Ibn Tufail's philosophical-allegorical novel in its first English translation

Ibn Tufail. The Improvement of Human Reason, exhibited in the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdhan: Written in Arabick above 500 years ago, by Abu Jaafar Ebn Tophail. Newly translated from the original Arabick, by Simon Ockley.

London, Edm. Powell & J. Morphew, 1708.

8vo (120 x 195 mm). (12), 195, (1) pp. (advertisements). With engraved frontispiece and 5 engraved plates. Contemporary full calf, ruled in blind.


First English edition of this philosophical-allegorical novel by the Andalusian Muslim writer and mystic Ibn Tufail (1110-85), full name Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Tufail al-Qaisi al-Andalusi. The narrative follows the journey of a human being, beginning with a childhood spent alone among animals on an uninhabited island, continuing through a Robinson Crusoe-like youth (indeed, Defoe may have been influenced by this text), and culminating in the realization of the existence of God. The text then reaches its main point, and expounds on the different ways to know God: that of revelation and that of self-study.

"The work was known in Europe relatively early (first edition in Latin translation by E. Pococke, Oxford 1671) and very widespread during the Enlightenment" (cf. Kindler VIII, 297f.). This first translation into English, available to the wider non-Latinate audiences of Enlightenment Europe, is considered "a very faithful translation, to which is added to an appendix" (Lowndes).

Near-contemporary bookplate to pastedown, showing a dove with the motto "Nuncio pacis". Light wear, binding professionally restored. Very good.


GAL S I, 831. Schnurrer 471. Lowndes 1175. Graesse III, 407.

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