The Desert of Sinai: Notes on a Spring-Journey from Cairo to Beersheba.London, James Nisbet and Co., 1857 Stock Code: 140933
NotesFirst edition. This is an engaging account written in journal form of an expedition around the Sinai Peninula in 1856. Contemporary reviews were highly favourable: "it may serve as a model of the style in which works of this kind ought to be written" (The Eclectic Review); "Dr Bonar seems to excel equally in accuracy of observation, and in cordial appreciation and felicitous description of what is grand or beautiful" (The British and Foreign Evangelical Review). Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), a Scot best known as a prolific hymn writer, is said to have composed hymns "even as he crossed the Sinai Desert on a camel" (ODNB) - a boast which few could rival. He enlarges on this in his preface, where he remarks that the outline notes for his book "were all taken on the spot, generally on the back of the camel, and extended afterwards. A little practice made it easy to write in that position; at least when the animal was not moving at more than its common rate of two miles and a quarter an hour".
Bonar travelled via France, Malta and Alexandria, going by rail to Cairo ("it was strange to be rushing at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour in such a conveyance through the land of the Pharaohs"), taking in the sphinx and the pyramids, before heading to Suez and exploring the Sinai Peninsula. His observations are quoted a number of times in Deborah Manley and Sahar Abdel-Hakim's Travelling through Sinai: From the Fourth to the Twenty-first Century (2006). In a useful appendix Bonar remarks, "I add the places on our route, as given me by Sheikh Suliman at Nakhl. I am not sure that in all cases I have caught the exact word, as it is exceedingly difficult to get hold of words and names from the lips of the Bedaween". His index is also informative and shows that he was familiar with such earlier travellers as Pococke, Niebuhr, and Burckhardt.
Octavo (183 x 118 mm). Contemporary dark blue calf, decorative gilt spine, sides with border of paired gilt fillets enclosing a gilt scrolling foliate roll and paired blind fillets, gilt foliate edge roll and turn-ins, Nonpareil pattern marbled endpapers, gilt edges.
Neat gift inscription to blank before title page, "Henrietta Gurney from Grandmama Fletcher, Feby. 20th 1857". Slight mottling to front cover and old tidemark to back cover where once damped, a few light abrasions, top of front joint wormed, a few leaves lightly creased, yet this remains a handsome copy that presents well on the shelf.
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