The first critical edition ever of an Arabic text

Scaliger, Joseph Justus / Erpenius, Thomas. [Kitab al-Amthal] seu proverbiorum Arabicorum centuriae duae.

Leiden, Raphelengius, 1614.

4to (160 x 200 mm). (8), 126 pp., final blank leaf. With woodcut printers' device on title-page, woodcut initials and tailpieces.

(Bound with) II: [Biblia arabica - NT - Epistola Pauli, ed. Erpenius]. [Risalat Bulus al-rasul ila ahl Rumija]. Pauli apostoli ad Romanos epistola, arabice. Leiden, Erpeniana, 1615. (48) pp., unpaginated. With woodcut printer's device on title-page, woodcut tailpieces and borders on initials (Arabic initials in standard typesetting, an interesting hybrid style attempt).

(Bound between both works) III: Cogitata nova de [kari] Psalm XXII, 17 & Jes. XXXIIX, 13 censurae philologorum committet ho elachistos ton philologounton. (8) pp. No place or printer, [ca. 1615?]. Contemporary full marbled calf, rebacked.


First edition of this seminal work in the history of Arabic scholarship and printing: the first book on Arab proverbs, and the first critical edition ever of an Arabic text.

These 200 proverbs constitute a collection akin to a mirror for princes, dedicated to the education and refinement of a gentleman's personal and political life. The manuscript was obtained in Rome by the mathematician David de Fleurace, later the educator of Louis XIII, and given to Casaubon. J. J. Scaliger (1540-1609) had translated and explained the first 176 proverbs; after his death, the work was completed and prepared for publication by Thomas Erpenius (1584-1624), who had, just the year previous, become the first European to publish an Arabic grammar.

The editors cite as their source Abu Ubaid al-Qasim ibn Salam (ca. 770-838 CE), a prolific Muslim scholar educated in Basra and well-versed in Muslim law (fiqh), the hadith tradition, theology, and various scholarly pursuits. This is one of the last books to be printed with Raphelengius' large Arabic types. Fück hails the publication as "a touchstone in the history of Arabic studies in the West: the first edition of an Arabic text according to the principles of philolological method" (p. 62).

Bound at the other end of the volume is the editio princeps of the Epistle to the Romans in Arabic, edited by Erpenius with a short preface to his students. "The last six leaves contains the Epistola ad Galatas in Arabic, not announced on the title-page or in the preface, and probably added as an afterthought. The text was printed from a manuscript in the Scaliger legacy" (Smitskamp 280).

Bound between both works is a brief philological essay on two Biblical verses, with a few contemporary marginal annotations in ink.

Very rare: only five copies in libraries, nearly all in Eastern Central Europe (Darmstadt, Greifswald, Rostock, Czech National Library, Hungarian National Library).


Binding rebacked and slightly worn; internally very good, with only a few smudges. Remarkably well preserved.


I: Schnurrer 216. Smitskamp, PO 267. Fück 61f.

II: Schnurrer 325. Smitskamp, PO 280.

III: OCLC 258423930.

Art.-Nr.: BN#62950 Schlagwörter: , , ,