Northern Arabia

SHAKESPEAR, Captain William Henry Irvine, and Douglas CARRUTHERS. Northern Arabia.

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SHAKESPEAR, Captain William Henry Irvine, and Douglas CARRUTHERS. Northern Arabia. London, War Office for RGS, March, 1922.

Large colour-printed folding map (61 x 97cm); apart from a few short repairs to folds and two tiny holes, very well preserved.
This is the best map at the time of Central Arabia, covering the area from Jerusalem to Kuwait in the north and the Red Sea with Medina to Jebel Alaiya in the southeast, with the up to then largely unexplored Nejd and Riyadh regions, home of the Ibn Saud family. Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear was an English civil servant, political Agent in Kuwait and explorer who mapped uncharted areas of northern Arabia and made the first official British contact with Ibn Sa'ud, future king of Saudi Arabia. He made seven separate expeditions into the Arabian interior, during which he became a close friend of Ibn Sa'ud, then the Emir of The Nejd. In March, 1914, Shakespear began a 1,800 mile journey from Kuwait to Riyadh and from there to Aqaba, via the Nafud Desert, which he mapped and studied in great detail, the first European to do so. In November, 1914, the British government in India asked him to secure Ibn Sa'ud's support for the British-Indian Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, which had just taken Basra. Carruthers retraces these various routes, examining the latter's significant finds (including some inscribed stones discovered at the wells of Hinna and the ruined site of Thaj) and devotes several pages to Shakespear's last journey of the title. In January, 1915, at the Battle of Jarrab, Shakespear's friend Ibn Sa'ud asked him to retreat to a place of safety before the fighting began. As an English Gentleman, he naturally declined to do so. He was struck by a bullet and killed. The victorious Rashidis cut off his head. His solar helmet was handed over to the Ottoman authorities and hung on one of the main gates of Medina as proof of the Al Sau'ds' collaboration with the British. It has been suggested by some authorities, notably St. John Philby, that the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire might have been very differently directed if Shakespear had survived, i.e. the British would have supported and armed Ibn Sa'ud rather than Sherif Hussein ibn Ali. Carruthers, an Arabian Traveller compiled this map from sketches, notes and photographs by Shakespear for the RGS, where his archive is kept.