The Manuscript Center’s 6th International Conference
5-7 May 2009
Addressing issues related to Arabic heritage publishing through the ages poses
before us a number of questions. What did we publish here in the Arab/Islamic
world? And what did European Orientalists publish on the other hand? And how the
processes of publishing a manuscript became known here and there, or more
accurately, there and here. Actually, the primacy of the “there” stems from the
fact that European Orientalists were way ahead of us in publishing Arabic
conference, in fact, thrives on questions such as these and many others. For
instance, was there ever an overall plan or strategy of publication concerning
Arabic/Islamic heritage? What were the rules governing the selection of
published texts? How did the publication process look like? And did publishing
achieve the goals of introducing that heritage, let alone understanding,
developing and overcoming, not overlooking, it? And to what extent was
publishing Arabic and Islamic heritage a concomitant reaction to the European
quest for publishing classical (Greek& Latin) works? What were Europeans looking
for in our heritage? Were they the roots of their culture? Or was it the
colonial institution honing its powers by making use of Orientalist scholarship?
previous conference on “Lost and Embedded Manuscript Texts”, held in May 2008,
proved that we only have a nodding acquaintance with Arabic and Islamic
manuscript heritage. This is due to the fact that what is lost, hidden, unknown,
and uncovered regarding this heritage is way much more than what we actually
know. Hence the move from the lost and uncovered in the previous conference to
the published in that upcoming conference. We need to take a deeper look at our
published heritage in order to constitute a more panoramic outlook at that
is Heritage Publishing?
Heritage publishing refers to the processes that aim to transform a text from
its manuscript form to the more advanced form of printing. Printing itself
witnessed a number of developments through the ages till it turned digital in
these days. We mean by a published work all that is printed and digitized. A
published manuscript, therefore, is printed or digitized according to the
various methods of recognized publishing, such as: collating the published
manuscript with other manuscripts; relying on a unique manuscript; producing a
facsimile of a certain manuscript; or reproducing a manuscript digitally in a
searchable online format, in a textual database/corpus or on CDs. Published
works are, admittedly, more accessible and more widespread than manuscripts even
if a given manuscript has many copies worldwide.
History of Heritage Publishing
the first half of the 15th century, Johann Gutenberg surprised the
whole world with his invention of the movable type printing machine. And in
spite of the fact that China and Korea invented the same technology almost 500
years earlier, this technology remained a secret that was kept hidden from the
European printing types were Latin, of course. This enabled them to publish
myriads of texts and works related to European classical heritage. On top of
these works is the 42-line Bible, or B42, which was printed around 1455.
European academies translated Arabic works in Latin way before the invention of
printing in Europe. The European printing of these works ignited an interest in
the processes of publishing. The translations of Gerard of Cremona (1187-1114)
bear witness to this interest: Ibn Sīnā’s
Canon was published in Venice in 1473, three centuries after his
completion of the translation and three decades after the invention of printing.
In 1480 his translation of al-Rāzī’s al-Asrār fī al-Kimiyā’ was
also published in Venice; his translation of al-Zahrāwī’s al-Tasrīf liman
‘Ajaza ‘an al-Ta’līf was published in 1497, then his translations of
al-Kindī’s works and the Treatises of Ikhwān al-Safā were
published also in Venice in 1507.
publishing of these Latin translations of Arabic works followed successively. In
Italy and Germany editions of Michael Scott’s translations of works by Ibn Rušd
and Ibn Sīnā came to follow. Averroes’ commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima
was published in Padua in 1477, and another translation of a commentary on
Aristotle’s De Animalibus attributed to Avicenna in 1492.
Similarly, many other translations were published in Europe: Battani’s Zij
(Nuremberg 1537), Hunain b. Ishāq’s al-Samā’ wa al-‘Ālam (Venice
1508), al-Kindī’s Philosophical Treatises (Augsburg 1489), Abū
Ma‘šar al-Balkhī’s Opera (Venice 1495), and in 1543 Robert of
Chester published his translation of the Qur’ān.
Arabic types, it is said that they first appeared in Germany in 1486, where they
were used in
Bernard von Breydenbach’s
Le grant voyage de hierusalem
introducing, among other things, the Arabic alphabet. At the early beginnings of
the 16th century, a number of polyglot wordlists appeared in Spain
exhibiting Arabic words. Later in Italy, full books were printed using Arabic
alphabet, the first of these, arguably, is Salāt al-Sawā‘ī (Book
of Hours) which was published in the Italian city of Fano in 1514. Decades
later, the Arabic translation of the Letter of Paul to the Galatians
appeared in Germany in 1583.
The first thing that grabs our attention regarding early books
printed in Europe using Arabic alphabet is that they are all Christian books or
elementary language manuals. The Qur’ān, however, had a tardy
appearance in the Arab world: Muslim sheikhs adamantly rejected printing the
Qur’ān because of the smell of the ink used at this time. (According
to them the ink was unclean and thus it may defile the Qur’ān.)
This puritan attitude resulted in the very late appearance of al-Azhar first
printed edition of the Qur’ān in 1923.
Contrary to this hesitation in the Arab and Muslim world, the Catholic Church in
Europe was extremely keen on publishing Christian books, making it available to
Christian Arab communities in Europe, and to missionaries in the Arab world.
That explains the early appearance of such books as the Horae Canonicae,
Rituals of Christianity, and the catechetical On the
Christian Doctrine. It is worth mentioning that a number of European
print houses were specialized in printing these Christian Arabic books such as
the Ambrosiana print house.
editions of Arabic books in Europe followed successively: Guillaume Postel’s
Arabic Grammar was published in 1538; in 1613 the Imprimerie Royale
in Paris published a book entitled Arab Philosophers; in 1505 in
Granada Pedru de Alcala published his
legeramente saber la lingua araviga;
Rudimenta Linguae Arabicae
by T. Erpenius in 1620. In 1616 the first fully diacriticized Arabic book
printed in Leiden was the Story of Josef.
started a trend in printing and publishing Arabic books in Europe. These books
were either critically edited or printed without a critical apparatus. However,
they appeared centuries before their appearance in the Arab world. Ibn Sīnā’s
Canon was translated into Latin in 1473, then published in Rome in 1593; Ibn
Hišām’s Qatr al-Nadā wa Bal al-Sadā was printed in Holland by
Brill with a French translation in 1887.
Printing in the Arab world has lagged behind almost 250 years after the printing
revolution in Europe. Interestingly, the first printed books in the Arab world
were printed in Aleppo. There the first Arabic Psalms were printed
in 1706 along with the Gospels. Istanbul was to come next in this
realm of printing by printing Hājī Khalīfā’s Tuhfat al-Kibār fī Asfār
al-Bihār in 1729. The Shuair Monastery in Lebanon owned a press that
used to print religious and theological works, such as: Mizān al-Zamān
in (1734), Arabic Psalms in (1735), Ta’mulāt Rawhiyya li
’Ayām al-’Usbū‘ in (1736). We can clearly notice that Christian works
were at the forefront of the printing process in both the European and the Arab
first known printed edition of the Qur’ān, however, was produced
in Venice by Alessandro Paganini between 9 August 1537 and 9 August 1538. The
Qur’ān’s first printed edition in the Arab world was published in Istanbul in
1727, and in Egypt by al-Azhar University/Mosque in 1923 after 4 centuries of
its first printing in Europe.
was a bit late in entering this world of printing. However, it soon assumed an
important position in the Arab world as relates to printing. The movable type
press was first introduced to the Egyptians through the Napoleonic French
Campaign on Egypt. The first printed materials by this press were quite scanty
and of no value, and they were all aimed at publicizing the “good will” of the
French invaders. Of these publication we may mention the following: the
Psalms, Medical instructions, the Wisdom of Luqmān.
The respected and scholarly works, however, were produced in Cairo by the
pioneering Būlāq press.
Modern technologies in publishing, and new digital publishing of major Arabic
works. The impact of providing open access to digitized Arabic manuscripts that
are still in their manuscript form.
Exploring the different methods of publishing and critical editing
especially during the first stages in the history of printing Arabic works
in Europe, be they published in Arabic script or translated into a European
language. Shedding light on the relationships between original manuscripts
and printed and translated works, and whether the two texts (the original
manuscript and the printed one) matched or not. And how did they translated
and edited these texts simultaneously?
What are the relationships between Orientalism and publishing in Europe?
What was the support offered by the printing press to the Orientalists? Did
the accumulation of Arabic manuscripts influence the publishing movement in
Europe? Did colonial tendencies encourage Arabic heritage publishing, or
where there other “innocent” reasons?
Exploring textual criticism and its influence on European publishing
methods, and whether publishing and editing methods changed according to the
genre or topic of the work.
Did the publishing of Greek and Latin classics influence the publishing of
Arabic texts? And how different the methods of publishing these two
patrimonies were? Did the Europeans regard Arabic works as a subsidiary
product of ancient European heritage?
Exploring grand publishing projects and series. How far these projects
achieved its goals? And do we have in the Arab world anything comparable to
the Loeb Classics series? Can we compare the project of Dā’irat al-Ma‘ārif
al-‘Uthmaniyya of the Dekkan to the Loeb or other similar series?
The importance of catalogues in identifying major works.
The phenomenon of republishing already publishing works using different
methods or criteria. Exploring the differences between different editions of
the same work.