A fine copy, with notable provenance, of what is undoubtedly one of the rarest and most important books related to the Arab world: the first published grammar and the first vocabulary of Arabic (2nd edition of the former, 1st edition of the latter), issued as two separate works but usually encountered together (cf. Schnurrer, p. 16). The author, publisher and date are all stated only in the colophon at the end of the "Vocabulista". Geoffrey Roper has characterised this Arabic primer, written by the Spanish monk Pedro de Alcalá, as the first "serious attempt to spread knowledge of the language [...] Entitled 'Arte para ligeramente saber la lengua araviga', it, like the accompanying 'Vocabulista aravigo', renders the Arabic words entirely in romanisation [...] There is, however, on f. c4, a table of the Arabic alphabet with romanised names of the letters, executed in woodcut like that of Reuwich for Breydenbach. But the shapes of the letters are Maghribi [...], as one would expect in Spain at that time, and a number of initial and medial forms are given: the total number of characters is 58, as compared with 31 in Breydenbach. The work was written and published to aid Catholic attempts to convert the Muslim inhabitants of southern Spain, which had come entirely under Christian rule only 13 years previously" (Roper, p. 130f.). "In 1492, the last Muslim kingdom of Andalusia fell to the Spanish Catholic sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella [...] Anxious to bring the Andalusians back to Christianity, the Spanish rulers ordered missionaries to evangelize the country again. It soon became apparent that this goal could not be attained without using the Arabic language. In 1505, Archbishop Fernando de Talavera [...] had two Arabic textbooks printed for use by missionaries who could not speak that language: ['The art of learning the rudiments of the Arabic language' and 'Arab glossary in Castilian characters'. Their author, the scholar Pedro de Alcala, a native of the prestigious university city of Alcala de Henares near Madrid, wrote them in Latin script, The typeface is Gothic. The first 21 pages of the 'Arte' are given over to grammar, and the next 27 consist of Catholic prayers in Arabic, instructions for confession in Spanish and in Arabic, the ordinary of the mass, and instruction for votive masses, all in Arabic. By way of introduction to the vocabulary, a short three-page note explains the author's method of transcription: the vocabulary is in alphabetical order, but under each letter three separate categories contain first verbs, then nouns and lastly adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions. The verbs are given in three forms: present, perfect and imperative; nouns are given in both the singular and the plural. This work, which is a curiosity in the history of both linguistics and typography, is also the first and perhaps the most practical of all attempts to transcribe Arabic into Latin characters. The alphabet [...] is in north African script, and the language taught in both of Pedro de Alcala's works is the vernacular, which the Spanish missionaries needed to communicate with the converted Moors. In a few places, the author indicates differences between this and the written language" (C. Aboussouan, First impressions: Arabic early printed texts, in: UNESCO Courier 1988). - Occasional slight browning; first t. p. duststained; a few edge defects inconspicuously repaired. The name of the author has been added in ink on the t. p. by a 17th century owner. A fine, clean copy with wide margins. OCLC lists only six complete copies in institutional collections, no copy traceable on the market for nearly two decades. - Provenance: 1. José Antonio Conde, Spanish orientalist (1766-1820). Sold for £10 at Conde's 1824 sale (by Evans of London, lot 1191: "very rare"). 2. Sir Richard Ford, bibliophile (his signed armorial bookplate with the motto "Que sera sera" on front pastedown), who purchased the book from "Mr. Rich, who brought Conde's library to England" (his autogr. note on flyleaf). 3. William Tyssen-Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst of Hackney (1835-1909), M.P. and collector of books and Egyptian artefacts (his armorial bookplate with motto "Victoria concordia crescit" below Ford's). Amherst's library was dispersed in 1908. 4. Quaritch catalogue, November 1917 (lot 406, clipped description pasted on flyleaf).
¶ BM-STC Spanish 68. Adams P 548-549. Palau 5697. Schnurrer 37. Panzer VII, 64, 1. Salva (Cat. de la bibliotheca) II, 2190-2191. Norton 16 & 163, 349. G. Roper, Early Arabic Printing in Europe, in: Middle Eastern Languages and the Print Revolution. A Cross-Cultural Encounter (Westhofen 2002), pp. 129-150, at 130f., and p. 480, with fig. 65. Vater/Jülg 26. Zaunmüller 18 ("Important source"). Ebert 16078 ("Extremely rare").