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STEIN, M. Aurel.


Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China Carried Out and Described under the Orders of H.M. Indian Government.

Availability: In stock

Published: Oxford Clarendon Press, 1921

Stock Code: 125986

OR On display in 43 Dover Street


First edition, first impression, of this landmark work which has a strong claim to be the single most important text on Central Asia. Stein explains in his introduction: "The term Serindia, as adopted (in the form Sérinde) by valued French fellow-scholars, is excellently suited for the designation of this region, well-defined by nature as well as by historical relationship. Significant brevity would amply justify its use even if the interpretation which derives Procopius' local name Serinda from a compound of the terms in Greek Seres, the classical name for the people of Serica or China and India may prove to have no better foundation than 'learned popular etymology'". Stein provides a richly illustrated account of his second Central Asian expedition of 1906-8, in which he crossed into Chinese Turkestan and excavated a number of sites along the Silk Road, discovered what appeared to be an extension of the Great Wall and "located the famous Jade Gate, the historic frontier post on the Silk Road" (Howgego). Most notably he gained access to the Mogao Caves, also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas; it was here that Stein "was staggered to behold countless ancient manuscript bundles, heaped in layers to a height of 10 feet and occupying close to 500 cubic feet" (ibid.). In his review of the work, the distinguished British sinologist Lionel Giles stated that "'monumental' is an adjective that is apt to be abused; but few will question its applicability to the present work, which describes in detail the progress and results of what is perhaps the most fruitful archaeological expedition that has been undertaken in modern times" (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 56.1, 1921).

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5 volumes, quarto, comprising 3 volumes of text, volume of plates and plans, and map-case. Original brick-red cloth, spines and front covers lettered in gilt, front covers with embossed gilt roundel showing Athena with arm outstretched brandishing the aegis incorporating the gorgoneion (Stein's personal emblem).


345 half-tone illustrations from photographs and 59 plans to the text volumes, 175 plates to the third volume, map-case with 94 maps.


Bookplates and shelf marks of Bath Public Library, with their stamps in blank margins of text and plates. Spine ends lightly bumped, front hinge of vol. III cracked, some very light foxing to contents. Map case a little rubbed, scratch to top panel, some maps a little cockled and creased. A very good set.


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