Peter Harrington is open from December 3rd in line with UK government advice – click here for more details of our Christmas opening hours.

MALCOLM, Sir John.

Histoire de la Perse,

depuis les tems les plus anciens jusqu'a l'époque actuelle; suivie d'observations sur la religion, le gouvernement, les usages et les moeurs des habitans de cette contrée.

Paris: Pillet ainé, 1821 Stock Code: 138677
Reserve Ask us a question

A most attractive set bound by Thouvenin

First edition in French of this "monumental work" by the diplomatist and administrator in India Sir John Malcolm (Wright, p. 8), originally published at London in two quarto volumes in 1815. The translation, by Pierre-Vincent Benoist, was continued from 1814 to 1820 by the eminent orientalist Louis-Matthieu Langlès, keeper of oriental manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale and founding director of the Ecole des langues orientales vivantes in Paris. The "scapegrace and the scapegoat" of the very large family of a Scottish small farmer (Kaye, I, p. 5), the daring and adventurous Malcolm (1769-1833) made three diplomatic missions to Persia and on his third, in 1810, was received "with pomp and cordiality", developed a trusting relationship with the shah, and found time to introduce the potato to the country (known locally as "Malcolm's plum"). "His classic History of Persia, which appeared in 1815, brought him an honorary doctorate of laws from Oxford. Translated into French (1821), German (1830), and Persian (n.d.), the history was particularly valuable for contextualizing events surrounding his own time in Persia, and served as the standard western work for about a century" (ODNB).

This set presented in a choice binding by Thouvenin, described by the distinguished Italian bibliographer Federico Macchi as having "achieved a reputation as a leading binder of his epoch... whose name has been immortalised by mentions in the pages of Balzac and Stendhal... He admitted that for many years later, he was quite incapable of attaining the standard set by many English binders, notably Charles Lewis whose work was brought to him as models by his customers. Only by 1830 did he feel that he had obtained the necessary experience, and built up a team of binders which enabled him to compete successfully with English binders" (cited by British Library, Database of Bookbindings, retrieved 24 February 2020). The present elegantly restrained example of his craft could certainly be said to match the best English binding of the period and to attain that "Englishness" of style for which he strove so assiduously.

Confused? Read our glossary


4 volumes, octavo (205 x 125 mm). Contemporary calf by Thouvenin (vol. I with his name gilt stamped in tail compartment of spine), flat spines with five low raised bands bearing a gilt concentric disc roll, crisply gilt tooled decoration at head and tail, blind central lozenge motif in compartments, dark red twin labels, sides with black single fillet border and gilt corner rosettes enclosing concentric blind palmette and foliate panels, quatraglyph-and-metope edge roll, prettily gilt tooled turn-ins, French Shell pattern marbled edges and endpapers.


Fine engraved folding map by Ambroise Tardieu, 6 plates and portrait of Fath-'Ali Šâh Qâjâr (with tissue guards).


Some light abrasions to bindings. A particularly appealing set, with half-titles.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.


Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book