RUTTER, Eldon. The Holy Cities of Arabia. London & New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Ltd., .
Two volumes, 8vo. Original green cloth, lettered and titled in gilt, top edges gilt; pp. xv, 303; vii, 288; photographic frontispiece to each volume showing the Kaaba at Mecca and the Green Dome at Medina, 8 maps including 3 double-page; the cloth binding near-fine, internally, apart from light offsetting from endpapers and even light toning to paper, as usual, Danish ownership inscriptions to rear fly-leaves, a very good and fresh set, the best we have ever had.
First edition. Eldon Rutter was one of only a handful of Christian Europeans to visit and return alive from Mecca and Medina, the holy sites of Islam. Rutter had seen the warring between Ibn Sa'ud's Wahhabis and the Hashemites in the mid-1920's as an opportunity to visit Arabia. He departed from Cairo in May 1925 and just over a year later returned from his travels on the Western side of Arabia. The Holy Cities of Arabia records his experiences during this year and has become a classic of the literature. T.E. Lawrence wrote of Rutter: "Our feebler selves dare not be Arabians for Arabia's sake - none of us save Rutter, I think, and how good, how classical" (Foreword to Bertram Thomas' Arabia Felix).
Rutter was a young Englishman who was inspired by the exploits of Burckhardt and Burton to attempt the Hajj. Following service during the First World War, he took employment in the Malay States in order to learn Arabic and continued his studies in Egypt 'where he lived as a native until he felt so thoroughly at home in the language and well versed in the rites and traditions of Islam as to be confident of his ability to carry through the pilgrimage as a fully fledged Muhammadan.' Despite the death of his intended travelling companion, and the outbreak of hostilities in the Hejaz, nothing daunted Rutter and 'determined to adhere to his long cherished plans,' he set out from Suez for Massawa , wisely avoiding the usual route via Jeddah. A little over a year later he was back in Egypt. 'Thus ended a great enterprise, carried through with consummate pluck and fixate of purpose, and now given to his countrymen in two absorbing volumes which leave noting to be desired either in literary style or human interest' (Sir Percy Cox’s Geographical Journal review).