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MUIR, William.

A History of the Christian Church to the Time of Constantine.

Published: Agra: Wm. H. Haycock, Secundra Orphan Press, 1848

Stock code: 89523

Price: £1,750

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First and only edition. Extremely uncommon, just a single copy traced at Yale, and in that the map not noted. This copy inscribed by the noted Orientalist and administrator to his elder brother John, “Jn Muir from W.M., Agra, 22 Ja[nuar]y 1849”. John is widely considered to have been “one of the most significant British patrons and scholars of Sanskrit of the mid-nineteenth century” (ODNB), but his brother’s influence was certainly the greater. From Haileybury William travelled out in 1837 to take up a posting on the North West Provinces, where he would see almost 40 years of continuous service. A series of minor positions in the revenue and judicial services were followed by “posts in the provincial capital of Agra, first as secretary to the board of revenue in 1848, and then, from 1852, as secretary to Lieutenant-Governor James Thomason, with whose evangelicalism and administrative innovations in the fields of land revenue and education he was very sympathetic. His first twenty years of Indian service proved him sound rather than exceptional”. The Mutiny and subsequent civil uprising of 1857–9 provided Muir with greater scope for initiative, and his intelligence work in the province drew him to the attention the of the Governor-General, leading to his eventual rise in 1868 to the provincial governorship. He retired to Britain in late 1876 but continued to play an active role in Indian affairs until 1885, as a member of the Council of India in London. He was then appointed principal of Edinburgh University, his alma mater, retiring in 1903. He has been recognised for his contribution to the stabilisation of land revenue problems in north-west India following the uprisings, but his Islamic scholarship and educational endeavours, both in India and Scotland, were probably of greater long-term significance; “His preoccupation with higher education reflected partly his perception of the élites, particularly the Muslims, as bulwarks of the raj in the north-west, and partly his evangelical conviction that education would be conducive to social reform and hence to ‘civilisation’, and even to his personal goal of the reception of Christian values”. The present work certainly representing an adjunct of this Macaulayist project, Muir noting in his preface that “this treatise is mainly designed as a vernacular one for the natives of Hindustan, and has an especial reference to the Mahomedan population”.

Octavo (197 113 mm). Original green combed cloth-backed marbled boards, paper label to the spine. Folding lithographic map frontispiece with some colour. A little rubbed, label somewhat chipped, ink-stamp of the Free Church College to the front free endpaper, light toning to the text, otherwise very good.

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