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Stock# 89552

By the Ambassador to the Afghan Court at Kabul

With Fine Color Plates and Maps

First edition. An extensive, meticulously compiled work, by a key British diplomat, and which influenced British policy until the 1840s. The book is beautifully illustrated with a suite of hand-colored plates of people in native dress. Sir Elphinstone was an outstanding figure, prominent in shaping British dominance in early 19th-century India. Born into nobility as the son of the 11th Baron Elphinstone, he embarked on his journey to India in 1795 at the age of 16, serving as a writer under the East India Company.

In 1801, Elphinstone became assistant to Sir Barry Close, the resident at the court of Baji Rao, the Peshwa of Poona. The Peshwa, characterized as "an avowed poltroon" in the first Dictionary of National Biography, held considerable authority within the Mahratta confederacy. However, he was eventually ousted by Holkar during the Battle of Poona, which subsequently led to the Second Mahratta War when Holkar refused British appeals to reinstate the Peshwa. Throughout these tumultuous events, Elphinstone's involvement extended to serving on Wellington's staff in the Deccan, actively participating in the battles of Assaye and Argaum, as well as the Siege of Gawilarh. An aptitude for the military drew admiration from the general, who suggested hat Elphinstone had chosen the wrong profession and ought to have been a soldier.

Having risen through the ranks, Elphinstone assumed the role of resident at the court in Nagpur in 1804. Four years later, he received another significant appointment as the ambassador to the Afghan court in Kabul. His mission encompassed assessing the level of French influence. Additionally, Elphinstone aimed to secure a defensive alliance with Shah Shuja. The intricate web of diplomacy and geopolitical maneuvering surrounding his tenure in Afghanistan further underscores his importance in the broader context of British imperial endeavors.

In sum, an exceptional account of the accomplishments of Sir Elphinstone, shedding light on his role in shaping British hegemony in India during the early 19th century. The rich color plates combined with an insightful first-hand narrative provide invaluable historical context for understanding the complexities of the period.

The maps:

  • A Map of the Kingdom of Caubul, and some of the Neighbouring Countries, Altered from a Map Constructed in the Year 1809. By Lieut. John Macartney, 5th. Regt. Bengal Native Cavalry.
  • Caubul on a Reduced Scale Shewing its Relative Situation to the Neighbouring Countries.

The appendix includes a 10-page Pushtoo vocabulary, with separate columns for Western and Eastern Pushtoo.


It is becoming increasing difficult to find a nice complete copy of this work with the plates and maps intact.

Condition Description
Quarto. Contemporary marbled boards, older rebacking in antique style, leather spine label. Corners and board edges worn. Worm tracks on front and back endpapers. Text and plates generally very clean, with only a touch of foxing to final dozen leaves or so (plates are very clean, except for some marginal foxing on the one uncolored plate). The large folding map age-toned, with some offsetting and foxing. viii, v*-viii* ["Notice regarding the map" & list of plates], xxi, 675 pages plus errata leaf. 2 maps (1 folding, with outline color) and 14 aquatint plates (all but one hand-colored). Complete.
Abbey Travel 504. Colas 960. Howgego, II, E10. Lipperheide 1483. Tooley 209.