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Arabia Felix. Across the "Empty Quarter" of Arabia. With a Foreword by T. E. Lawrence (T.E.S.) and Appendix by Sir Arthur Keith.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932 - Octavo. Original maroon cloth, titles and camel vignette to spine and front cover gilt, fore edge untrimmed. Cloth faded to pink, extremities lightly rubbed with cloth worn away in places. A very good copy. Frontispiece and 47 other plates, frequent illustrations to the text and 2 full-page charts to the text, folding colour map of al-Rub' al-Khali to rear (1 : 3,000,000; opening to 450 × 720 mm). First US edition, fourth printing, a month after the first: "a specially made-up state" produced for a dinner held by Scribner's in Thomas's honour on 22 February, 1932, with a menu and guest-list bound in at the front (O'Brien). This copy is signed on the front free endpaper by Thomas and twenty-seven of the assorted explorers, journalists and publishers who had attended the "American Arabian Night atop the Empire State Building", and additionally bears the bookplate of American science-fiction author Edward Wellen to the front pastedown: a uniquely associative copy of this singularly important work, which describes the first recorded traverse of the Empty Quarter. The only non-American signature in this remarkable assembly of names (excluding the author's) is provided by Vilhjalmur Stefansson (born William Stephenson), the Canadian-Icelandic explorer of the Arctic who won the Royal Geographical Society Founder's Medal in 1921, exactly ten years before it was awarded to Thomas for his desert journey; Stefansson is accompanied by another polar traveller in Laurence McKinley Gould, a geologist by training who received the Congressional Gold Medal on his return from a triumphant voyage to the Antarctic in 1930. Further explorers include Frederick Dellenbaugh, pioneer of the American West who notably participated in the expedition that formally discovered the Henry Mountains, Utah, Roy Chapman Andrews, a naturalist who led several successful expeditions to the Gobi Desert in the 1920s, making the first ever discovery of fossilised dinosaur eggs, and allegedly the inspiration for Indiana Jones, and also Kermit, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who joined his father on his famous journey through the Amazon Basin and served with distinction in both world wars as an intelligence officer before committing suicide in Alaska in 1943. Visibly, though, the most distinctive signature suitably belongs to Lowell George, the relentlessly self-publicising broadcaster whose film, With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia (1919), "marked Lawrence's apotheosis and the genesis of what became his 'legend'" (ODNB). This dazzling array is completed by signatures from members of the Scribner family and other publishing grandees, a number of journalists including noted anti-corruption campaigner George Britt, and noted author Vince Sheean, whose Personal History (1935) won the inaugural National Book Award and later served as the basis for Hitchcock's thriller, Foreign Correspondent. A Post-Office worker who left school with no qualifications, Thomas (1892-1950) joined the Somerset Light Infantry on the outbreak of war and was posted to Mesopotamia, where he was talent-spotted by Sir Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in the Persian Gulf. Thomas "held a number of civilian posts under Wilson and distinguished himself as political officer at Shatra during the Iraqi uprising in 1920 Wilson's successor in the gulf, Sir Percy Cox, retained Thomas in his position as a political adviser to the Arab leaders serving under the provisional British administration. He was appointed OBE and transferred to Transjordan as assistant to the chief British representative at the court of Amir Abdullah. He became in 1924 financial adviser (and later first minister) in the sultanate of Muscat" (ODNB). It was at this time that developed the ambition to cross the Empty Quarter and made a number of preparatory reconnaissance trips, during which "he dressed as a Bedouin, eschewed tobacco and alcohol, and spoke only Arabic". Late in 1930 Thomas left Muscat on a p [Attributes: First Edition; Signed Copy]
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington. ABA member]
Last Found On: 2015-11-18           Check availability:      AbeBooks    


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