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FERRIER, Joseph Philippe [or Pierre, but not Pierce as per Yakushi].

History of the Afghans.

Translated from the Original Unpublished Manuscript by Captain William Jesse.

Published: London: John Murray, 1858

Stock code: 102592

Price: £850

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First edition. “This book concentrates attention on the period from about 1700 until 1850 and includes critical comments on British policy. Travelling extensively from Iran across Afghanistan and Central Asia into India Ferrier developed a masterly knowledge of the history, geography, and languages of the area” (Yakushi). J. P. Ferrier, author, “diplomat”, explorer, and soldier of fortune (1811-1886), served with the chasseurs d’Afrique in the late 1830s, being invalided back to France around 1837. “In 1839, while being prosecuted by his creditors, he developed a feeling for adventure” (Encyclopaedia Iranica), and signed up to serve as an instructor with the Persian Army. A rather ramshackle, unofficial mission to Persia was formed, which in the way of such freelance adventures imploded, “Only Ferrier had learnt Persian, and he imposed himself on the remaining officers … Ferrier was appointed adjutant-general and “chef d’état major” with an eight-year contract. He was sent to Zanjan to train cavalry battalions and was awarded with the Order of the Lion and Sun. His military mission soon revealed itself purposeless”. Ferrier returned disappointed to France to only discover that Franco-Persian diplomatic relations had been reopened offering the chance of further service, and he immediately took himself to Baghdad. Receiving a meagre subsidy from the French government, he decided to undertake the perilous overland journey through Persia and Afghanistan to join the group of French officers at Lahore in the service of Ranjit Singh’s burgeoning Sikh empire. “After the Anglo-Afghan war of 1838-42, conditions in Afghanistan were much disturbed. Having reached Herat with many difficulties, Ferrier was suspected by Yar Mohammed to be an English spy. After a long and perilous itinerary in Afghanistan, where he fell prey between rival local rulers [sic], he would return to Herat and reach Tehran. During his voyage, and particularly at the end, he sent reports on the British in Central Asia to Henry Rawlinson at Baghdad and to Justin Sheil at Tehran. He brought to Sheil a manuscript from Alexander Burnes. He also reported to Sartiges on the political situation in Afghanistan”. An account of his trip was published in an English translation in 1857, only being issued in French in 1870. He subsequently served similarly ill-fated results in Persia, France and finally India, having in between times bankrupted himself with an agricultural project on Rhodes. He died in Marseilles in 1886. In his preface Capt. Jesse makes the point that Ferrier’s writings “can be more thoroughly appreciated here [in England] than in France; and that they must prove of real value in England is evident when we consider how great are the interests involved in the development – commercial, social, and religious – of that vast continent which Providence has permitted to fall under our rule”. Uncommon, and a well-presented copy. Armorial book plate of Cyril Flower, Baron Battersea, reimposed to the front pastedown, that of Monier Williams, noted orientalist, Boden Professor of Sanskrit facing on the front free endpaper, and the attractive collector’s plate of Gerald Sattin to the first blank.

Octavo (217 133 mm). Recently bound in half calf, to style, marbled boards and edges, red morocco label, low bands with milled gilt roll, floral lozenges to the compartments, double rule in blind to the spine and corner edges, dun endpapers. Folding engraved map at the rear, and one full-page map. Light browning, else very good.

Bibliography: Yakushi F32.

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