London: Macmillan & Co., 1912.
First Edition. Hardcover. very good. 2 octavo volumes, pp. xxxviii, 546; xxii, 518 + ads, 3 folding colored maps, 8 colored plates (each with a printed tissue guard), 339 photographic illustrations on 212 plates (including 6 folding panoramas). Bound in original brick red cloth with gilt medallions on upper boards, top edges gilt. No dust jackets. A very good set, with some softening at the spine ends, mild crease to spine clothand old reinforcement to front hinge on Volume I, corners lightly bumped. One map with some splits at the folds and old tape repairs, a few stray pencil marks, otherwise internally sound and clean. Stein's great achievement, over the course of three expeditions to the Central Asia (1900–01, 1906–8, and 1913–16), "was to establish the existence of a hitherto lost civilization along the Silk Route in Chinese central Asia....[He] was the first archaeologist to discover evidence of the spread of the Graeco-Buddhist culture of north-west India across Chinese Turkestan and into China itself. Excavating the lost cities of the Silk Road, he found wooden, leather, and paper documents, painted wall panels, sculpture, coins, textiles, and many domestic objects....His search for sites and ancient routes took him deep into the Taklamakan and Lop deserts, from Keriya in the south to Turfan in the north, from Kashgar in the west to Tunhuang (Dunhuang) in the east, across many thousands of miles. Stein's best-known find came at Tunhuang in 1907, during his second expedition, when he reached the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. Discovering thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and textiles walled up in a room in one of the caves, he bribed the custodian to part with many of them. Experts later found them to date from the fifth to tenth centuries AD. They included votive banners, Buddhist texts, and early secular works in a wide variety of scripts and languages, and a large, block-printed roll, dating from AD 868, which proved to be the world's oldest known printed book, a copy of the popular Buddhist work The Diamond Sutra" (DNB). The Ruins of Desert Cathay describes the second (1906-08) expedition, including the visit to Tunhuang and the monastery of the Thousand Buddhas.