MUSIZZANO, Marco. Reminiscenze di un viaggio in Asia negli anni 1861-62 de Dottor M. Musizzano medico chirurgico della R. Casa e della spedizione d'Oriente per S. M. Vittorio Emmanuele II capitanata dal Colonnello di Castelengo. Turin, Tipografia Franchini, 1863.
Small 8vo. Original brown blind-stamped cloth, spine lettered in gilt; pp. 322, , folding lithographic map; hinges expertly restored; a little browned in places; a good copy.
Extremely rare first edition of this travelogue of a journey from Italy to Beirut, then through Syria, Kurdistan Iraq, down to Baghdad, Basrah and Kuwait and back, carried out in order to procure qualitiy Arab horses needed in Italy during the unification wars. The Royal house of Savoy-Sardinia, which was later to become the Royal house of the Kingdom of Italy sent out a group of men led by the Colonel di Castellengo. The narrative of approaching Kuwait in January 1862 describes in detail the travel with a caravan, how the resting places are chosen (places where you can find dry camel dung for cooking), how bread is baked on sheets of copper. Musizzano the desribes how the entire travelling band rises at 2am, and spots the Gulf at 9am. At a group of houses named Giaharra, they have a break; the horses and camels drink water and are being fed. After this break the caravan moves parallel to the coast and reaches Kuwait at 3pm. Kuwait was a walled city and the travellers were received by the elderly and rich merchant Joseph-Eben-Beder. In the 19th century Kuwait was an important horse trading centre, hence the visit by the Italians. The Europeans experience Kuwait as an entirely Arab city, which in old maps is called Graine. They estimate the population at about 50,000 and describe the architecture. After a short rest they visit the Sheik, have coffee and smoke nargile, the Turkish water pipe. The sheik is described as a tall man of about 80 with a booming voice. The author, a medical doctor, then expresses his surprise how very old men were around and concludes that Arabs are of a 'strong fibre' and that the air in Kuwait must be the healthiest the group of Italians encountered during their whole journey. The father of the current sheik died only three years ago at the estimated age of 110. The Arabs of Kuwait retain their full physical force and intellectual capabilities well into advanced age, Musizzano observes and puts this down to a healthy and simple diet. He describes the clothing as simple and practical, perfectly suitable for the climate. The wealthier ladies dress themselves in textiles imported from Persia, the preferred colour combination being green, red and black (maybe this was the ladies' fashion of the winter season 1861/2?). The society of Kuwait enjoys to walk along the waterfront in the afternoons, and take in the fresh air. Musizzano then describes that the pearl fishing season is in full swing in the spring and summer and that the sale of these amounts to 25,000 francs per year. The fishing grounds stretch from Kuwait itself to Muscat. Pearl fishing was carried out in the following way; five or six fishermen on a fishing vessel sail to particular stretches of the Gulf and dive with rocks attached to their feet, secured by a rope which is held by the sailors on the vessel. After a few minutes of reconnaissance at the bottom of the sea the divers signal with the rope to be lifted out to breathe. The 'harvest' is mostly sold to Mumbai, alongside two to three year old thoroughbread horses, another portion is being sold to Constantinople, other pearls are sold in Baghdad and Aleppo. The merchants who own big sailing ships trade with Mumbay, Bushire, Muscat and Basrah. The leader of the Italian travellers, Colonel Castellengo found out in conversations with Joseph-Eben-Beder that winter was not the right season for buying Arab horses in Kuwait, and that he might be better advised to travel to Nejd in search of horses. Musizzano then proceeds to describe the nature of inner Arabia and her inhabitants. The Italians leave Kuwait on the 23rd of January on a sailing ship heading for Basrah, where they arrive after sailing for 50 hours.
The Italian title translates as 'Reminiscences of a Voyage in Asia in the Years 1861-62 by Doctor M. Musizzano, Medical Surgeon to the Royal House and to the Oriental Expedition by His Majesty Vittorio Emmanuele II, under the Leadership of Colonel di Castellengo'. Castellengo is a castle in the Northern Italian region of Piedmont.
We could locate only five copies in libraries, all in Italy, four of which in Turin or surroundings.