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First printed record of Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai

Balbi, Gasparo. Viaggio dell'Indie Orientali.

Venice, Camillo Borgominieri, 1590.

8vo (100 x 144 mm). 149 numbered, 23 unnumbered leaves. Woodcut title device, woodcut foliated initials and woodcut navigational diagram on fol. 144. 18th-century gilt-tooled red brown calf, stamped with the arms of of the Venetian Doge Marco Foscarini: quarterly, 1 and 4, three fleur-de-lis, 2 and 3, seven lozenges in bend; on chief, lion of St Mark.

First edition of this travelogue by the Venetian state jeweller and merchant, containing much information useful to the contemporary merchant, including rates of exchange, duties, travel routes and distances as well as a detailed account of the pearling grounds in the Arabian Gulf. As only recent research by B. J. Slot (cf. below) has revealed, Balbi was "the first writer to record the place names between al-Qatif and Oman that are still in use today" (UAE: A New Perspective, 74). Thus, the present volume constitutes the earliest printed source for the history of the UAE, Qatar, and Oman. Balbi's "interest in the area lay in the pearls that came from the oyster beds of which the most extensive are those in the waters around al-Bahrayn, those off the Qatar peninsula and especially those in the western waters of Abu Dhabi. Either taking his information first-hand from a local individual or using a navigator’s list, Balbi recorded place-names along the coast of modern Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman [...] he is the first to refer to many of these places using the names by which they are known today" (G. King, cf. below). According to Slot, "practically none of the names of places on the coast between Qatar and Ras al Khaima occur in other sources before the end of the eighteenth century" (36). The present work is also of the utmost significance for "includ[ing] the first European record of the Bani Yas tribe" (UAE yearbook 2005, 46) - the first printed mention of the largest and most important tribe of the Arabian Peninsula, from which emerged both the Al Maktoum and the Al Zayed dynasties, today's ruling families of Abu Dhabi und Dubai.

Rare: the present original edition is recorded in no more than some 20 copies worldwide; most libraries hold only the Rome 1962 reprint or the microfiche edition (New Haven 1974). An Arabic translation was published in 2008 (OCLC 298925737); an English translation has not been prepared to this day.

An excellent copy from the library of the Venetian Doge Marco Foscarini (1696-1763; his arms stamped on the covers). Later in the collection of Baron Horace von Landau (1824-1903); his bookplate on front pastedown.

Brunet I, 618. Cordier Japonica 112. Howgego B7. BM-STC Italian 68. Not in Adams. Goldsmiths' 251. Kress library of economic literature S 276. Ibrahim Al Abed, Peter Hellyer. United Arab Emirates: A New Perspective. London 2001. Slot, B. J. The Arabs of the Gulf, 1602-1784. Leidschendam, published with the support of the Cultural Foundation Abu Dhabi, 1993. Geoffrey King. Delmephialmas and Sircorcor: Gasparo Balbi, Dalmâ, Julfâr and a problem of transliteration. In: Arabian archeology and epigraphy 17 (2006) 248-252. United Arab Emirates yearbook 2005 by Ibrahim Al-Abed, Paula Vine, Peter Hellyer. London 2005.