GEERE, Henry John Valentine. By Nile and Euphrates. A Record of Discovery and Adventure. Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1904.
8vo. Colour-illustrated sand-coloured cloth, spine lettered in gilt; pp. ix, 355, sketch maps and plates after photographs; ownership inscription to front fly-leaf, a fine, unread copy.
Rare first edition of relatively unknown work. This wonderful travel book about life and people between Tigris and Euphrates, some of them Marsh Arabs, is the by-product of an American archaeological campaign at Nippur. After Pietro della Valle (17th century) and George Keppel (19th century) this is the third Western text to deal with the region and the inhabitants, at the same time the first monograph. 'During the last year I had read what I could about the Madan. It was little enough. The only book seemed to be Haji Rikkan: Marsh Arab by Fulanain  …, a sympathetic description of a Marshman's life at the end of the First World War … Certainly the Madan had a bad name with Arabs and Englishmen alike' (Wilfred Thesiger, The Marsh Arabs, p. 49). The present book, published 23 years before Fulanain was apparently not known to Thesiger.
'In 1887, the University of Pennsylvania agreed to sponsor an expedition to the Near East. The idea was conceived by Reverend John Punnett Peters, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Hebrew and already a fund-raiser for William Hayes Ward of New York who made a site survey in Babylonia in 1885 … In January of 1889, the expedition party directed by Peters arrived in Nippur. Nippur was a pre-Biblical city-state located in the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. British archaeologists had done some preliminary work in the 1850s; Ward's report on the site during his 1885 survey indicated promising archaeological resources. Two members of the 1885 investigation joined the Museum party: John Henry Haynes, photographer and business manager, and Daniel Z. Noorian, interpreter and work foreman. Other members of the 1889 team included Herman Volrath Hilprecht, newly appointed Professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania, Perez Hastings Field, architect and engineer, and Robert Francis Harper of Yale, co-Assyriologist with Hilprecht. The first campaign ended in the spring of that year, due to difficulties from climatic conditions, sickness, and violent attacks by local inhabitants. The excavations resumed in 1890, again from 1893 to 1896 and finally from 1898 to 1900' (Nippur, Iraq Expedition Records, University of Pennsylvania, online).