[A. & C. BLACK SHILLING SERIES] KELMAN, John (author). Margaret THOMAS (illustrator). From Damascus to Palmyra. London, A. & C. Black, 1908.
Large 8vo. Publisher's ivory cloth strikingly blocked in Art Nouveau style in turquoise, purple, mint green, and gilt to spine and upper board, top edges gilt; pp. [iv], v-xvi + 367 + [i] + , publisher's adverts.; with 3-leaf folding coloured map of the region tipped in to rear; with a total of 70 coloured plates by Margaret Thomas protected by captioned tissue-guards and 16 black and white photographic plates; externally and internally a fine and exceptional copy, as bright and clean as the day it was published, with only one minor fox-spot to fore-edge of book block.
First edition. The author was a Scottish priest, and the illustrator an artist and sculptor who travelled widely and exhibited in the RA in 1868. Clearly written by a traveller in the Middle East, Kelman has an optimistic outlook on the possibility of religious tolerance in the region: 'But for the present at least (and this spirit seems to have been rapidly advancing of late years), all is good-humour and smiling acquiescense. Less than ten years ago, a Damascene was almost killed by the mob for attempting to photograph the ruins of the Mosque after the fire. We set up our cameras unmolested, and obtained time-exposure views of the most sacred of all shrines, and the very mihrab (praying niche) and pulpit of that same Mosque. Here, dreamy and secure, the call to prayer floats over an unquestioning city, and there is nothing about the mosques to remind any one of a bitter piety or a fanatical attachment' (p. 123). Kelman starts his journey in Lebanon, which is described and illustrated not only in the chapter titled Across Lebanon (pp. 24 to 50) but also in the introductory chapter East and West.