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BURNES, Alexander.

Central Asia comprising Bokhara, Cabool, Persia, the River Indus, & Countries Eastward of it.

London: J. Arrowsmith, 16th June 1834 Stock Code: 129689
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Detailed map to accompany Bokhara Burnes

Important, highly detailed map of Central Asia "constructed from numerous authentic documents but principally from the original MS. surveys of Lieut. Alex. Burnes", and showing Burnes's route across Asia, intended to accompany, and cash in on, his Travels into Bokhara, which, rather rushed out, was not provided with a map. Burnes had sailed to Bombay to take up a cadetship in the Bombay Army, aged just 16, and within a year his grasp of Hindustani and Persian were such that he was made interpreter to the Bombay Grenadiers at Surat. He subsequently served as interpreter and quartermaster to the Cutch Field Force, before being made assistant quartermaster-general of the Bombay Army. Burnes was the Great Game exponent par excellence he; "excelled at political work. His linguistic ability combined with adventurousness, boundless self-confidence, and a certain diplomatic guile earmarked him for delicate political duties" (ODNB).

In 1831, following a mission to deliver five dray horses the gift of William IV to Ranjit Singh - and make a reconnaissance of the Indus - he reported to Lord Bentinck at Simla. The governor-general, much impressed by the young officer, proposed "a much grander expedition across central Asia to Bokhara and beyond", designed to assess the extent of Russian incursions into Central Asia. In January 1832 Burnes set out from Ludhiana accompanied by Dr James Gerard, a Bengal army surgeon, and skilled surveyor in his own right; an Indian surveyor, Muhammad Ali; and a young munshi of Kashmiri descent, Mohan Lal. "The party travelled modestly, always in local dress, and variously represented themselves as Englishmen, Armenians, pilgrims, merchantswhatever the often hazardous circumstances seemed to require." They reached Bokhara in June; thence across the Turkoman desert to Mashhad,; on to the Caspian Sea, down to Tehran, and finally back by sea to Bombay. When Burnes returned to England with his report in 1833 he was greeted as a hero, he "received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society, and enjoyed a flattering audience with William IV". Anticipating a sensation, the publisher John Murray "... was quick to acquire Burnes's account of his journey It brought to the reader for the first time the romance, mystery and excitement of Central Asia. It was to prove an immediate best-seller, 900 copies being sold on the first day." (Hopkirk, Great Game, p151).

The area covered is bounded by Baghdad in the west, Srinagar in the east, the Gulf of Kutch in the south, and the southern shore of the Aral Sea in the north. It also includes both the eastern and western coasts of the Persian Gulf, on the west extending down the Battnah coast as far as Muscat, and on the east going beyond the Strait of Hormuz along the coast of Makran. Gulf locations include "Grane, or Koete or Quaide" Kuwait, Bahrein Bahrain, Zabara Zubarah now in Qatar, Abothubbee Abu Dhabi, Debai Dubai, Sharja Sharjah, Aymaun Ajman, and Ras-el-Khyma Ras-al-Khaimah. This map formed sheet 29 of John Arrowsmith's London Atlas, which established his reputation as the equal of his renowned uncle Aaron, under whom he had trained. He was responsible for many of the maps that appeared in RGS publications, persuading "the society to use copper-engraving instead of the cheaper but inferior lithography; which was typical of his search for perfection in both the content and presentation of his maps" (ODNB). Sir Clements Markham said of him that he laboured over his maps "quite irrespective of any pecuniary profit".

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Steel-engraved map (sheet size, 535 x 790 mm; print area, 500 x 724 mm), original colour, three sheets joined; scale 1:4,435,200.


Light toning, some spotting, crease at top left-hand corner, overall very good.


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