HERBERT, Sir Thomas

HERBERT, Sir Thomas A relation of some yeares trauaile, begunne anno 1626. Into Afrique and the greater Asia, especially the territories of the Persian monarchie: and some parts of the orientall Indies, and iles adiacent

London, Printed by William Stansby, and Iacob Bloome, 1634


FIRST EDITION fol. pp. (x) 225 (xv) lacking first blank. Roman letter. Woodcut printer’s device on letterpress title, large floriated woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut headpieces and ornaments, fine engraved title by Marshall depicting i.a. a priest and warrior (Johnson p. 38:19), numerous engravings of views, animals (including the famous first flying fish and dodo), inhabitants and their costumes, maps of Madagascar and the Caucasus, in text, C19th engraved armorial bookplate of Arthur Viscount Dillon on pastedown. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in late C19th speckled calf antique, covers blind tooled to a panel design with alternate speckled panels, blind fleurons to outer corners, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, double gilt ruled in compartments, richly gilt, red morocco label gilt, re-backed, original spine laid down, a.e.r.

Drawing partly on his experiences as a member of the first English embassy to Persia, Herbert devotes much of this account to the topography, customs, commerce, etc. of that kingdom, but also includes sections on the peoples, ways of life and religious beliefs of Angola, the Cape of Good Hope, Madagascar, Malaya, Java, Sumatra, India, Ceylon, Thailand, the Persian Gulf and Georgia, and also touches on China, which, however, he had not visited. He describes Persepolis, Shiraz, Isfahan and other Persian cities, discusses the religion, diet, costumes and weapons of the country’s inhabitants, and speculates on the location of Paradise. The section on China includes references to the Chinese invention of printing and of gunpowder; and there is a chapter on Mauritius which consists largely of fauna and flora, since the island is said to have “no humane Inhabitants”. Word lists of Persian, Malay and Arabic are given, and also a general index. He is particularly interested in the social position of women and the sexual mores of the societies described. “The book had great vogue in its time…..Written in a lively and agreeable style, it contains much that is interesting and curious, particularly a dissertation to prove that America was discovered three hundred years before Columbus by one Madoc ap Owen” (DNB IX 667). Herbert coasted the eastern shores of North America on his return voyage to England.

The work was expanded by Herbert in many editions in his lifetime however the first edition retains all the immediacy of his youthful discoveries. “Some readers have complained that whilst Herbert himself obviously preferred to be remembered by the latest version of his book, the freshness of the experiences as described in the 1634 edition has given way to a great deal of embellishment and reflections, depriving his text of the spontaneity of a young man’s wide-eyed wonder as he gazes on the splendours of the Persian court, the stately ruins of Persepolis, or the architectural marvels of Tabriz and Isfahan, as well as his amusing and sometimes self-deprecating accounts of the hardships he experienced during his journey.” Encyclopaedia Iranica.

ESTC S119687. STC 13190. Cordier, Bibl. Indosinica 874 & Bibl. Jap. 343. Gay 62. Alden 634/68. Sabin 31471. JFB H 116.

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