Travels In Syria And The Holy Land By John Lewis Burckhardt




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[p.i]It is hoped that little apology is necessary for the publication of a volume of Travels in Asia, by a Society, whose sole professed object is the promotion of discoveries in the African continent.

The Association having had the good fortune to obtain the services of a person of Mr. Burckhardt's education and talents, resolved to spare neither time nor expense in enabling him to acquire the language and manners of an Arabian Musulman in such a degree of perfection, as should render the detection of his real character in the interior of Africa extremely difficult.

It was thought that a residence at Aleppo would afford him the most convenient means of study, while his intercourse with the natives of that city, together with his occasional tours in Syria, would supply him with a view of Arabian life and manners in every degree, from the Bedouin camp to the populous city. While thus preparing himself for the ultimate object of his mission, he was careful to direct his journeys through those parts of Syria which had been the least frequented by European travellers, and thus he had the opportunity of making some important additions to our knowledge of one of those countries of which the geography is not less interesting by its connection with ancient history, than it is imperfect, in consequence of the impediments which modern barbarism has opposed to scientific researches. After consuming near three years in Syria, Mr. Burckhardt, on his arrival in Egypt, found himself prevented from pursuing the execution of his instructions, by [p.ii] a suspension of the usual commercial intercourse with the interior of Africa, and was thus, during the ensuing five years, placed under the necessity of employing his time in Egypt and the adjacent countries in the same manner as he had done in Syria. After the journeys in Egypt, Nubia, Arabia, and Mount Sinai, which have been briefly described in the Memoir prefixed to the former volume of his travels, his death at Cairo, at the moment when he was preparing for immediate departure to Fezzan, left the Association in possession of a large collection of manuscripts concerning the countries visited by their traveller in these preparatory journeys, but of nothing more than oral information as to those to which he had been particularly sent. As his journals in Nubia, and in the regions adjacent to the Astaboras, although relating only to an incidental part of his mission to Africa, were descriptive of countries coming strictly within the scope of the African Association, these, together with all his collected information on the interior of Africa, were selected for earliest publication. The present volume contains his observations in Syria and Arabia Petraea; to which has been added his tour in the Peninsula of Mount Sinai, although the latest of all his travels in date, because it is immediately connected, by its subject, with his journey through the adjacent districts of the Holy Land. There still remain manuscripts sufficient to fill two volumes; one of these will consist of his travels in Arabia, which were confined to the Hedjaz, or Holy Land of the Musulmans, the part least accessible to Christians; the fourth volume will contain very copious remarks on the Arabs on the Desert, and particularly the Wahabys.

The two principal maps annexed to the present volume have been constructed under the continued inspection of the Editor, by Mr. John Walker, junior, by whom they have been delineated and engraved.

[p.iii]In the course of this process, it has been found, that our traveller's bearings by the compass are not always to be relied on. Those which were obviously incorrect, and useless for geographical purposes, have been omitted in the Journal; some instances of the same kind, which did not occur to the Editor until the sheets were printed, are noticed in the Errata, and if a few still remain, the reader is intreated not to consider them as proofs of negligence in the formation of the maps, which have been carefully constructed from Burckhardt's materials, occasionally assisted and corrected by other extant authorities. One cannot easily decide, whether the errors in our traveller's bearings are chiefly to be attributed to the variable nature of the instrument, or to the circumstances of haste and concealment under which he was often obliged to take his observations, though it is sufficiently evident that be fell into the error, not uncommon with unexperienced travellers, of multiplying bearings to an excessive degree, instead of verifying a smaller number, and measuring intermediate angles with a pocket sextant. However his mistakes may have arisen, the consequence has been, that some parts of the general map illustrative of his journeys in Syria and the Holy Land have been constructed less from his bearings than from his distances in time, combined with those of other travellers, and checked by some known points on the coast. Hence also a smaller scale has been chosen for that map than may be formed from the same materials when a few points in the interior are determined by celestial observations. In the mean time it is hoped, that the present sketch will be sufficient to enable the reader to pursue the narrative without much difficulty, especially as the part of Syria which the traveller examined with more minuteness than any other, the Haouran, is illustrated by a map upon a larger scale, which has been composed from two delineations made by him in his two journeys in that province.

[p.iv]It appears unnecessary to the Editor to enter into any lengthened discussion in justification of the ancient names which he has inserted in the maps; he thinks it sufficient to refer to the copious exposition of the evidences of Sacred Geography contained in the celebrated work of Reland.

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