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An early Muslim travelogue from the Bulaq press

Tahtawi, Rifa`ah Rafi` / Besim, Rüstem (transl.). Seyahatname-i Ibn Rifaa [Tercüme-yi Seyahatnâme-yi Pâris - The travelogue of Rifa'a Bey].

Bulaq, [Matba'at Bualaq], 1255 [1839].

Large 4to. 259 pp. (pp. 213-216 with the usual mispagination 209-212). Contemporary full calf binding with fore-edge flap, decorated with embossed lines and floral central ornament.

First edition of this groundbreaking early printed travelogue by a Muslim: the account of a young Egyptian scholar, Rifa`ah Rafi` Tahtawi (1801-73), who journeyed to the West to study the culture and educational system. The linguist and translator Al-Tahtawi, a pioneer of modern Muslim education, is known as a one of the first Egyptian scholars to write about Western culture. With the support of the progressive Khedive Muhammad Ali (1779-1849), who sought to modernize the country, al-Tahtawi lived in Paris from 1826 until 1831 to study the French educational system. Upon his return to Cairo, al-Tahtawi founded a language school, Al-Alsun, based on the western model. Courses on science, law and commerce lasted first five and later six years. The school formed the nucleus of today's Ain-Shams University in Cairo.

Originally written in Arabic ("Tahlis al-ibriz fi talhis Baris au ad-Diwan an-nafis bi'iwan Baris"), Tahtawi's account of his journey (Seyahatname) was translated into the more widely understood Ottoman Turkish at the command of Muhammad Ali. It was published by the Bulaq Press in 1839, itself part of the Khedive's modernisation project, and was distributed among students and officials, large quantities even being brought to Constantinople. Al-Tahtawi's voyage to Paris is considered one of the most influential journeys of a Muslim scholar to the West. Especially since the second half of the 20th century, his account has received close attention; it has been translated into English, and several studies and dissertations have been composed on the subject.

Binding slightly age-toned, waved and stained; paper slightly stained with slight worming throughout, otherwise in excellent condition. Rare; only four institutional copies listed in WorldCat (Universitätsbibliothek Bern, McGill University Library, Library of Congress, SOAS London).


Zenker 1039. OCLC 13043350, 811247298. Cf. GAL I, 481. Hebatallah Fathy, Orient im Okzident und Okzident im Orient: Die Reisebeschreibungen von Adam Olearius' "Vermehrte newe Beschreibung der muscowitischen und persischen Reyse" (1656) und Rifaa al-Tahtawi, "Ein Muslim entdeckt Europa" (1834) (Univ. Cairo, 2015). Daniel L. Newman, An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in France by an Egyptian Cleric (1826-1831), 2004. Karl Stowasser, At-Tahtawi in Paris. Ein Dokument des arabischen Modernismus aus dem frühen 19. Jh. (Diss. Münster, 1966). Arthur Goldschmidt, Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt, 2000, pp. 205-207.