The first printed eyewitness account of any place in today's UAE: the standard modern English edition, Samuel Barrett Miles's copy

Varthema, Lodovico di / Jones, John Winter (transl.). The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508 [...].

London, Hakluyt Society, 1863.

4to. (22), CXXI, (7), 320, (1) pp., final blank page. With lithographed folding map of the itinerary and a map of the Bengal Gulf. Publisher's original blue full cloth with giltstamped ship "Victoria" and blindstamped border to cover, as well as giltstamped spine-title.


First Hakluyt edition and the principal English translation of "the first recorded visit by a Christian to Mecca" (Blackmer), containing the first printed eyewitness account of any place in today's United Arab Emirates, first published in Italian in 1510.

On his return journey from Mecca, Varthema visited Ras al-Khaimah ("Giulfar") and portrayed the city as "most excellent and abounding in everything", with "a good seaport", and whose inhabitants are "all Muslims". While Montalboddo's famous anthology of discoveries, printed in 1507, contained the first printed reference to the Arabian Gulf region, it was Varthema's work, published only three years later, that offered the first actual report from the region by a Western traveller who had visited the coast.

A gentleman adventurer and soldier from Bologna, the author left Venice at the end of 1502. In 1503 he reached Alexandria and ascended the Nile to Cairo, continuing to Beirut, Tripoli, Aleppo and Damascus, where, adopting Islam and taking the name of Yunas, he joined a Mameluke escort of a Hajj caravan and began the pilgrimage to Mecca. Thanks to his knowledge of Arabic and Islam, Varthema was able to appreciate the local culture of the places he visited. Impressed and fascinated, he described not only rites and rituals, but also social, geographical, and day-to-day details. After embarking at Jeddah and sailing to Aden, he was denounced as a Christian spy and imprisoned. He secured his release and proceeded on an extensive tour of southwest Arabia. Stopping in Sanaa and Zebid as well as a number of smaller cities, he describes the people, the markets and trade, the kind of fruits and animals that are plentiful in the vicinity, and any historical or cultural information deemed noteworthy. Returning to Aden, and after a brief stop in Ethiopia, he set sail for India.

From the collection of Col. Samuel Barrett Miles with his stamp of ownership to flyleaf. His widow sold the book to the Bath Public Reference Library in 1920 (their bookplate and shelfmark to pastedown, their blindstamped ownership to several pp., including the folding map). Old shelfmark label to spine.

Heads of spine and corners somewhat rubbed, slightly scuffed. Occasional light spotting; tear to right margin of folding map; pp. 39-42 loosened. A good copy.


Howgego I, V15. Macro 2240. Cf. Blackmer 338. Gay 140.