First printed book on UAE for sale

  • Gulf News
  • 29 April 2017
  • Sarvy Geranpayeh

Printed book from 1590 carries first printed record of Emirates

Abu Dhabi: The first printed record of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is up for sale at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF).

Printed in 1590, Viaggio dell’Indie Orientali by Gasparo Balbi, which translates to Travels of Balbi, is the travelogue of a Venetian state jeweller and merchant who travelled to the Gulf to buy pearls in the 16th century. Balbi mentions four of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman and Ras Al Kheimah in the book.

The first edition book is being sold for €150,000 (About Dh600,000) at the Inlibris Association with Antiquariaat Forum stand, which represents two European antique sellers from Vienna and Holland.

“The book is 450 years old and you can still handle it in the same way people used to handle it when it was printed. It is pretty outstanding,” said Hugo Wetscherek, owner of Antiquariat Inlibris.

“He [Balbi] reports on his travels, the adventures he went through by securing pearls and other jewelry for the people in the west,” added Wetscherek.

Wetscherek explained that the book is also very important because it is the first printed record of the Bani Yas tribe.

“He had encounters with the men from the Bani Yas tribe. They were part of his travels to a certain extent,” Wetscherek said.

The book would have served as a very useful source of information to merchants at a time as it contains rates of exchange, duties, travel routes and distances as well as a detailed account of the pearling grounds in the Arabian Gulf.

Laurens Hesselink, Antiquariaat Forum, owner, further explained that the rarity of the book is what makes it more valuable.

“We have only handled three or four copies of this book in our time,” he said.

If the Dh600,000 price tag seems excessive, you will be in for a surprise when you see some of the other valuable items at the stand.

Among the stall’s collection is a €2.8 million (around Dh11.2million) manuscript from 1550, with 58 unique watercolour drawings of birds, some with highlights in gold.

Inlibris Association with Antiquariaat Forum also have an impressive collection of the earliest maps of the Arabian Peninsula on the stall’s wall including the first ever printed woodcut map of the region, in original hand colour, priced at €185,000 (about Dh740,000).