Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2015 Issue

The Islamic World from the Antiquariaat Forum

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The Islamic World.

The Antiquariaat Forum has issued a follow-up to an earlier catalogue – The Islamic World 2. In a time when the Islamic World gets much bad press in the West, this catalogue is a reminder of the great achievements that emanated from that part of the world. As the West emerged from its millennial long Dark Ages, it turned to the Islamic World for the learning it had lost through its dark period. In this catalogue, you will find both works that came from the Islamic nations and experiences of westerners who traveled there in times when little was known to them about this society on their doorstep.

 

This may not be the most important book ever printed in Mainz, Germany, but it is a good candidate for runner-up. It is a critical work in the history of travels. Item 27 is Peregrinatio in terram sanctum, by Bernhard von Breydenbach, published on February 11, 1486. This is the first illustrated printed travel book published, and was the first authentic western report on the Near and Middle East with illustrations by someone who actually observed the sites and people he drew. Breydenbach traveled to the Holy Land by way of Venice with a group of German Pilgrims in 1483, bringing along artist Erhard Reuwich, who provided the illustrations. He depicted the people, their costumes, architecture, animals, and other aspects of the local culture. They returned home via Egypt in 1484, and illustrations cover not only the Holy Land but stops along the way as well. This copy of the first edition is lacking some of the folding maps and views, script specimens and one woodcut, and is priced accordingly. Priced at €45,000 (euros, or approximately US $56,074).

 

We in the West have read many accounts of other peoples from the perspective of other westerners who visited their lands. Here is an account from the other direction, a Muslim traveler from India who visited Europe and Asia as well as lands in the Middle East: The travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, in Asia, Africa, Europe, during the years 1799...1803, published in 1810. This is a first edition in English by a traveler who would have had some familiarity with western culture as he had worked for the British East India Company. He speaks of smoking opium in Constantinople, cigarettes and coffee in Baghdad, and “a fiery spirit, called whiskey” in Ireland. He discusses governments and economic systems in the places he visits, and social relations, notably between men and women. He also describes the rise of Napoleon, which had begun during his travels. Mirza offers a first-hand view from a Muslim's perspective of Europe and Asia at the beginning of the 19th century. Item 1. €3,500 (US $4,361).

 

Here is another remarkable journey, that of Pedro Cubero Sebastian from 1670-1680. He was the first person to travel mostly overland from Spain to the East Indies. His account is found in Breve relacion, de la peregrinacion...del mundo, published in 1680. Cubero was a priest, who first traveled to Rome, where he was trained as a missionary. He was dispatched to Asia, but took a land route, which took him to Constantinople, then north to Moscow, and back to Iran and then India. Eventually, he moved on to Malacca in Malaysia, where he was imprisoned for awhile by the Dutch for teaching Catholicism. From there he traveled to the Phillippines, where he was present for a major earthquake, and then headed east, taking a boat on which half the passengers died before reaching Acapulco. He went on to Havana and finally returned home a decade after he left, having completed a circumnavigation on his own. In his time, we are told, he was recognized as a latter-day Magellan or Drake. Item 45. €18,000 (US $22,429).

 

Item 152 is the first Quran that was available to western scholars. It was published in Basil in 1543. There was one earlier western edition, which survives in just one copy, but it was published in Arabic. This edition was translated to Latin. It was translated from a 12th century manuscript from Toledo, which had then been taken from the Moors by Christian forces, but who maintained Muslim libraries and translated some of their works. As such, it was this edition that was the only real source of learning about the Quran available to Europeans at the time. This copy includes five short works by Philo of Alexandria bound into the end of volume 1. Philo was a Jewish philosopher who combined Greek teachings with those of the Hebrew Bible, living at the same time as Jesus. €35,000 (US $43,613).

 

This next book represents a geographical search in the Middle East. Item 78 is Trattato della situazione del Paradiso terrestre... the only edition of this work by Pierre Daniel Huet published in Italian (1737). Huet was a bishop and Jesuit scholar who combined his biblical and geographical knowledge to attempt to locate the placement of the Garden of Eden. Ultimately, he concluded it was in today's Iraq, near Basra. It is Eden no more.

 

You may reach the Antiquariaat Forum at +31 (0)30 6011955 or info@forumrarebooks.com. Their website is www.forumrarebooks.com

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