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MASON, Michael.

The Paradise of Fools.

Being an Account by a Member of the Party, of the Expedition which covered 6,300 miles of the Libyan Desert by Motor-car in 1935.

Published: London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1936

Stock code: 98893

Price: £750

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First edition. Lively, and uncommon account of an expedition described in Fliegel Jezerniczky’s on-line Libyan Desert bibliography as “an extraordinary journey”, in which a party led by Mason and W.B. Kennedy Shaw traversed “virtually all major parts of the Libyan desert. They started from Kharga, reaching the Gilf Kebir via Abu Ballas, making the first crossing of the dune belt in the ‘Gap’ to enter Wadi Hamra, discovering two major wadis transversing the southern Gilf (and locating a cave with rock paintings on the col between them), then continuing via Selima and Erdi to El Fasher (where they met Almásy and party). On the northbound leg they traversed the southern Libyan Desert, continuing to Uweinat, passing the western side of the Gilf, then traversing the Great Sand Sea to reach Siwa”. The cave at Mogharet el Kantara containing the paintings of cattle and a homestead scene, the only known site containing rock art in the Southern eastern portion of the Gilf Kebir, is now known as Shaw’s Cave. During the Second World War Shaw went on to become a founder member of the Long Range Desert Group, whose scorpion badge was very similar to that used here on the upper board; Mason, who had previously spent time fur-trapping in Canada, and sparring with Jack Sharkey, was recruited to Naval Intelligence by Ian Fleming, lending a number of characteristics – physical and temperamental – and terrific tales to the composite who became James Bond. Shaw published his findings in the Geographical Journal (“An Expedition in the Southern Lybian Desert”, volume 87, 1936) and Antiquity (“Rock Paintings in the Lybian Desert”, volume 10, 1936). Bookplate of Charles Edward Rusbridge, who served in Libya with the RAOC during World War II, to the front pastedown.

Octavo. Original blue cloth, title gilt to the spine, scorpion device gilt to the upper board. With the striking pictorial dust jacket. Frontispiece and 22 other plates, folding coloured map at the rear. A little chafed head and tail of the spine, corners a touch bumped, free endpapers differentially browned, minor production flaw at the head of the rear hinge, else very good in slightly rubbed jacket, foxed on the flaps, with some slightly amateurish restoration at the head of the spine, but pictorially and textually complete.

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