25 October 2012

Women of the Unchanging East

I'm not sure that I've seen a more generously illustrated Victorian travelogue; plates account for over thirty percent of the page count. Unfortunately, not one of the images – photographs all – bears a credit. While I suspect that at least a few of the more touristy shots are nothing but reproductions of postcards, I'm more confident that many of the images  – the grainy one of Black John, for example  – were taken during Barr's travels and troubles. Sadly, there are no images of the author himself, but we do find some portraits of people who figure in the book, including two of genial Maronite dragoman Selim G. Tabet.

However, the vast majority of the portraits are of anonymous women. Postcards perhaps, but these make for the most interesting images in the book. What follows are the finest, beginning with a Damascus girl and ending with an image that I imagine was consulted repeatedly by more than few adolescent Victorian males. Today's teenage boys will be less interested.

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  1. Have you ever seen anyone who looks more bored than the Damascus girl?

    1. Evidence that the bored teenager has been with us since at least the nineteenth century.