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FRASER, James Baillie.

Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan, in the Years 1821 and 1822.

Including some account of the countries to the north-east of Persia; with remarks upon the National Character, Government, and Resources of that Kingdom.

London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825 Stock Code: 138730
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First edition of this significant contribution to the knowledge of Persia as seen through Western eyes; Fraser's biographer Denis Wright describes it as "packed with information" and notes that among much well-observed detail Fraser "gives a rare first-hand description of the shrines in the holy cities of Qum and Mashhad, both of which he had entered in disguise, probably the first European to do so" (Wright, article, p. 127). It received a lengthy two-part review in the Journal des Savants (November 1826) by the distinguished French orientalist Silvestre de Sacy and the Edinburgh Review remarked that Fraser had "made valuable additions to our knowledge of Persia, and gained a right to rank as the very first to whom we owe a distinct view of any considerable part of Persian Khorasan" (Vol. XLIII, 1826, p. 106). A German translation was published at Weimar in 1828-29.

Fraser (1793-1856) was born in Edinburgh to well-to-do parents and early acquired a taste for eastern travel when he accompanied his brother William, who was political and recruiting agent for British forces engaged in the Anglo-Nepalese War, to India, touring the Himalayan region for two months "engrossed in sketching the scenery" (ODNB). In 1821 he left India in company with his fellow Scot, Dr Andrew Jukes, surgeon and political agent with the HEIC, on a diplomatic mission to Persia "for negotiating with the Persian authorities the terms for stationing British troops at Qešm island and eliminating piracy in the Persian Gulf" (Encyclopaedia Iranica, retrieved 25 February 2020). They sailed to Bushehr and thence via Shiraz to Esfahan, where Jukes succumbed to cholera late in 1821, leaving Fraser to proceed alone to Tehran. "From there in December 1821, accompanied by a Persian interpreter, four Persian servants and a negro attendant brought from India, Fraser, wearing Persian dress, set off for Mashad. He hoped to reach Bokhara but this proved impossible because of unsettled political conditions in Central Asia. Instead he explored the Caspian shores and after visiting Rasht and Ardebil reached Tabriz. He then went through Kurdistan to Baghdad before returning to England where he spent the next few years writing two travel books which gave the British public their first descriptions of the southern Caspian shore. He also wrote a number of romantic novels with Persian backgrounds" (Wright, The English Amongst the Persians, p. 153).

The 16-page Appendix A covers "Affairs of the Persian Gulf, and Causes of the Mission to Persia", an important source of information on the Anglo-Qawasim pirate wars of 1809-1820. This elucidates the background to the Jukes mission and gives details of the British expeditions of 1810 and 1819 against the Qasimi pirates (Fraser describes the Arab defenders of Ras Al Khaimah in 1819 as maintaining "their usual character for courage"), along with "treaties made with the piratical tribes"; the two expeditions (1820 and 1821) against the Omani tribe known as the Bani Bu Ali, a punitive campaign conducted jointly by the East India Company and the Sultan of Muscat, the first of which failed disastrously, Fraser giving an account of the destruction of the British force at Sur ("Soor"); the claims of the Persian government on the strategically important Qeshm Island ("Kishmee"), in the Strait of Hormuz; and the appointment of Jukes as envoy to the court of Persia.

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Quarto (268 x 202 mm). Slightly later dark blue half calf, gilt banded spine with blind foliate roll to compartments, red label, blue-grey pebble-grain cloth sides trimmed with a blind triple fillet, terracotta-coated endpapers, sepia speckled edges.


Large engraved folding map by Aaron and Samuel Arrowsmith.


Spine a little sunned, some wear to corners, back joint split at foot, extremities rubbed, old stain to back cover, front inner hinge cracked at gutter, yet this remains a good clean, tall copy, complete with the errata leaf and having the virtue of the map being preserved in a custom-made pocket at the end.


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