irrigated valleys.' Then there were the dangers of travelling as an Englishman and a Christian through Wahabi areas, inhabited by xenophobic communities and forbidden to non-believers on pain of death. Doughty displaying a mixture of astonishing bravery and extraordinary stubbornness repeatedly ventured alone into areas that other Western travellers would have avoided even with a retinue of translators and guides. As Rory Stewart notes in his preface: 'Almost anyone he encountered, any time in 21 months, could have robbed and murdered him, with complete impunity.' T. E. Lawrence, acknowledging the hardships of travel in Arabia, even with 'a train of servants, good riding-beasts, tents and your own kitchen' described the 'sheer endurance' of Doughty's journey as 'wonderful'. This uncompromising, unencumbered approach to travel also brings a rare authenticity to Doughty's writing.

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