Extremely rare account of a journey through Arabia

Wallin, Georg August (Yrjö Aukusti). Första Resa fran Cairo till Arabiska Öknen i April 1845. Fragment.

Helsingfors (Helsinki), (S. Baranovskij for) J. Simelius, 1853.

8vo. VII, (1), 126 pp., final blank f. With lithographed map at the end of the volume; printed notes of a Bedouin melody within the text. Green half calf with contemporary marbled boards and giltstamped title to rebacked spine.


First edition, published posthumously.

Extremely rare account of Wallin's principal journey through Arabia, unknown to most bibliographers: "It was not until two years after his death", writes Henze, "that the report of his first (and most important) journey (performed in 1845, a year before the appearance of the first volume of Carl Ritter's 'Arabia') was published". This refers to the English "Narrative of a Journey from Cairo to Medina and Mecca", which was printed in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1854. In fact, an extensive account of the first leg of this highly significant journey was first given to the world in December 1853, but little more than a year after the author's passing. Of this Swedish-language book, edited by Berndt Otto Schauman, fewer than two dozen copies are known worldwide, 12 of which are in Finnish libraries (the remainder distributed throughout Sweden [4 copies], Germany [2 copies], Denmark, France, and the U.S.A. [a single copy each]). In contrast with the later JRGS publication, the present work includes an appendix rendering Arabic terms and phrases that occur throughout the text in the original language and script.

Like his more famous contemporary J. L. Burckhardt, Wallin was fluent in Arabic and, in local costume, was capable of passing for a scholarly sheikh. Indeed, the two explorers are often compared: "I see many points of resemblance between them, the same iron constitution, the same versatility, the same indomitable energy, the same imperturbable temper" (H. C. Rawlinson, quoted in Henze). Financially backed by his alma mater, the University of Helsinki, Wallin departed for the Middle East in 1843 and set out on his expeditions from Cairo under the name of Abd al-Wali. "In 1845, proceeding southeast across the wastelands of the Nafud Desert, he reached Ha'il then continued by force of circumstances southward to Medina and Mecca. From there he returned to Egypt" (Howgego). More precisely, he "moved eastwards from Wadi al-Araba, first touching upon the upper regions of Wadi Sirhan, then on to the oasis of Djuf ('Algawf') and crossed the central regions of Shammar, via Djobbah ('Gubbi'), the Great Nefud ('Nufood'), and Hail [...] Of Shammar and its inhabitants he provided the fullest account, unsurpassed by later travellers in its scholarly precision" (Henze). After his return to Europe in 1850, Wallin was made Professor of oriental languages at Helsingfors. His notes provide a detailed overview of the political and religious movements and the role of the different tribes in Palestine and especially in Saudi Arabia.

Stamped ownership "L. L. Cygnaeus, Helsingfors" to flyleaf. A fine, largely unbrowned copy.


K.-E. Henriksson (A Wallin Bibliography), in: Studia orientalia 17 (1952), p. 13-16, at p. 13. OCLC 551923531. Cf. Macro 2262. Howgego II (1800-50), W12, p. 627. Henze V, 452 (all citing only the 1854 JRGS publication). Cf. Fück 198 (mentioning the journey). Not in Gay or Ibrahim-Hilmy.