1855 Richard Burton ”Pilgrimage to Mecca“

Value (2010) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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GUEST:
Well, when my husband was assigned to Bahrain in the early '60s-- about 1962-- he asked the company librarian to get to him some books on the Arab life. He wanted to learn a little about it. She came back and told him that she had written to England, and they could send her the three volumes of Richard Burton's trip to Medina and Mecca. I'm not sure my husband really knew who Richard Burton was, and turned to me and told me what the librarian had said, and I said, "Buy 'em. I want 'em."

APPRAISER:
It's a good choice. Richard Burton was one of truly the most interesting figures in the 19th century. He was a poet, a linguist, a fencing master, an Orientalist, a great traveler and explorer, but also he was a bit of a roughneck. Even though he became Sir Richard Francis Burton, he was never quite accepted by a lot of people in the positions of power. But what he achieved was extraordinary. And someone has a great quote that he lived the lives of six men before he was middle aged. At the time he was 30, he was serving in the army in India, and he was fairly familiar with the Muslim way of life. So he got a leave from the army to undertake a great expedition, which was that of a Westerner, a nonbeliever, taking the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. And this is his record of his pilgrimage to Mecca as a Westerner, which he had to do disguised because the penalty for a nonbeliever going to Mecca was death.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And he studied for many months before he did this. In fact, he got himself circumcised before he did this, which was real dedication. He was almost discovered a few times, but he managed to do it, came back, and this three volumes was the first book that really launched his career. And he went on to other explorations as well. He translated the Thousand and One Nights, the Kama Sutra. He was quite a character for a Victorian gentleman. And I wish we had a picture of him because he's got a great scar down the side of his face from a swordfight. So he looks every inch the explorer that would have gone to Mecca on his own. This is the first edition that was published in 1855 for the first two volumes and 1856 for the last volume. And part of the reason it took so long was that Burton wasn't back from his travels to supply the manuscript to the publisher. Now, what I love about these is the condition. This is one of the best examples of this set that I've found. If you look at the bindings, the gilt here is very bright. This is the original cloth, the way it came from the publisher. It hasn't been rebound. You don't have any of the foxing that you usually see, the spotting. You said you got... you and your husband bought these in the early '60s, right?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
You've kept them in really good shape. Do you know what he paid for them?

GUEST:
$60-- $20 apiece.

APPRAISER:
$60?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Well, you were really right to tell him to buy them. As well as being an incredibly good read-- it's still in print today, in fact-- a great set like this, in this condition today, would easily sell at auction between $10,000 and $15,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
Without a doubt.

GUEST:
My goodness.

APPRAISER:
Thank you for bringing them in.

GUEST:
I'll take better care of them.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
All my children will be interested.

APPRAISER:
Yeah. (laughing)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Sotheby's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2010)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
Period
19th Century
Form
Book
Material
Cloth, Paper

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