BELL, Gertrude Lowthian. Syria. The Desert and the Sown. New York, Dutton, 1907.
8vo. Original cloth, spine and front cover lettered in gilt, front cover ornamented in blind; pp.xvi, 347, colour-printed frontispiece after a watercolour by John Singer Sargent (who knew Gertrude Bell very well and painted a famous portrait of her), numerous illustrations after photos in the text, large folding map; lower cover with a few minor restorations, cloth only a little darkened in places, the initial 35 pages with light indenture to fore-edge, otherwise a very good copy.
Scarce first edition, the US issue of Gertrude Bell's first travel book published under her name, after her anonymous Persian sketches Safar Nameh (1894). 'After meeting the archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, she agreed to revisit the area to make further investigations, in the meantime publishing her preliminary findings in the Revue Archéologique (1906, 1907). Her account of the Syrian portion of her journey, The Desert and the Sown (1907), became a classic of pre-First World War travel literature. Politically, it described the heavy Ottoman presence in the Arab towns and cities (the ‘sown’ areas) but practical absence from the desert areas where the Bedouin tribes were the effective rulers; personally, it revealed her perception of travel in the Middle East as an escape from the restrictions of Western domestic life' (ODNB). Gertrude Bell travelled from Jerusalem inland, and then to the North through Lebanon, where she visited Durze communities and leaders, towards Damascus, Homs, Aleppo to Iskenderun. She observes the immense poverty and emigration of the population of Lebanon and Syria to America.