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FORSTER, George.

A Journey from Bengal to England through the Northern Part of India, Kashmire, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia, by the Caspian-Sea.

Published: London: R. Faulder, 1798

Stock code: 98149

Price: £3,000

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First edition thus. The first volume was published in Calcutta in 1790, the year before Forster’s death, the whole being published for the first time as here. Forster, (c.1752–1791), was an officer of the HEIC on the Madras establishment, and between 1782 and 1784 undertook “a remarkable overland journey from Calcutta to Europe, travelling through Jammu to Kashmir, Kabul, Herat, Persia, across the Caspian Sea, and thence to Russia. This journey traced back, to a large extent, the route of Alexander in his pursuit of Bessus. It also took Forster through districts of considerable commercial and political interest to the British. Adopting various disguises on his route … he travelled in the company of local merchants. This clandestine mode of travel, through regions completely unfamiliar to contemporary Europeans, made it impossible for him to use any instruments to survey his route, although he was later described as an acute observer with a good knowledge of the languages of central Asia” (ODNB). In Russia he had “sailed up the Volga to Russia, and then proceeded to St. Petersburg” (Cross), his travels there occupying just under a hundred pages of volume II. On his return to England he was encouraged by Henry Dundas to to write a general study of the political state of India, and “in 1785 he published Sketches of the Mythology and Customs of the Hindoos, a work which attracted considerable attention” (ODNB). On his return to India he was employed by Cornwallis to negotiate the conclusion of defensive alliance against Tipu Sultan with Mudhoji Bhonsla and the Nizam Shah, reaching Nagpur in July 1788. He died there in 1790 as resident to the court of Raja Raghoji Bhonsla. The completion of the present work was attained “from papers found in his possession”, and on publication quickly obtained a high reputation, being “valued by contemporaries for its contribution to the geographical knowledge of central Asia”. It was swiftly translated into French by the prominent orientalist Louis-Mathieu Langlès, being published in 1802 as Voyage du Bengale à Pétersbourg.

2 volumes bound as 1, quarto (267 207 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf, black morocco label, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments, but somewhat flaked, single ruled panel enclosing a beaded gilt panel to the boards, edges sprinkled blue, marbled endpapers. Double folding strip map of “the Route of Mr. Forster from Loldong to Petersburg”. Bound with both half-titles. Leather with considerable craquelure, some flaking, loss to spine, but surface now stable, corners through, front joint cracked but holding, light browning, some foxing to the map, but remains very good, and a reasonably appealing copy.

Bibliography: Cross D41; Ghani p.136; Henze, II, pp.262-3; Riddick 39; Wilson p.73; Yakushi F95

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