The Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Nineteenth Century Asia: Persian Gulf, Frontiers of India

La rivalité anglo-russe au XIXe siècle en Asie: golfe Persique, frontières de l'Inde (The Anglo-Russian rivalry in 19th century Asia: Persian Gulf, frontiers of India) is a history of the competition between the British and Russian Empires over territories lying between their respective dominions in Asia. Russian expansion into Central Asia and British penetration east of Suez to the Indian subcontinent led the two powers into this diplomatic and military competition, which became known as the Great Game. The author, Alphonse Rouire (1855‒1917), was a French physician and writer on geographical and historical topics concerning Asia and Africa. The book is based on articles that he published over a five-year period in the French intellectual monthly Revue des Deux Mondes (Journal of two worlds). It contains chapters on England in Arabia, England and Russia in Persia, the English and the Russians in Afghanistan, the English in Tibet, and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Rouire analyses Anglo-Russian tensions in these regions, and concludes that the rivalry between the two empires ended happily with the signing of the “wise” and “durable” Anglo-Russian Convention, which he optimistically predicts would become “one of the best measures of world peace.” The book was published in 1908 by Armand Colin, the French academic press founded in 1870. It contains a fold-out map of the region.

Studies on the Dialects of Southern Arabia

Études sur les dialectes de l'Arabie méridionale (Studies of the dialects of South Arabia) is a monumental study of the dialects of the Hadramawt and Datinah regions of the southern Arabian Peninsula, located northeast of the city of Aden (present-day Yemen). It was produced by the Swedish Orientalist Count Carlo Landberg (1848‒1924), who is considered one of the leading Swedish Orientalists of all time. The work consists of four volumes of painstakingly transcribed recitations of poems, songs, and stories collected from the tribes. The author provides the Arabic text in colloquial transcription, a phonetic rendering of the recitation, and a translation into French. Musical notation is provided for songs. A wealthy aristocrat who was able to devote his time and fortune to the study of Arabic dialects during his travels and on diplomatic postings in Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, Landberg maintained residences in France, Germany, and Sweden, and participated in the scholarly life of each country. In 1889 he served as secretary-general of the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists. On the occasion of his 75th birthday he wrote: “I have spent more than thirty years among the Arabs. I have spoken Arabic every day for forty-two years, up until the War [World War I].” Although based on research that is more than a century old, Landberg’s pioneering studies remain the starting point for South Arabian dialect research. Linguistic science and dialectology have grown in complexity and sophistication since Landberg’s time, but modern scholars still rely on his original field work, especially his lexicography. Landberg also provided rich descriptions of the manners and customs of the peoples among whom he worked. The publication of these volumes in 1901‒13 by the Orientalist printing and publishing firm of E.J. Brill of Leiden, Netherlands, was a tour-de-force in its own right. The books are masterpieces of precision in the use of multiple types, complex annotation, and comprehensive book design featuring multiple indexes, glossaries, and explanatory text. The work is dedicated to King Oscar II of Sweden, who was also a scholar and a patron of the arts and sciences.

Southwestern Arabia

Das südwestliche Arabien (Southwest Arabia) by Walther Schmidt is a book on applied geography, primarily covering the areas of present-day Yemen. It is the eighth in Series IV of the Angewandte Geographie (Applied geography) publications, a series of books edited by Dr. Hugo Grothe and published by the firm of Heinrich Keller of Frankfurt am Main with the aim of “broadening geographic understanding in its relationship to cultural and scientific life.” The book, published in 1913, is a compilation of geographic information, including a long bibliography and a chronological list of travelers to the region with the routes they took. In addition to the introduction and the appendix, it is comprised of four sections: “Zur Natur des Landes” (On the physical geography of the land), “Die Bevölkerung des Landes” (The population of the land), “Zur Wirtschaft des Landes” (On the economy of the land), and “Literatur” (Bibliography). The appendix contains 13 tables and two maps. The tables contain information about Yemen’s surface area and population, travelers and explorers in the region, and shipping traffic to and from the port cities of Aden and Hodeida (also called Al Hudaydah). Only one of the maps, a topographic representation of Yemen’s mountain structure and drainage system, survives in this copy. The book was originally the inaugural dissertation of Schmidt, about whom little is known. He states in the introduction that he embarked on his research in 1910 and was supervised by Professor Alfred Philippson (1864‒1953). The latter was a noted German geographer who taught at the University of Bonn and who, in the Nazi era, survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The Harbor of Aden

John Taylor Arms (1887–1953) was a major figure in American graphic arts in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his architectural studies and panoramas of European cities and towns. The images of the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris are among his most recognizable work, as are his studies of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Arms produced few studies of Eastern landscapes. Presented here is one such study. It shows sailboats on the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of the port city of Aden (present-day Yemen). It is not known when the work was created; it may have been during his service as a navigation officer in the United States Navy during World War I or perhaps several years earlier, while traveling with his wife. His other maritime work includes a series depicting American warships. Collaborating on his travels, studio work, and publications was his wife, Dorothy Noyes Arms. This impression is signed and dated by Arms and is numbered 6 of 40. It was printed by Frederick Reynolds, a printmaker in New York City with whom Arms worked in the 1920s. John Taylor Arms served as president of the Society of American Graphic Artists. As a teacher he was known to share his techniques generously with students.

The Laws of Islam

Las leyes del Islam (The laws of Islam) was published in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1926. The book’s author, Constantino Melhem, a native Arabic speaker and a non-Muslim, sets himself the goal of translating directly from the Arabic and organizing and commenting on the body of Islamic law. His objective, as stated in the preface, is to explain to a Western audience the massive body of laws and rules governing Muslim life and to correct what he regards as misconceptions about the Muslim way of life that have resulted from inaccurate translations and superficial interpretations by Christians. He aims to shed light on laws governing the lives of 350 million Muslims (his estimate of the world’s Muslim population in 1926, when the book was published). The book is divided into four parts: religious laws, civil laws, criminal laws, and social laws. Each part is further subdivided into chapters that address such topics as fasting, prayer, marriage, inheritance, behavior toward parents, tithes, loans, commercial activities, and family life. The chapters have a common structure: they begin with the definition of the rule, list modalities of conduct needed to appropriately observe the rule, the exceptions, followed by specific examples illustrated with facts. In some chapters, Melhem offers a personal commentary about a particular law and its implications and often compares it with similar rules that apply in Christian countries. Melhem draws such connections in order to facilitate understanding by his readers. He also makes special efforts to present the relationship between causes and effects in the observance of Islamic laws in order to showcase the holistic role of law and religion in Muslim life.

Studies in Oriental History and Philology

Mélanges d'histoire et de philologie orientale (Studies in oriental history and philology), published in Paris around 1854, is a celebratory volume honoring the 60-year career of French Orientalist Étienne Marc Quatremère (1782‒1857). The volume includes Quatremère’s essays on the Phoenicians, the Biblical Ophir, King Darius of Persia and King Balthasar of Babylon, and Arab science, as well as studies of Jerusalem and the Jordan River. The essays reflect the author’s erudition and his wide-ranging interests in the ancient and modern Near East, its history and languages, Biblical studies, and textual translation and analysis. Quatremère was born in Paris into a well-off merchant family. His father was killed in the Revolutionary terror of 1793‒94 when the boy was 12 years old. His mother rebuilt the family business and Étienne received a thorough classical education. He both studied and taught Semitic and Persian languages and also learned Turkish and Coptic. His work on Egyptian hieroglyphics in some ways paralleled that of Jean-François Champollion (1790‒1832), in what has been considered an academic rivalry between the two men. The recipient of numerous awards and prestigious appointments, Quatremère seldom left his home and never traveled to the regions of the world that he studied with such passion. Indeed, he was something of a recluse who was criticized by some for an excessive commitment to his work. Upon his death, he left a library of over 40,000 volumes, including 1,200 manuscripts, which was acquired by King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The first essay in Mélanges d'histoire et de philologie orientale deals with “the taste for books among the peoples of the East.” In it Quatremère marks the difference between book study and book display. The book also includes a biographical essay about Quatremère by Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (1805‒95), a journalist and politician best known for his philosophical writings. The Library of Congress copy presented here has an ink stamp in Japanese: Minami Manshū Tetsudō Kabushiki Kaisha Tōa Keizai Chōsakyoku zōsho no in (Seal of collection at the South Manchuria Railway Company, East Asia Economic Research Bureau). During World War II, the South Manchuria Railway Company engaged in extensive intelligence gathering and operational activities on behalf of the Japanese Imperial Army, including efforts to agitate Muslims against Chinese and Russian rule. Most likely the book was confiscated by the U.S. armed forces at the end of the war and subsequently transferred to the Library of Congress.

History of Seyd Said, Sultan of Muscat

History of Seyd Said, Sultan of Muscat is the account by Italian traveler Vincenzo Maurizi of his residence in the Sultanate of Oman in the early 19th century. Maurizi’s entertaining and informative narrative is recognized as the first European book devoted entirely to Oman. Using the writings of Carsten Niebuhr (1733‒1815) for historical background, the author bases his account on observations made in Oman in 1809‒14. Maurizi claims that he served as physician to ruler Saʻid bin Sultan (reigned 1807‒56), who seized power in a domestic coup. Saʻid’s reign was one of internal dynastic stability, but marked by external threats from the Najd, the Arabian region from which the Wahhabis, followers of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (died 1826 or 1827), arose to spread their strict interpretation of Islam. Maurizi had access to many court dignitaries, including the ambassador of the Wahhabi sect, whom he interviewed in Muscat about his beliefs. He describes the politics of the country as well as the armed clashes with Wahhabi forces in which, as an officer in Sayyid Saʻid’s forces, he took part. Maurizi was well acquainted with the country outside the capital, Muscat, and made ethnographic notes, “derived from my own personal survey, or in default of that, from the best living authorities which it was in my power to procure.” Oman also confronted raids from neighboring shaykhdoms. Maurizi’s nickname at court was “Shaik Mansur,” or “victorious,” a direct translation of his Italian first name. He also acquired the sardonic sobriquet Abu Midfaʻ (father of canons), after a ship under his command accidently opened fire on allied forces, killing several men. In his account of Maurizi’s life, British scholar Robin Bidwell speculates that he may have been a spy for the French, reporting on Oman’s alliance with the British East India Company and on the complex rivalries on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf region. Maurizi writes of himself that he was an “artificial diplomat.” It is not known who translated the work from the Italian for publication in 1819 by John Booth in London.

Some Plants of the Zor Hills, Koweit, Arabia. Records of the Botanical Survey of India, Volume VI, Number 6

Some Plants of the Zor Hills, Koweit, Arabia is a botanical catalog of the plants found on the northern shore of the Bay of Kuwait around what is today Jal Az-Zor National Park in Kuwait. Plants are listed by their botanical and local names in Arabic and Persian. The book includes notes on the distribution of plants in the area discussed and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region and beyond; the economic uses of plants are also noted. Plant specimens from this region were collected around 1907 by Sir Percy Cox (1864‒1937) with assistance from Stuart Knox (1869‒1956), both British political officers assigned to the Persian Gulf. The specimens were forwarded to Calcutta for further study and eventual description in this work. The author, Humphrey Gilbert-Carter (1884‒1969), was an authority on the flora of India and the British Isles, a physician, and a talented linguist. He served as economic botanist to the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) from 1913 until 1921, after which he became curator of the Cambridge University Herbarium, and also taught at the university. This work is the sixth number in the sixth volume of the Botanical Survey of India. It was published in 1917. Other works in this volume cover the flora of parts of India, the Malay Peninsula, Myanmar (Burma), and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The BSI was established in 1890 for the purpose of identifying the plants of India and their economic value. European interest in the flora of India dates to the earliest days of exploration and colonial expansion. Beginning in the 16th century, the Portuguese, Dutch, and British collected and studied native plants. As the lands under control of the British East India Company grew in extent, so too did the study of plant life in the north and northwest of the Indian subcontinent. Economic and imperial expansion extended the surveys beyond the borders of British India to Myanmar (Burma) and the Arabian Peninsula.

Ancient History of the Eastern Peoples

Histoire ancienne des peuples de orient (The ancient history of Eastern peoples) is a history of ancient Egypt and the Near East by Gaston Maspero (1846‒1916). More than 800 pages long, it is a comprehensive survey in five books. Book One covers ancient Egypt; Book Two Asia (the Near East) before and after the Egyptian conquest and domination; Book Three the Assyrian Empire up to the time of the Sargonids (including an extensive chapter on the Jewish kingdoms of Biblical times); Book Four the Sargonids and Medes; and Book Five the Persian Empire. The survey ends with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. An appendix devoted to ancient systems of writing includes extensive notes and examples of ancient alphabets and syllabaries. The book has three maps and an index. The author makes use of classical sources, such as Herodotus, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, and the Bible, as well as available archeological and epigraphic research. Maspero began his long scholarly and administrative career by deciphering and publishing hieroglyphic texts when he was 21 years old. Over the next 40 years, he taught ancient Egyptian language and history in Paris. In Egypt, he led archeological expeditions and made numerous important discoveries. As director-general of the Egyptian antiquities service, he sought to regulate the distribution of objects to foreign museums and to curtail widespread plunder of antiquities. He also supervised the development and cataloging of the collections at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in central Cairo. Many of Maspero’s findings and conclusions have been revised in the 130 years since the publication of this work, but he remains one of the towering figures in the field of Egyptology and antiquities administration. Presented here is the fourth edition, revised by the author and published in 1886.

On the Religion of Pre-Islamic Arabs

Ludolf Krehl (1825‒1901) was a German Orientalist and librarian. He was born in Meissen, Saxony, and studied oriental languages at the universities of Leipzig, Tübingen, and Paris. Shown here is the first edition (1863) of Krehl’s Über die Religion der vorislamischen Araber (On the religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs), a treatise investigating the belief systems of the Arabs before the advent of Islam. Krehl states in the introduction that the book is an attempt to “explain and substantiate the inner context of some of the most salient phenomena of the pre-Islamic religion of the Arabs.” He argues that the rise of the Arab empire after Muhammad was too quick to be solely attributed to the new “strong bond of a monotheistic religion” and that the empire’s rapid expansion “proves how vital and compelling” the power of the pre-Islamic belief of the Arabs must have been. The sources Krehl used include Herodotus’s writings on the Persians, pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, Arabic genealogical tables, al-Shahrastani’s Al-milal wa al-niḥal (The book of sects and creeds), al-Qazwini’s‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt (The wonders of creation), and Yaqut Al-Hamawi’s Mu'jam al-Buldan (The dictionary of countries). The book contains an appendix (pages 81‒92) of quotations in Arabic from sources used in the work. Together with Reinhart Dozy, Gustave Dugat, and William Wright, Krehl was also the co-editor of Analectes sur l'histoire et la littérature des Arabes d'Espagne, par al-Makkari (Analects on the history and literature of the Arabs of Spain, by al-Makkari), an 1855 edition of the first part of Nafḥ aṭ-ṭīb (The breath of perfume), a major Arabic history of Andalusia by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Maqqari (circa 1578–1632).