The first periodical of the Arab world: the extremely rare, complete set

[Décade égyptienne]. La Décade égyptienne. Journal littéraire et d'économie politique.

Cairo, de l'imprimerie nationale, an VII-VIII [1798-1801].

Small 4to. 3 vols. (2), 300 pp. (2), 300 pp. 316 pp. Near-contemporary half calf over green papered boards with gilt spines.


Extremely rare, entirely complete run of this journal, praised by Guérmard as a "truly scientific review" and hailed by Glass and Roper as the first periodical published in the "Arab world". The 916 pages of these various issues appeared between 1798 and 21 March 1801: first every 10 days, then monthly for the second volume, and quarterly for the third.

The journal has great interest for marking the beginning of printing in Egypt: "The expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt from 1798 until 1801 was a prelude to modernity. It was to change permanently the traditional Arab world [...] The French brought Arabic typography to Egypt [...] For, leaving aside the Hebrew printing presses in Egypt of the 16th to the 18th centuries, until this date announcements and news adressed to Arabs there, as well as in other parts of the Arab-Islamic world, had been spread only in hand-writing or orally, by criers, preachers or storytellers [...] The periodical [...] 'La Décade Egyptienne' [was one of] the first press productions of Egypt" (D. Glass and G. Roper, cf. below).

The journal took its name from the "Décade philosophique", the publication of the Institut National's Section des Sciences morales et politiques, and contains "soit le texte intégral, soit le texte intégral, soit des extraits d'un grand nombre de mémoires ou rapports présentés au premier Institut d'Égypte par des membres de l'expédition, faisant pour la plupart partie de la Commission des sciences et arts. On y trouve également des observations faites par des médicins placés sous les ordres de Desgenettes. Celui-ci dirigea d'ailleurs la publication après le départ de Tallien" (de Meulenaere). At the time of the French capitulation, the first 24 pages of a fourth volume were in the press, but they were never distributed, and the only copy of these sheets remains in the Library of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels (cf. ibid.).

First and last volume show traces of worming, occasionally touching the text, with additional brownstains in the lower corner of vol. 3 near the end. Bound in the mid-19th century for Gaillardot Bey, with his handwritten ownership "Ch. Gaillardot" on the half-title of the first volume. D. Charles Gaillardot (1814-83) served as one of the two vice-presidents of the Egyptian Institute in 1881. A professor of natural history at the National School of Medicine in Cairo founded by Antoine Clot Bey, for 20 years head physician at the military hospital and finally director of the Cairo medical school, he had created in the Egyptian capital a "Musée Bonaparte" of his personal collections, comprising books, engravings, weapons, and decorative items - keepsakes of the French Expedition to Egypt, today dispersed. Later in the collection of the writer André Maurois (1885-1967) with his engraved bookplate to pastedown.

D. Glass/G. Roper, Arabic Book and Newspaper Printing in the Arab World, in: Middle Eastern Languages and the Print Revolution (Gutenberg Museum Mainz 2002), pp. 177-216, at pp. 182 & 207 ("scientific magazine [... first periodical] of the 'Arab world'"). Maunier, Bibliogr. économique, juridique, et sociale de l'Égypte moderne, p. XXIV, no. 2. De Meulenaere, Bibliogr. raisonnée des témoignages de l'Expédition de l'Égypte, p. 57. Not in Blackmer or Atabey.

Stock Code: BN#50802 Tags: ,