St. Petersburg: Typ. of 3rd Department of His Majesty’s Office, 1853. Item #310
Second edition. 2 vols. bound together. , 407; , 416, 22 pp. 12mo. With a copper engraved folding map at rear. Contemporary green quarter leather with marbled papered boards and faded gilt lettered title on the spine. 19th century ink numbers on the title page and first pastedown endpaper, previous owner’s initials gilt tooled on the spine, binding slightly rubbed. Otherwise a very good copy.
Important piece of Russian Africana, an account of one of the first Russian travels to the Upper Egypt and Nubia, written by a noted Orientalist, polyglot, bibliophile, and the founder of Russian Biblical archaeology Avraam Norov (1795-1869). An avid traveller, he went on an extensive tour around Egypt, the Holy Land and Asia Minor in 1834-36. He arrived to Alexandria in December 1834, proceeded to Cairo where he had an audience with Muhammad Ali of Egypt (1769-1849), and became a close acquaintance with Soliman Pasha (1788-1860, a French-born Egyptian commander), Muhammad Ali’s personal doctor Clot-Bey (Antoine Barthelemy Clot, 1793-1868), and other powerful figures at the Egyptian court. In spring 1835, he took a dahabiya trip up the Nile as far south as Wadi Halfa and returned to Cairo, thence going to Palestine. During the Egyptian trip Norov described and made sketches of the temples and murals (some of the Nubian temples which were later destroyed with the construction of the Aswan Lower Dam), and collected a number of pieces of ancient Egyptian art, including a two-meter statue of the Goddess Sekhmet-Mut (now in the State Hermitage Museum), a papyrus scroll with the text of the ‘‘Book of the Dead’’ dating XI-X B.C. (now in the Russian National Library), and others.
Norov’s account on his travel to Egypt is ‘‘undoubtedly the best of what was written about Egypt by Russian travellers,” according to a noted Russian Egyptologist Oleg Berlev. The first edition was published in 1840, illustrated with Norov’s sketches made during the trip. This second revised edition being an independent book on its own, was published as the first volume in the series Voyages of A.S. Norov which also included the account of his travels to the Holy Land and the ‘‘the Seven Churches mentioned in the Apocalypse’’ (SPb., 1853-1854, 5 vols).
The first volume follows the traveller from Wien to the Lower Egypt, with descriptions of Alexandria, Cairo, and Great Pyramids of Giza; there are also overviews of Egypt’s geography, climate, agriculture, industries, administration and taxes, people; notes on Cairo high society, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Soliman Pasha, and others. The tables in text report on the merchant ships and main goods exported from and imported to Alexandria harbor.
The second volume describes Norov’s voyage up the Nile with stops at the famous ancient sites of the Upper Egypt and Nubia: Beni Hasan, Memnonium, Luxor and Karnak, Edfu, Philae Island, Wadi es-Sebua, Wadi Halfa, Dendera, and others. Thorough observations on ancient Egyptian sites are interspersed with references to the Bible and classical ancient and modern authors (Leo Africanus, Strabo, Jean-François Champollion, Jacob Christoph Burckhardt, and others).
The second edition was revised, with references to the latest travels to Egypt, i.e. Yegor Kovalevsky’s travel to south-eastern Sudan in 1847-48 (see vol. 2, pp. 230-231). The book is supplemented with an alphabet index of personal and geographical names. The map shows Egypt and Sinai Peninsula, from the Nile Delta up to the Second Cataract and Wadi Halfa.
Avraam Norov authored over a dozen works, including A Voyage to Sicily in 1822 (SPb, 1828), and others. He was a Minister of Education, member of the State Council of the Russian Empire (1854), and several scientific and literary societies, including Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1851), and Russian Geographical Society (1846).
Worldcat locates 9 paper copies (State Library of Berlin, State Library of Bavaria, Cambridge University, University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago, Cornell, Syracuse University, New York University, Harvard).