Shapero Rare Books, who auctioned Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations in 2012, wrote: This book is probably the earliest authority for coffee-drinking in Europe, Turkish Baths, a pigeon post between Aleppo and Baghdad, Turkish tobacco-pipes, artificial incubation and the importation of currants from Zante to England. This classic account first appeared in 1614 and went through numerous additions, being constantly added to as Lithgow made more travels. He visited Italy, the Ionian Islands, Athens, Crete and the Aegean Archipelago in 1609 and stayed for a time on Chios, where he met two French merchants whom he joined to visit Greek monuments and antiquities. Lithgow travelled some 36,000 miles as described in this work.
woodcut of Lithgow dressed as an Ottoman
Photo credit, Shapero Rare Books
There were many lovely woodcut illustrations in the book, including the woodcut frontispiece portrait of Lithgow in Ottoman dress. Estimated value of the book at auction was £6,500 or Aus $10,000 or USA $10,550.
Why did William Lithgow have an irresistible desire to visit strange lands and how did he fund these extensive trips? Significant Scots believed that wanderlust was the ruling passion of his life. Together with a roving, unsettled and restless disposition, wanderlust was the principal agent in compelling him to undertake the formidable journeys which he accomplished, and enabled him to bear up with such a series of hardships and bodily sufferings, as perhaps no man ever before or since has endured. He made it a strict rule, but probably not for financial reasons, to not use any conveyance during a journey when he could accomplish it on foot, except for crossing water. During all his travels he never mounted a horse, or put his foot into a carriage, or used any type of vehicle whatever.
Only late in his career did a financial windfall occur to Mr Lithgow. He had the good fortune to join up with three Dutchmen at Jerusalem, who were journeying with a caravan in the same direction. These he joined, and kept by them until they reached the Egyptian capital. Here his three companions speedily killed themselves by drinking local alcohol. As each man died, he left the survivors all his money and jewellery, and the last bequeathed the whole accumulated amount to Lithgow! Thanking God for his good fortune, Lithgow now proceeded, quite at his ease as to money matters, to inspect every thing that was curious in the city.
photo credit: Bloomsbury Auctions
I don't know if Lithgow really was the earliest authority for coffee-drinking in Europe, Turkish Baths, a pigeon post between Aleppo and Baghdad, Turkish tobacco-pipes, artificial incubation and the importation of currants from Zante to England. But he was a very impressive, intrepid and curious traveller. And a fascinating writer.