The works of the famous British explorer Richard Francis Burton include several hundred pages of autographs and nearly 200 printed documents.
Pom Harrington, owner of rare book dealer Peter Harrington. Photos provided
A leading London rare book dealer is displaying an exceptional private collection of Sir Richard Francis Burton – a famous British explorer of Arabia, Asia and Africa – and his wife, Isabel Lady Burton, at the Fair Abu Dhabi Book International.
The £2 million (9.2 million dirhams) collection of Burton’s works, formed by Loren and Frances Rothschild, consists of manuscripts and autograph letters, presentation copies, inscribed and annotated works, drawings, photographs, printed books, brochures and articles, totaling several hundred autograph pages and nearly 200 printed works.
Pom Harrington, owner of rare book dealer Peter Harrington, detailed the new 125-item catalog titled Abu Dhabi 2022, which features works spanning centuries and continents.
Thus, there is a first edition of Burton’s “Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medina and Mecca” – an extraordinary account of his visit to the holiest places for Muslims: Mecca and Medina, which is exhibited in a fine set of three original canvas volumes in bright blue gilt lettering.
“Obviously Sir Burton went there in disguise as it is a no-go place for non-Muslims,” Pom said. Khaleej timesand noted that classic travel literature surpassed all previous Western accounts of Islam’s two holiest cities.
Another rare book is “Trucial States”, a handwritten diary of a British naval officer’s tour of the Gulf. Unpublished journal archives document the Middle East in the early 1930s, including a richly detailed first-hand account of a visit to Dubai and a reception aboard HMS Effingham of the Trucial Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ajman, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain.
“The officer was 19-year-old Acting Second Lieutenant Wyatt R. Larken. The accounts of the Sheikhs’ visit and their reactions are very interesting. In the 1930s, the Gulf was very important to the British.
Pom said the collection provides a vivid picture of life in the Middle East in the early and mid-twentieth century.
“While the prolific tales and famous works of Burton and other famous explorers such as TE Lawrence are endlessly collectible, we are pleased to also include an expanded selection of unusually rare and uncommon works that offer a new perspective for understand and appreciate the region’s rich and complex history.”
Other unique works on display include “Alf Layla Wa-Layla” (One Thousand and One Nights), an exceptionally rare first edition in Arabic; a rare and important map of Oman from 1874, which shows that Abu Dhabi was then called Abu Thebi and Dubai Debay; a first edition of the biography of the great conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) by Ahmad Ibn ‘Arabshah’; first edition of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’; first edition of ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce – one of 750 copies on handmade paper; the first and rarest of the Harry Potter books: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, among other exhibits.
The fair is taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC) until Sunday.