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pearls, cinnamon, & palms

[Suckling, Horatio John, Captain] Ceylon. A general description of the Island, historical, physical, statistical. Containing the most recent information. London Chapman & Hall 1876
First edition. Two volumes, 8vo (23 x 15.5 cm), pp.xvi, 424, errata slip; viii, 432, folding map. A fine bright set in the original publisher's cloth, with decoratively stamped boards, titles gilt on spines. A little light spotting.

A detailed study of Ceylon, mixing historical research with the author's firsthand experience of the island. Suckling notes that the only other comprehensive work to date was Tennent's 1858 account. He aimed to supplement Tennent and correct his errors. It draws on sources ranging from medieval travellers' accounts, including those of Arab and Chinese traders, Sinhalese histories, and Portuguese, Dutch, and English colonial records. The first volume contains four chapters on the island's physical geography, with ancient descriptions of the island, notes on coral reefs, and soil and agriculture. Suckling devotes a short chapter to climate, disease, and weather, and another to Ceylon's ancient history. Four further chapters span early trade to east and west and foreign accounts of the island from this period. Five chapters cover modern history, from the arrival of the Portuguese to the war of 1848, when Suckling was first stationed on the island. The last two chapters describe Colombo and the diverse population. The second volume has chapters on travel within Ceylon, the long history of Buddhism on the island, and arts and literature, with notes on languages, weaving, and pottery. Suckling devotes almost three hundred pages to the flora and fauna of the island, with detailed chapters on cinnamon, pearls, and palm trees, including the coconut. Captain Horatio John Suckling (1822-1905) was a career officer who served in the Ceylon Rifles for several decades.