London: Henry Colburn, 1827.
Hardcover. Very good. First edition in English. Two volumes, pp. xix, 380, with frontis portrait and two folding facsimiles; xv, 496. with frontis portrait, two folding panoramas, and folding sketch map of the Caucasus and Georgia. Contemporary marbled boards, rebacked with modern calf spine with gilt rules and red label. Edges and corners rubbed. Bindings sound, text with some foxing and offsetting. A Spaniard of Dutch heritage, Van Halen (1788-1864) entered the Spanish navy in 1803, sailing to Cuba and Mexico. In 1808 he became involved in the Peninsula Campaign, first fighting for the Spanish, then briefly joining the French after being taken prisoner, and finally returning to the Spanish side, boldly fooling the French into surrendering three forts by dressing as a French officer and presenting forged documents announcing a treaty. He received a promotion for this coup, but in 1817 fell victim to the Inquisition and was (according to his own account) imprisoned and tortured. Escaping to Russia, he spent 18 months as a colonel in the Caucasus Dragoon Regiment under General Yermalov in Tblisi, Georgia. Despite some likely fictional elements, this account of his adventures is generally regarded as based in truth. British traveler and scholar John Frederick Baddeley describes it as "one of the best of the early books of travel and adventure in the Caucasus" (Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, p. 123). Abbey Travel #24.