Persian Pictures. Gertrude Bell, Sir E. Denison Ross.
Persian Pictures
Persian Pictures
Persian Pictures
Persian Pictures

Persian Pictures

New York: Boni & Liveright, 1928. First U.S. edition. Hardcover. This first American edition of Gertrude Bell’s Persian Pictures was bound from the sheets printed in England for the second British edition - the first published under the author’s name. In 1892 Gertrude Bell, a twenty-four-year old Oxford graduate, traveled to Persia with her Aunt to visit her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, a newly appointed Minister in Teheran. The result of her travels was Safar Nameh, Persian Pictures: A Book of Travel, a slim volume published anonymously in 1894 to little response. In the following decades Bell achieved political influence as well as notoriety as a travel writer, prompting renewed interest in her scarce early works. The preface of this posthumously published volume written by Sir E. Denison Ross, notes “the only copy known to me is that from which the present edition is being made.” This first American edition was published simultaneously with the second British edition, both printed on heavy, laid paper sheets, the American edition featuring machine deckled fore edges. This copy is very good minus in a good plus dust jacket. The quarter tan cloth and raspberry paper-covered binding is square and tight with some toning and light shelf wear to extremities, most pronounced at the corners. The contents are clean and free of previous ownership markings and spotting, though modestly age-toned. A partial, cosmetic split at the front pastedown gutter does not affect binding integrity. The scarce, illustrated dust jacket is clean with bright front and rear panels and moderate spine toning. Some closed tears are unobtrusive under the removable, clear archival cover. Loss is limited to a neatly price-clipped upper front flap and shallow chips along the extremities, most pronounced at the head and foot of the spine. Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (1868-1926) was the intriguing and influential adventurer, scholar, writer, and diplomat who, like her contemporary T. E. “Lawrence of Arabia” did much to frame and shape the Middle East during and after the First World War. Raised amid industrialist family wealth, Bell lost her mother at age three, increasing a “sense of independence and self-reliance” perhaps already inherent to the “physically restless and intellectually gifted” child. By her mid-twenties – during the trip that prompted her to write this book - the unmarried Bell discovered intellectual and emotional fascination with the Middle East. “Outstanding literary and linguistic skills” coupled with “determination, bravery, physical strength, and endurance” invigorated contributions to travel literature, translation, archaeology, and architecture, eventually evolving into engagement in the region’s socio-political currents. By the First World War, Bell became “a voluntary agent of Britain’s interests in the Middle East” and assumed her defining role – as “a woman trying to break one of the most challenging barriers of her time: the physical conquest of the desert and the decoding of the moral and ethical code of its inhabitants.” (ODNB) Bell’s linguistic and tribal knowledge made her indispensable to the Arab Bureau - the Cairo intelligence office of the British government during the First World War, contributing articles to the Arabian Report and the famous Arab Bulletin. After the First World War, Bell remained an influential figure, helping persuade Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill to maintain a British presence in Iraq, helping secure the throne for the King of Iraq, and facilitating the Anglo-Iraqi treaty. One of her last accomplishments was to gather funds for a national museum in Baghdad, which was inaugurated in 1923 and installed in a permanent building in 1926, the year she died. Like the contemporary figure to whom she is often compared, Lawrence of Arabia, Bell was disappointed in some of her hopes for the region and died comparatively young. Bell was played by actress Nicole Kidman in the 2015 film Queen of the Desert. Item #005783

Price: $175.00

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