MINUTOLI, Wolfradine-Auguste-Luise von Baroness. Recollections of Egypt. London, Treuttel & Wurtz, 1827.
8vo. Modern calf-backed cloth-covered boards, spine with black morocco lettering-piece and ruled in gilt; pp. xvii, 277, hand-coloured portrait frontispiece of Mahomet Ali Pacha of Egypt, frontispiece-verso and final leaf with a little offsetting from endpapers, otherwise a very good copy with uncut edges; contemporary engraved armorial bookplate of Lord Harris inside front cover, his name, dated 1827, at top of title-page; a very good copy of a great rarity.
First English edition. The Baroness Minutoli (1794-1868) was of Prussian noble descent and wrote in a very vivid and direct style.. 'Her first husband, baron Von Watzdorff (d. 1815), was killed in the battle of Waterloo. In 1820, she married at Triest a Swiss Savoyard general in the Prussian army, Heinrich Menu von Minutoli (1772-1846). Soon after they embarked on a two-year scientific expedition to Egypt under Prussian royal patronage. After parting company with her husband in Alexandria, Wolfradine von Minutoli returned to Germany late in 1821; his travels ended sometime in 1822 … Wolfradine von Minutoli, no less an Egyptologist, chose a more personal register and wrote in French, for her a second language, but one that allowed her book to be published in Paris and reach a wider audience. The 1826 French edition was corrected and edited by Désiré Raoul-Rochette; Susette Harriet Lloyd translated it into English in 1827; and at last a German edition appeared in 1829' (University of Wolverhampton, British Travel Writing online).
The couple had arrived at Alexandria in September 1820, before moving on to Cairo and then Upper Egypt via a Nile journey. Minutoli describes each stopping off point with a keen eye and a good understanding of Egyptian history and topography (she made use of her husband's library over the sea voyage, consulting Herodotus, Volney, Denon and Hamilton). Her writing on Egyptian women is one of the most important aspects of the narrative, as she had access to spaces denied to male visitors. Chapter XXI is devoted to her visits to two harems in Damietta - first to that of the Agha, then to the harem of the first Ulama. Though affected by the prejudices of her time, her account of the first harem (where she was accompanied by a translator) is full of empathy and compliments to the women she met, who were of Syrian, Circassian and Georgian heritage.