Lebanon through writers’ eyes.
Reviewed by Paul Starkey

Lebanon through writers’ eyes, edited by T.J. Gorton and A.
Féghali Gorton. London: Eland, 2009. 296pp.

This attractively produced book presents a selection of extracts from writings about Lebanon, by both insiders and outsiders, from ancient times to the twenty-first century. Embracing an astonishing range of texts, it is arranged in four sections, entitled respectively 1. Phoenix and Cedar: Ancient and Medieval Views; 2. Orient of the Mind: Travellers from the West; 3. Identities; and 4. Wars. Each section is further subdivided, either chronologically or thematically, and preceded by a short introduction by the compilers. In all, extracts from over seventy writers are presented, ranging chronologically from the Egyptian Sinuhe’s account of his flight to Lebanon to escape disgrace in c. 1875 BC, to three extracts from Lebanon, Lebanon, ed. Anna Wilson, an anthology inspired by the Israel-Hizbullah conflict of summer 2006.

Of the four sections, the first two are arranged in chronological order, and present what may strike the reader as a well chosen but fairly conventional selection of extracts. The first (‘Phoenix and Cedar’) takes us from Sinuhe to Ibn Battuta (c.1325), and includes passages from well-known classical authors such as Homer, Herodotus and Strabo, as well as medieval Western and Middle Eastern travellers including Nasir-i Khusrau, William of Tyre and Ibn Jubair. The second section (‘Orient of the Mind’) presents extracts from works by Western travellers from Sir John Mandeville (c. 1360) to some of the twentieth-century ‘classic’ writers on the area such as Sir James Frazer, T.E.

Lawrence and Colin Thubron; this section also includes passages by a fair sprinkling of Western nineteenth-century writers (Kinglake, Flaubert, Renan, Pierre Loti, et al.) from the period when travel to the ‘Orient’ was gathering a momentum of its own, providing a fertile breeding ground for Edward Said’s theories on Orientalism and associated debates.

It is, however, with the third and fourth sections that this anthology really comes into its own. As the compilers note in their short introduction, one of the aims of the book is ‘to try to understand what it means to be Lebanese, or at least, what Lebanon variously means to its people’. The third section, divided into sections on ‘Religious Identity’, ‘Political Identity’ and ‘Literary Identity’, therefore attempts to explore some of the complex, overlapping facets of Lebanese identity, which is expressed, so the compilers note, ‘first through … religion, and then through a specific locality’; the resulting formulations (‘a Druze from Deir al-Qamar’, ‘a Maronite from Souq el-Gharb’ etc.) ‘[speak] volumes to someone who understands the codes’. Most of the extracts in this section are written by Lebanese themselves, who include leading academics such as Albert Hourani, as well as the mystic Lebanese-American Gibran Kahlil Gibran, almost certainly the Lebanese writer best known to the public at large.

The final section reminds us, if we needed any reminding, that for all its natural beauty, Lebanon has suffered wars ‘with almost predictable regularity’, and that ‘more than one book could be filled with the battles, sieges and massacres that have taken place on this small patch of ground’. Sensibly, however, the compilers have chosen to restrict the extracts in this section largely to the conflicts of the twentieth century, setting the scene with an extract from the enigmatic (and under-read) Colonel Charles Churchill’s The Druzes and the Maronites (1862), which gives a highly personal account of life on Mount Lebanon during the civil disturbances of 1860, and is essential reading for anyone wanting to get to grips with the more recent history of conflict in the country. Authors represented in this section include a variety of well-known names such as Thomas Friedman, Mahmoud Darwish, William Dalrymple, Robert Fisk and Brian Keenan, as well as leading Lebanese novelists such as Emily Nasrallah and Hoda Barakat.

Given the chronological span of this anthology across nearly four millennia, few readers are likely to be familiar with all the material included in this volume, and almost everyone is likely to find something new, challenging and unexpected. In short, highly recommended.

Paul Starkey
Durham University

Mummies in Nineteenth Century America: Ancient Egyptians as Artifacts.
Reviewed by Cassandra Vivian

Mummies in Nineteenth Century America: Ancient Egyptians as Artifacts, by S. J. Wolfe, with Robert Singerman. McFarland
Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-3941-6. $35.00.

All I can say is, WOW!! The amount of research, minute, exacting research that went into the creation of this book is astounding. Even more impressive is the number of collaborations the author made with scholars and organisations from all over the world to find and help decipher information. Only through that type of unselfish sharing could the author have covered such a scope of material. This work was slowly compiled with the aid of colleagues, friends and research fellows from the American Antiquarian Society, fellow researchers in ‘mummy-ology’, librarians, museum curators, and directors of historical societies around the country and the world who held mummies in their collections.

It begins at the beginning, with the first known mummy to come to American shores: bits and pieces that the artist Benjamin West presented to the Company of Philadelphia in 1767. Others followed, but the bulk of the chapter belongs to Padihershef, brought to Boston in 1823 aboard the Yankee brig Sally Anne to ‘await his re-birth in the Western Lands’. We travel with Padihershef as he makes his way through America to his final resting place.

Through seven chapters and four appendices Wolfe systematically records the who, what, when, where and why of mummies in America. Relying heavily on 19th-century newspaper accounts from all over the country (made easily available via the Internet—oh, the wonders of modern research), Wolfe chases, finds and uncovers her Egyptians. Through George Gliddon, Henry Abbott, P. T. Barnum and a host of other entrepreneurs, museums and historical societies we follow one imported Egyptian after another, finding out how they made the journey, how they fared in America, and sometimes learning where they finally found a resting place in ‘the West’.

The last chapter ends at the end of the century with a plethora of mummies that were not so well treated and what happened to them when mummy-mania was on the wane. Throughout it all we receive quote after quote from both metropolitan and provincial newspapers telling the tales of un-wrappings, misjudgments and discoveries. It is a compelling collection.

Mummies in Nineteenth Century America Appendix 1 is a catalogue of pre-1901 references to mummies in America not mentioned in the text. In other words, the exhaustive list of encounters covered in the text of the book did not extinguish the list of mummies that made their way to America. Appendix 2 offers suggestions for further reading. More intriguing is Appendix 3, notes on the coffins of the first mummies brought to America. Appendix 4 spreads the news about 19th-century newspapers, where much of the information was found.I knew I was going to like the book the minute I read the dedication: ‘To the untold numbers of mummies of ancient Egyptians, in the hope that by “speaking their names” in this book they will live again in the Western Lands.’

Cassandra Vivian

A Photographer on the Hajj: The Travels of Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi (1904/1908).
Reviewed by Priscilla Frost

A Photographer on the Hajj: The Travels of  Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi (1904/1908), by Farid Kioumgi and Robert Graham.
American University in Cairo Press, 2009. ISBN 978-977-416-290-9. 124 pp.

Our perception of the pilgrimage differs considerably from that of pilgrims who travelled to Mecca and Medina in the early 20th century. What the Hajj was really like, with all the hazards that beset travellers, is clearly conveyed in this book.

Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi went on the Hajj twice—in 1904 and then again in 1907–08. On both occasions he was part of the Egyptian official caravan under General Ibrahim Rif‘at Pasha, the Amir al-Hajj. This gave Sa‘udi a number of privileges that he would not otherwise have had, and these are fully explained.

One of Sa‘udi’s roles in 1904 was as an assistant to the treasurer of the mahmal , ‘a palanquin wrapped in black velvet and embroidered with gold that by ancient tradition, symbolized the authority of the Egyptian pilgrim caravan’. In this capacity he was also responsible for the safe-keeping of the treasury chest, with monies amounting to some 23,000 Egyptian pounds, which today would be equivalent to around US$ 5 million. The money was used to pay for the hire of camels, tents, guides—especially through the Bedouin lands, as hostile tribes used bribery (repeatedly) to secure travel through their part of the country. There was at this time much hostility to the opening of the Hijaz railway to Medina, because local tribes feared that the revenue they derived from guiding caravans through the mountains would cease.

Sa‘udi kept a diary on both occasions (sometimes writing whilst on the back of a camel), giving detailed accounts of his experiences and companions on the journey. This record of the pilgrimage was commissioned by Muhammad ‘Abduh, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, to describe not only the religious history of the monuments around the Haram, but also the atmosphere and activities in the sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina.

Sa‘udi writes of the ill treatment of poor pilgrims; the greed of those in authority; the countless times that bribery was the only way to procure camels, tents and safe passages through the mountain passes. His diaries also decry the lack of precautions to prevent the spread of cholera, especially in Mecca.

Sa‘udi’s second journey took place over the winter of 1907–08. Once again he was part of an official pilgrimage, and again he took his camera. On this trip he was given letters of introduction to enter the Holy Places in Medina, letters that he found extremely useful. Sa‘udi was a devout Muslim who undertook this second journey with all the faith and conviction of his first pilgrimage. On this occasion, however, he took his mother with him, making the journey even more arduous and precarious, as she was often not well.His second pilgrimage is described in more detail. For example, on 24 December 1907 the caravan left Cairo by train for the port of Suez, where they caught the boat—the al-Minya—to Jeddah in the late afternoon. There were the usual frustrations of overcrowding and the concern about cholera.  He gives interesting insights into the perils of the journey such as being robbed of silver and coins from his back pocket even before leaving Egypt. Arriving in Jeddah, the pilgrims travelled on to Mecca by camel and on foot.

Concerned about his camera equipment, Sa‘udi spread it among his belongings on several camels. The glass plates were fragile, and on more than one occasion they broke. But his photographs give an interesting glimpse of life on pilgrimage: for example, one photograph shows the train of  1,400 camels weaving its way through the valley towards Mount Arafat over very rocky terrain.

Sa‘udi’s time in Mecca is delightfully described, both verbally and photographically. He was a keen photographer but sometimes had to take his shots surreptitiously, as he was suspected of being a spy. It is difficult for us to imagine and understand the enormity of the challenge he faced, especially in this day of small portable cameras, which can just be slipped into a pocket. Yet he managed to take a wide range of photographs, and those of buildings and street scenes in Mecca are amazingly clear, in particular one of the courtyard of the Holy Mosque that is rich in detail, clearly showing the Ka‘ba with the Kiswa mantle raised to protect the cloth from the hoards of pilgrims. The photographs were mainly taken with a StereoPalmos Ica camera, a forerunner of the Leica.

A Photographer on the Hajj The book contains a number of maps, showing the routes that Sa‘udi took on both occasions, as well as plans of the two cities. The plan of Mecca, for example, gives the reader a good idea of the terrain around the city, as well as key buildings.This is a wonderful book and a splendid photographic record of two remarkable and difficult journeys. It is also a fine tribute to Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa‘udi, a photographer par excellence.

Priscilla Frost

Photography and Egypt
Reviewed by John Rodenbeck

Photography and Egypt, by Maria Golia.
London, Reaktion Books, 2010. Paperback.  192 pp. 121 illustrations, 77 in colour. ISBN  978 1 86189 543 1. £15.95.

It was in Cairo, as Maria Golia points out, in the  11th century of our era, that photography had  perhaps the most consequential of its many  beginnings, in the optical researches of the Iraqi  savant Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn alHaytham (ad 965–1039), who named, built and  experimented with the first camera obscura, the  direct ancestor of the still camera. But Egypt has  in addition a special plenitude both of the most  vital ingredient for photography—light—and of  things worthy of having their pictures taken. It’s  no wonder that it has become perhaps the most  relentlessly photographed country in the world.

This important book traces the history of the art  and craft of photography in Egypt. Swift-moving,  sophisticated and serious, Maria Golia’s narrative  comes right down to the present day. Of at least  equal importance, however, are the observations  and massive amounts of information reserved,  iceberg-like, in her ‘References’, the notes that  follow her narrative text.

Golia reminds us that the daguerreotype process  was unveiled in January 1839 at the Académie  des Sciences by Daguerre’s primary champion,  the scientific genius François Arago (1786–1853).  Arago had already seen the daguerreotype as  specifically offering the possibility of surmounting  ontological deficiencies that had limited the  usefulness of the Description de l’Égypte (1810–29) as a record of reality. Acting on this  hint, Noël-Marie-Paymal Lerebours (1807–73), an important maker of optical instruments and an associate both of Daguerre and Arago,  immediately commissioned newly fledged  daguerreotypists to travel across Europe and  Middle East in search of images that could be photographed then copied by any of various techniques to be printed lithographically and sold in albums.

The first photograph taken in Africa was thus a daguerreotype of Mehmet Ali’s haramlik at Ras al-Tin in Alexandria made during the early morning of 7 November 1839. The photographers were Gaspard-Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière  (1798–1865) and Frédéric-Auguste-Antoine Goupil-Fesquet (1817–78), assisted by the great Orientalist painter Horace Vernet (1789–1863), who was Goupil-Fesquet’s uncle and teacher. All of them had been commissioned by Lerebours.  The Viceroy himself oversaw the operation at very close hand and apparently became an ardent daguerreotypist himself. This historic shot survives, but only in the lithograph version later produced by Vernet.Joly de Lotbinière had already spent a few weeks taking pictures in Greece. The copies of Egyptian daguerreotypes he later published anticipated by ten years the work of other early photographers in Egypt, exemplified by JosephPhilibert Girault de Prangey (1804–92) Félix Teynard (1817–92), Francis Frith (1822–98), Maxim Du Camp (1822–94), and Pascal Sébah (1823–86), who were likewise interested in visual authenticity for its own sake. Goupil-Fesquet also satisfied his commission and published copies of daguerreotypes, but he and his uncle were primarily interested in gathering authentic raw material for their own paintings and etchings. They thus anticipated the work of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904), in which photography would be used synthetically to create an Orient that was purportedly ‘real’, but was in fact a fanciful assemblage of disparate realities. Golia’s lengthy first chapter summarises this Orientalist period in pioneering photography, adds interesting technical detail and some acute critical evaluations, then moves into areas that are less well known, have therefore demanded far more original research, and are thus especially interesting.

Chapter Two, for example, introduces us to the amazing growth of photography in Egypt and to the concomitant changes created by technological advance, which made possible a massive shift of subject matter from inert and inanimate objects—typically, ancient monuments—to people. She deals succinctly with the Occidental myth to the  effect that Muslims won’t allow their pictures to be taken (Wahabist prohibitions still apply only to a small minority) and sketches the popularity that has even entered into popular song: ‘Ana ‘andik wahid surah! Surah, surah, surah!’ (‘I’ve got a picture of you! A picture, a picture, a picture!’).

Chapter Three, for instance, ‘Studio Venus’, deals not only with the rise of studio work, much of it involving celebrities, but also with the extraordinary Armenian contribution to photography both in Cairo and Alexandria, which was paralleled in other Middle Eastern urban centres such as Istanbul, Izmir, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, and has since become a world-wide phenomenon, as Golia indicates with a subtle reference to the great Armenian-Canadian portraitist, Yousuf Karsh.

Photography and Egypt Chapter Four is an acute political history of postrevolutionary Egypt between 1952 and 2000 as observed through the photographic lens. This period saw a massive decline in the quality of press photography, thanks to the introduction of Soviet-style censorship, and in the quantity of art photography, thanks to the evaporation of the social class that had included most of its viewers.The final chapter looks to something like a revival, but also emphasises the preservation of Egypt’s photographic past. Despite the country’s enormous enthusiasm for photography, much has disappeared. ‘The present work,’ Golia observes, ‘hopes to shed some light on Egypt, where photography has played an inestimable role in shaping political and social realities. Today, in the midst of an ever-intense transformation, there are signs that the time of censure and dispersal is ending, and a time of recollection has begun.’ Based on years of first-hand research, this book makes an enormous contribution to the job of recovery.

John Rodenbeck

Seventy Years of Postal History at the French Post Office in Beirut.
Reviewed by Deborah Manley

Seventy Years of Postal History at the French Post Office in Beirut, by Semaan Bassil.
The Lebanese-British Friends of the National Museum, Beirut, 2009. ISBN 978-9953-0-1478-4. 232 pp. Hardback.

This large-format, profusely illustrated, bilingual (French and English) book is published as a double issue of Archaeology and History in the Lebanon and is edited by ASTENE member Claude Doumet Serhal MBE. To any philatelist it is a dream.  The book offers a wonderful insight into the development of the postal system in Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean. It is a fascinating study of a particular form of travel, upon which many human travellers depended. Anyone who has lived overseas understands the importance of the arrival of the post and the pleasure, disappointment or even sorrow it might bring.

The French Post Office in Beirut opened on 16 November 1845, closed during the Great War in 1914, and continued until the end of the French Mandate in 1946. (The first telegraph network with Damascus and Constantinople opened in 1863 and was soon linked to Alexandria.) The text is accompanied by a wonderful collection of stamps and covers, maps, photographs and postcards. These postcards particularly tell us so much: the Tripoli Customs Office (with its barrels, guard and loiterers), the steel clip with which letters were held at Lazarets around the Mediterranean, and a card of the Lazaret itself, should a traveller want to send such a scene home! Coinage is also illustrated. A splendid early 20th-century photograph shows young girls boiling silkworm cocoons in a Mount Lebanon silk mill under the eye of a portly French observer.

This book gives us the results of deep and varied research and would be a wonderful treat for any philatalist or reader interested in historic travel. In 1861 a traveller could post a letter to Signor Fratelli, Patron, Livorno, or to The Reverend Professor Mitchell DD, St Andrews, Scotland. Not, I think, today.

Deborah Manley

The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta, by David Waines.
Reviewed by Paul Robertson

The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta, by David Waines.  
London, I.B. Taurus, 2010. 226 pp, ISBN 9781845118051. £25.00.

Ibn Battuta’s famous journey across and beyond the boundaries of the medieval Muslim world raises important questions about how we categorise travel literature and what we expect to find in a journey qualified as ‘epic’. On the one hand, there must be something about the sheer scale of the traveller’s canvass that grips us, even though time and distance, of themselves, are insufficient qualifications. But, I would also argue, we expect the traveller’s encounters on a truly epic journey to display some mythic quality, and thereby invoke the universal in human experience.

The title of this book obscures these distinctions. On grounds of scale, Ibn Battuta’s journey easily qualifies as epic – 75,000 miles and almost half a lifetime of travel is unequivocal by any standard, even if we allow for the possibility that parts of the journey may have been creatively imagined rather than visited in fact. But whether Ibn Battuta’s journey is an odyssey in the mythic sense of the term is a much more difficult question to answer, and it is not one that this book addresses directly.

In approaching the one thousand pages of Ibn Battuta’s journey, Prof. Waines’ method is thematic. He contextualises the text through the arguments of its critics in the first chapter, providing an overview of the traditional concerns about authorship and reliability. But against this epistemological backdrop of truth and falsehood, he also foregrounds theimportance of allowing the traveller to speak of himself, and for himself, without being interrogated about every last detail by the textual critics.

This introduction is followed in the second chapter by a digestible overview of the many parts of the journey, which is more than necessary when dealing with material on this geographic and historic scale. By strange coincidence, I found myself in central Beijing whilst reviewing this book and was able to visit the 10th century pagoda-style mosque Ibn Battuta visited, or purported to have visited, on his travels. It was a disconcerting experience to say the least, and it could not have been any the less disconcerting for Ibn Battuta.

The substance of Prof. Waines’ book is set out in the final chapters, where three themes that cut across the raw chronology of Ibn Battuta’s narrative are pursued in some detail. These include the treatment of food and hospitality; tales of popular piety and encounters with the marvellous; and comparative perspectives on women, ethnicity and culture in and between the territories he covered.

The usefulness of this approach, which has wider application in the writings of other Muslim travellers, is that it allows the reader to move beyond what is, in a strictly literary sense, a poorly constructed story; and to gain some sense of what it must have felt like to be a traveller who saw so much, and who saw so much that was so very strange.

The chapter on food and hospitality illustrates the point. It is very difficult to make sense of the extremely long list of food items that Ibn Battuta ate or encountered across the territories he covered, not to mention all the episodes – banquets, snacks and offers of food – in which he encountered them. It is precisely this tendency indiscriminately to document anything and everything that makes medieval Muslim travel writing so difficult to read as a story.

Prof. Waines’ ability to contextualise this kind of detail in the scale of Muslim values is what makes his analysis meaningful. Drawing our attention to the ways in which ‘the fruits of the earth’ are recalled by the traveller as a sign of divine benevolence,he also notes how they serve to mark difference: what can be eaten and by whom, when and how it should or should not be eaten. This same contextualising approach is applied to the two other thematic areas covered by the author. As an approach, it is illuminating and links Ibn Battuta’s journey to key reference points on the cultural map he deployed, consciously and unconsciously, along the way.

In identifying and colouring in the features of that map, Prof. Waines allows the modern reader to experience the affinity Ibn Battuta would have felt with the readership of his lifetime. The theoretical questions to which this cultural map gives rise – the role of the traveller as witness and entertainer, the exploration of the Muslim world through encounters at its boundaries – are also well presented, dealt with succinctly and free from unnecessary academic jargon.

If I have one criticism, it is that the book would have benefited from an additional chapter to explore these ideas further, in light of what is otherwise a thoughtful and fascinating analysis. For example, Prof. Waines touches upon various ideas about the construction of the traveller’s persona at different points. He also draws, and returns to, an interesting analogy of medieval Muslim culture and Muslim travel writing as a form of geometrically repetitive arabesque.

But these remarks are nowhere developed, and it is perhaps in those unfinished explorations of the journey that the mythic quality of Ibn Battuta’s heroic endeavour is to be found.

Paul Robertson
University of Westminster

The Romantics and the Myth of the Islamic Orient, Roderick Cavaliero.
Reviewed by Sarah Searight

The Romantics and the Myth of the Islamic Orient, Roderick Cavaliero
London, I.B.Tauris, 2010.

‘Romanticism had its roots in fantasy and was nurtured on myth’ is the opening sentence of the prologue to The Romantics. What emerges from its pages is that Mr Cavaliero is as much a Romantic as his characters, a welcome alternative to the stream of historians, myself occasionally included, who as outsiders write about a similar theme known as ‘orientalism’. Orientalism is simply not mentioned here. The book is divided into fifteen myths, including ‘the Turkish myth’, the ‘myth of sex’, ‘the myth of the romantic dream’ and ending with ‘the myth of nostalgia’ or ‘playing on dulcimers’ (however, Coleridge’s wonderful myth of Kubla Khan sadly gets only a brief mention). The title is slightly misleading because it omits the whole of the Arabian scene.

Most of the Romantics here are literary figures; opera enters Mr Cavaliero’s world through stories put to music (e.g. Mozart and Rossini), in painting Delacroix and Ingres put in an appearance¸ also the Maltese Amadeo Preziosi (but illustrations of their paintings so poor as to be worse than none at all), but by and large the emphasis is on the Ottoman Empire, English writers and mostly men, hence the author’s frequent reference to the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu as one of the very few Europeans to visit and write about the harem. (a whole chapter dedicated to it). Rather like today’s women anthropologists, Lady Mary was able to see both sides of the screen. Amadeo Preziosi, who lived in Constantinople for some forty years, is upheld as an authority on the harem because he painted women in such settings but apart from his own ménage (?) he is not only most unlikely to have been panting from life but was catering for western demand for such subjects.

The book is at its best when focusing in detail on a particular source of myth – e.g. Thousand and One Nights – or individuals – e.g. William Beckford, Byron, Walter Scott. Then one asks: are his characters part of the myth or creators of it? Byron comes across as both, Pierre Loti also, Hester Stanhope definitely both – see Kinglake’s visit (insisted on by his mother) to her decrepit eyrie – at night (at Lady Hester’s insistence, major myth-making moment). Most interestingly the author occasionally includes the numbers of copies of publications sold on the publication day, in other words the myth in instant creation. Some myths work better than others: the history of The Thousand and One Nights for instance is well covered though I am not quite sure why it is the version edited by Edward Lane’s nephew which is quoted rather than Lane’s magnificent if somewhat anaesthetised original. It leads into an interesting discourse on Beckford’s Vathek, surely a fine example of oriental myth. Walter Scott’s four Crusader novels are well covered, also Disraeli’s Tancred, but curiously not his Contarini Fleming or Alroy, both of which bring in his Levant travels of 1830-31. And in ‘The myth of Egypt’, no mention of the ‘Egyptian’ architecture that decorated some of London’s buildings as the first Nile trophies reached the British Museum, nor indeed of Brighton Pavilion. But one can’t fit in everything.

The confusing chronology of the opening myth, ‘the Empire of Osman: the Turkish myth’ should have had more careful editing (as in the rest of the book, but not a feature of this particular publisher) and when writing about relatively modern history surely the terrible CE is unnecessary. The author under-rates ‘The myth of Persia’: his focus is on James Morier’s Hajji Baba, popular but not all that mythical, and George Meredith’s Shaving of Shagpat, definitely myth. But what about the seventeenth century Sherley brothers particularly Robert and his beautiful Armenian wife, in magnificent costumed portraits by Anthony van Dyk – surely they helped mythologise this distant and little known country? And even in the nineteenth century the Iranian world was much less well known than the Ottoman, hence Matthew Arnold’s combining Iranian myth (Shahname) with his Sohrab and Rustum. Earlier he describes Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, without however associating it with Persia or the rich tradition of Persian poetry beginning to be translated. And of all myths of Persia surely none has been so hypnotising as in the quatrains of Edward Fitzerald’s Omar Khayyam, whose myth-making potential was so well demonstrated in the 2009 British Library exhibition. It surely deserved a mention.

In other words the author’s presentation is a bit of a Romantic curate’s egg. I would like to think he was a member of ASTENE where he would find many kindred spirits within the pages of this bulletin and indeed among our members.

Sarah Searight

The Itineraries of William Wey.
Reviewed by Sheila McGuirk

The Itineraries of William Wey. Edited and Translated by Francis Davey.
The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2010-08-07 ISBN 978 I 85124 304 4

William Wey was a priest from Devon, a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford and from 1441 till his retirement to the Monastery of Edington in 1467 a Fellow and periodically Bursar of the newly founded Eton College. In 1456 he undertook the pilgrimage to the shrine of James the Apostle in Compostella and over the following six years travelled twice to Jerusalem by way of Venice, on the first occasion also going to Rome.

By the time William Wey (1407-1476) was travelling in the 15tth century Chaucer (1340?-1400) had written The Canterbury Tales and two of the greatest modern travellers, Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) and Ibn Battuta (1304-1368) had already published accounts of their long journeys. In leaving his own country to go on pilgrimage Wey was a more modest and traditional traveller. But as Francis Davey points out, the fact that Wey could get away from his job as a cleric and bursar of Eton College no less than three times for periods as long as nine months suggests he may have had reasons for his journeys connected with the turbulent political climate in France and England during the Wars of the Roses.

Pilgrimage would have been a useful cover for spying. As a priest Wey’s pilgrimages were genuinely devout observances. But he was canny, practical, self-effacing and sharp-eyed at the same time. Even if he wanted to answer the questions he raised on his second visit to Jerusalem it does seem unusual that just four years after his 1458 journey Wey set off on almost the identical trip. He was also circumspect in making no mention of the troubles in his own country. This was not through ignorance since he was prepared to remark that “the City of Jerusalem was taken by the Saracens because of the divisions among the Christians there over the election of a king” (Chapter 11). Nor does he comment on his own role in life (except in referring in the third person to the sermons he preached occasionally during his journeys).

Pilgrimage would have been a useful cover for spying. As a priest Wey’s pilgrimages were genuinely devout observances. But he was canny, practical, self-effacing and sharp-eyed at the same time. Even if he wanted to answer the questions he raised on his second visit to Jerusalem it does seem unusual that just four years after his 1458 journey Wey set off on almost the identical trip. He was also circumspect in making no mention of the troubles in his own country. This was not through ignorance since he was prepared to remark that “the City of Jerusalem was taken by the Saracens because of the divisions among the Christians there over the election of a king” (Chapter 11). Nor does he comment on his own role in life (except in referring in the third person to the sermons he preached occasionally during his journeys).both as a traveller and pilgrim was that his account of his journeys was not merely diverting and informative but evidently intended to help the English traveller (prone to traveller’s tummy!) who might wish to follow in his footsteps. So Davey feels that Wey’s account is a fore-runner of the modern travel guide, from Baedeker to Michelin.

Since Wey cited all the reasons why travellers should go to the Holy Land, it was entirely reasonable that he should help them to accomplish this goal. For example, he tackled the important practical question of currency exchange and values, including the names of coins in use between Venice and Jaffa. Chapter 8 lists every town along the route to Venice of Wey’s 1458 pilgrimage and the distances between them. Wey’s estimate of distances and travel times in Europe, once adjusted by the editor for the different continental measurements, was quite accurate (Chapter 8). He gave detailed information on what relics were to be found in which towns along the route. He attempted (with mixed results) a lexicon of 90 Greek words and phrases which he thought would be useful to the traveller (Chapter 13) and a gazetteer of all the place names from a map of the Holy Land (which he probably owned as it was listed among his bequests to Edington Priory (Chapter 12)).

Chapter 2 is about travelling comfort, how to negotiate with the galley master, and what provisions and equipment to take. (Most of the information on these arrangements is repeated in delightful detail in Chapter 9, which describes Wey’s second trip to the Holy Land.) Here are some tips which could have come straight out of a modern “Rough Guide”: ‘When you come to harbour towns you can buy eggs. Provided you get ashore quickly you can get them good and cheap.’ ‘The Saracens will walk with you, talking and being friendly, but they will rob you of anything you have which they can manage to steal.’Wey travelled between Venice and Jaffa by galley, stopping en route in Pula, various ports and islands on the Dalmatian coast, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus. The description of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside is entirely in terms of places relating to the life and death of Christ, Mary, various saints and Old Testament prophets. One can almost imagine a fifteenth century dragoman parroting the litany of events and associated places which the pilgrim (tourist) expected to tick off his “must see” list. Chapter 4 itemises the places to be visited and the sequence in which the pilgrim will make his tour of the Holy Land after disembarking at Jaffa and how long to stay in each place.

Wey needed to keep as brief a journal as possible while actually on the way, a difficulty faced by many travellers; so he created a mnemonic . When he wrote his account some years later, consulting manuscripts which were available in England, he expanded his notes, often re-capping the same information in greater detail in successive chapters. It seems that in the first 1500 years after Christ Jerusalem changed much less that in the next 500. But some things haven’t changed – Wey’s list of ‘the twelve sects in the Lord’s Temple’ has a familiar ring: Latins, Greeks, Armenians, Indians, Jacobites, Gorgians, Syrians, Maronites, Nestorians, Aridians, Abbatians and Pessines’. So does his comment on Syria – “As we entered boys threw stones at us.”

Along his route Wey would have received hospitality in various Franciscan monasteries, and in particular in Jerusalem, where the Franciscans had made it their business to look after pilgrims since the 1330s. But it was still a hazardous and arduous (and expensive) undertaking, and not just because of the restrictions imposed by the ‘Saracens’. For example in Chapter 7 Wey reports “A French priest died that night and was buried halfway along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.” On his 1462 crossing of Europe Wey was forced to deviate from the more traditional route due to wars between city states and religious factions. But he later wrote a wonderful report on the history, customs and splendours of Venice (Chapter 9), including a description of the funeral of the Doge and the election and installation of his successor.

For Astene members the final two chapters of Wey’s account, dealing with his pilgrimages to Rome (mainly listing churches and their associated indulgences) and Compostella, may be of less immediate interest. But they fill out the picture of Wey himself, his personality and his enthusiasms. Wey’s book would not be as accessible as it is to today’s reader without the meticulous and learned commentary provided by Francis Davey, including information from the accounts of other pilgrim travellers to Jerusalem such as Richard of Lincoln, who went to Jerusalem in 1454, four years before Wey’s first Eastern trip in 1458. (In an appendix Davey explains the problems caused by the different interests of the Venetians and the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes vis-a-vis the Turks).

The book is very much sui generis, and not for a ‘popular’ audience. But it covers a range of Astene areas: travel in the Middle Ages; Jerusalem and Palestine after the Muslim re-conquest; myth and legend; geography; cartography; religious ephemera; linguistics. It is a reminder that long before the time of the travellers more familiar to Astene, a man such as William Wey could endure all the perils of Near Eastern travel under Saracen rule and return to recount it with clarity and sang-froid for the benefit of others. He does this without ostentation or expectation that people should marvel at his achievement.

Francis Davey wears his erudition equally lightly. Davey and his wife have tried to visit every site on Wey’s route so like Wey he writes from direct personal experience (though obviously Wey related historical anecdotes which he could not verify). Davey’s detailed notes are a history and guidebook in themselves, particularly on the myriad myths, legends and biblical references in Wey’s text which are no longer familiar. The commentary and notes comprise a good half of the book and are as significant an achievement as Wey’s own Itineraries.

Sheila McGuirk

Loot. Tomb Robbers, Treasure and the Great Museum Debate.
Reviewed by M.L. Bierbrier

Loot. Tomb Robbers, Treasure and the Great Museum Debate, by Sharon Waxman, London, Old Street
Publishing Ltd., 2010. paperback, 415 pp., illustrated. ISBN 978-1-906964-10-8. £ 9.99.

Despite its rather provocative title, this book reports on the problems of illicit excavation and cultural restitution in a balanced but by no means uncritical fashion. The author examines the fate of antiquities in four countries – Egypt, Greece, Italy and Turkey – and links her narrative to four great museums of the world – The British Museum, The Getty Museum, The Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York although the Berlin and Boston Museums also rate a brief mention. She draws highly critical and sometimes amusing portraits of both museum directors and those on the other side demanding the return of objects. While her heart seems to be with those advocating restitution, her head tends to support the counter argument, but she ruthlessly displays the weaknesses of both sides in the debate. She does tend to blur the differences between antiquities acquired before archaeological laws were in place and those illegally excavated and smuggled out in modern times. It does not help the debate to describe the former as plunder.

She begins with Egypt and the debate initiated by Zahi Hawass over the return of Rosetta Stone and the Dendera Zodiac. However, her lack of knowledge sometimes lets her down. For example, she states that the Rosetta Stone was taken away without consulting the Egyptians when in fact the legal government of Egypt at the time represented by the Ottoman vizier was consulted and approved the transfer of the antiquities to London, no doubt relieved that that was all the British were requesting in return for aiding the Turks and Egyptians to expel the French. She rather daringly claims that many modern Egyptians remain largely indifferent to the past and museum standards in Egypt are not as good as they should be. Her view of current developments in Luxor is not positive.

The second section of the book covers the involvement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the purchase of smuggled antiquities from Turkey which were eventually returned. The shocking development was that the key piece was later stolen on its return so this story of restitution did not end happily. In the third section of the work it is back to the British Museum and the saga of the Elgin marbles. Various spokesmen of both sides of the dispute are interviewed and she even locates a Greek who is opposed to restitution. While adopting a neutral stance, she nevertheless points out flaws in the Greek argument to the extent of questioning modern Greece’s link with the past and the embarassing fact that Greece is holding smuggled Bulgarian artefacts which it refuses to return. Her most telling point on illegal excavation in Greece is that most of the objects go to private Greek collectors.

The final section covers the problems in which the Getty Museum found itself entangled when it became involved with the acquisition of unprovenanced material from antique dealers. Many of the objects were found to be stolen in recent times and the Museum faced pressure from the Greek and Italian governments and court cases which forced it to return most of the objects. In her conclusion the author comes close to saying a plague on both your houses. She advocates more cooperation between musuems and archaeologically rich countries. Early travellers and collectors laid the foundation for the creation of the science of archaeology but it appears that old habits die hard. Protection of archaeological sites would seem more urgent than public relations motivated claims for restitution.

M.L. Bierbrier

DURR al-BUHUR (in Arabic).
Reviewed by Hisham Khatib

DURR al-BUHUR (in Arabic), by John Lewis Burckhardt (1810)
Compiled with notes by Prof. Eid Abdallah Dahiyat (2010).  ISBN 978–9953–36–378–1. 135 pp

We are well aware that Burckhardt authored five books on the Holy Land, Egypt and Arabia, all were in English. But a new Burckhardt book has surfaced recently and in Arabic. Originally it is a manuscript book written by Burckhardt under the name of Durr al-Buhur (Jewels of the Seas): the Story of Yusef Robinson – the Life of Sharief Robinson Crusoe. It is basically a story written in Arabic and based on the well know Daniel Defoe’s (1719) novel. This work was totally unknown until it was recently compiled and published by Prof. Dahiyat utilizing a photo-copy of the original manuscript which he found in the library of the University of Jordan.

A note accompanied the manuscript written by the hand of George Cecil Renouard which explains the background of this work. It says:

“This work was composed as an exercise in the Arabic language by John Lewis Burckhardt during his residence at Aleppo in 1810. Three copies of it were sent by him to his friends, under the care of Mr. Fiott of St John’s College, Cambridge (now Dr. Lee of Doctor’s Commons and Hartwell House) who had been his traveling companion in Syria. Of these copies one is now in Dr. Lee’s possession, the second was delivered to the R. [ight] H. [onourable] Sir Joseph Banks, and the third (which is this book) was brought by Mr. Fiott to Smyrna in 1812, where by J. L. Burckhardt’s direction, it was delivered to his faithful friend George Cecil Renouard, Chaplain to the British Factory at that place.

Rectory, Swanscombe
5 April 1838
G.C.R [enouard]”

It is this third manuscript copy which was acquired by Yale University in 1945, and made available for scholars.
Prof. Dahiyat researched the contrast between the two works and why Burckhardt chose Robinson Crusoe for his translator’s work, into Arabic.
(The book in Arabic can be obtained from the publishers, email: info@airpbooks.com).

Hisham Khatib