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From antiquity to elephant-hunting

Pridham, Charles An historical, political and statistical account of Ceylon and its dependencies. London T. and W. Boone 1849
First edition. Two volumes, 8vo (22 x 14.5 cm), pp.xv, [1, blank], 484; [iv], 485-887, [1, errata], large folding map, coloured in outline. A very good set bound in contemporary diced calf, all edges marbled. Spines faded, edges rubbed. Contents in fine condition. Contemporary bookplates with an earl's coronet and cyphered. Blindstamps of Hugh Roberts, bookseller, Chester, on front free endpapers.

A comprehensive account of Ceylon compiled by the journalist and writer Charles Pridham from 1846 to 1848, combining his own experience of the island with British authorities, including Jonathan Forbes, Robert Templeton, and George Turnour. Pridham also received assistance from Simon Casie Chetty, member of the Legislative Council, and later the first local officer of the Ceylon Civil Service. The first two hundred pages span the history of Ceylon from antiquity to 1847. Pridham had access to the Sinhalese annals in English translation, and called for them to be afforded the same sceptical respect due to Christian scripture. The early portion of his history is a gloss of the annals. Subsequent chapters deal with the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial periods, concluding in 1847. The author treats local law and customs, including oath-taking and insolvency, slavery, castes, diet and cuisine, Sinhalese cosmology, local gods, and Buddhism, with notes on the priesthood and the relic of the Buddha's tooth held at Kandy. Cinnamon cultivation, the customary division of land, and local metal and gold work are also addressed. The second volume begins with a long geographical chapter covering each of the five provinces in detail, followed by a note on the island's climate, and a long section on natural history, with accounts of elephant capture, training, and hunting, and lists of plants, birds, animals, insects, and fish. The substantial appendices include an account of the Singha dynasty, a description of the press in Ceylon, and a long note on taxes and duties. The large folding Map of the island of Ceylon published by T. & W. Boone is dated 1848.