The first English-language book printed in Alexandria, inscribed by the author

[Salt, Henry]. Egypt. A Descriptive Poem with Notes by a Traveller.

Alexandria, printed for the author by Alexander Draghi, at the European Press, 1824.

Small 4to (155 x 214 mm). 53, (3) pp. Original printed wrappers. Housed in a modern drop-back grey cloth box, this with a printed paper label to spine.


First and only edition of an important piece of printing history: the first English-language book printed in Alexandria. Inscribed to the British General Robert Wilson on the front free endpaper: "To his friend Robert Wilson Esq. from the author".

Salt has added an explanatory postscript to this intriguing publication: "This poem was printed with a view to divert the Author's attention, whilst suffering under severe affliction as well as to give encouragement to a very worthy man, the Printer. It is the first English work carried through the press in Alexandria, and as the compositor was entirely ignorant of the language in which it is written, the difficulties that existed, in correcting the proof sheets, may be easily imagined. This it is hoped may excuse many errors".

Salt was British Consul-General in Egypt when he composed the poem. He did so under terrible circumstances, with his wife and infant child recently deceased and his own health also failing, hence the heavily melancholy tone. Though primarily produced as a form of distraction, Salt surely had one eye on the significance of publishing an English-language work in Egypt, noting that it was the first to be printed in Alexandria in the aforementioned postscript. Napoleon, of course, had introduced the printing press over twenty years earlier, and the National (later named Bulaq) Press had been active since 1819.

Scarce: LibraryHub locates six copies in the UK (at the British Library, Oxford, UEA, the University of Glasgow, the University of Liverpool and the University of Strathclyde); OCLC adds four more, at the University of Chicago, Library of Congress, Harvard and the New York Public Library.


Presentation inscription to General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson (1777-1849), who fought against Napoleon's army in the final years of the French campaign in Egypt and Syria.


Wrappers somewhat wormed, with several small wormholes continuing through the interior. Book block split between pp. 16 and 17.


Ibrahim-Hilmy II, 208.

Stock Code: BN#63815 Tags: , , ,