Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1888. First edition. Original green publisher's cloth stamped in gilt. A Near Fine copy outside and in, with slight wear at the crowns and a contemporary ownership signature to the header of the title. Inner joints of Volume one professionally repaired. Complete, including the hand-colored folding map (loose as issued), eight folding plates, and numerous in-text illustrations. The present is an exceptional example of this important travel narrative.
A European colonial perspective on the Middle East, Travels in Arabia Deserta is "remarkable for its scientific revelations...and the accuracy of its geographical, geological, and archaeological observations" (Tabachnick). It also remains problematic in its "Victorian characteristics and aesthetics; its blend of fact and fantasy; and its portrayal of Arab society" (Tabachnick). For its English-speaking audience, the book fed a popular Victorian desire for real-life adventure narratives that surpassed the sensations that novels could provide. And it promoted for its white readers "the underlying cultural superiority of the West" by participating in a "discourse of Orientalism" that transformed the peoples and cultures of the Middle East into inferior, barbaric, or untrustworthy stereotypes that glorified survival and heightened the adventures of an Englishman with whom they could identify (Alzahrani). (Item #4523)