Coloured de luxe issue

Prisse d'Avennes, Achille Constant Théodore Émile. Oriental Album. Characters, Costumes, and Modes of Life, in the Valley of the Nile.

London, James Madden, 1848.

Folio (382 x 522 mm). (6), 60 pp. With mounted chromolithographed additional decorative title heightened with gold, tinted lithographed portrait, and 30 hand-coloured lithographs. Numerous wood-engraved illustrations in the text. Modern calf-backed marbled boards, spine gilt with morocco label.


First edition. Only a small portion of the press run - as the present copy - was coloured by hand, providing the utmost detail and atmosphere to the splendid plates showing bedouins, horses, local life and costumes.

One of the most sought-after and earliest publications by Prisse d'Avennes, who spent many years in Egypt after 1826, first as an engineer in the service of Mehmet Ali. After 1836 he explored Egypt disguised as an Arab, using the name Edris Effendi; during this period he carried out archaeological excavations in the valley of the Nile. In 1848 he first published his "Oriental Album". This unusual visual collection of "characters, costumes and modes of life in the valley of the Nile" is augmented by a commentary by the renowned orientalist and Egyptologist James Augustus St. John.

The frontispiece portrait depicts the artist's friend George Lloyd in the robes of a sheikh reclining with a hookah, and camels in the background. Lloyd, a botanist accompanying the expedition, accidentally shot himself whilst cleaning a rifle.

Final plate with a few minor repairs to margins; final leaf creased and with marginal repairs. One or two other minor marginal defects. While normal copies of the first edition regularly appear in the trade or at auctions, the present coloured de luxe issue with all the plates is quite rare. The Atabey copy fetched £36,000 (Sotheby's, May 29, 2002, lot 975); the Longleat copy commanded $59,200 (Christie's, June 13, lot 110) that same year.


Atabey 1001. Blackmer 1357. Lipperheide Ma 30. Colas 2427. Hiler 772. Brunet IV, 885. Graesse V, 449. Cf. Heritage Library, Islamic Treasures, s. v. "Art" (illustration). Not in Cook (Egyptological Libr.), Fumagalli (Bibliogr. Etiopica), Gay, Abbey.