MCCRINDLE, John Watson.

The Commerce and Navigation of the Erythraean Sea:

being Translations of the "Periplus maris Erythraei" by an Anonymous Writer and partly from Arrian's Account of the Voyage of Nearkhos …

Bombay: Thacker, Spink, & Co., 1879 Stock Code: 94810

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First edition in book form, scarce, with one copy listed in auction records in the last 50 years. McCrindle, of the Bengal Educational Service, translated from the Greek two of the most important sources for Arabia and the Gulf in antiquity.

The Periplus was written in the first century CE and describes the routes and commercial opportunities to be accessed from Rome's Egyptian ports along the coast of the Red Sea and north-east Africa. It contains much on the Arabian Peninsula, including descriptions of Himyarite and Sabaean kingdoms, and the Frankincense Kingdom of king Eleazus, probably Iliazz Yalit I, in the Hadramawt.

Arrian's account describes a voyage undertaken on the orders of Alexander the Great in 325 BCE, which resulted in the Greek discovery of the Gulf (Retso, The Arabs in Antiquity, p. 267). Alexander's admiral, Nearkhos (Nearchus), sailed from the Indus estuary and eventually landed at a town named as Diridotis, evidently Teredon, a city founded by Nebuchadnezzar II in what is now Kuwait. William Vincent, who produced a commentary on the text in 1797, called it "the first event of general importance to mankind in the history of navigation" (ODNB).

Provenance: ex-Bath Public Library, from the bequest of Mrs Miles, wife of British Arabist and colonial agent Col. Samuel Barrett Miles (1838-1914), with bookplate, manuscript shelf-mark and blind-stamps as usual. Miles spent most of his career as a political agent in Oman and what are now the United Arab Emirates.

He noted the voyage of Nearkhos in his posthumously-published Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf (1919): "It was in the time of Alexander that the land of Oman was first seen by Europeans. His admiral, Nearchus, when passing up the Persian Gulf, sighted Cape Maceta or Cape Mussendom, and heard from the pilot of a great Omani emporium Alexander hearing his report, determined on sending an expedition to circumnavigate the Arabian peninsula, but his early death in Babylon put an end to this and other schemes, and for nearly a hundred years no fresh light was thrown on the land" (p. 8). Miles has annotated the preface, praising McCrindle's "useful" translation but criticising his notes as "kucha", Hindi for raw. The book is an expanded form of articles which originally appeared in the Indian Antiquary.

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Octavo. Original black sand-grain cloth, gilt-lettered spine, blind frames to sides, green endpapers.


Spine-ends and tips lightly bumped and rubbed, endpapers browned. A very good copy.


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