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WEIL, Gustav.

Geschichte der Chalifen. Nach handschriftlichen, größtentheils noch unbenützten Quellen

Published: Mannheim: Friedrich Bassermann, 1846-51

Stock code: 94297

Price: £4,500

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First editions, institutionally fairly common, but rarely encountered on the market. Weil (1808-1889) was born in Sulzburg in Baden, and was originally destined for the rabbinate, however at a young age he found that he had little taste for the theological life and in “1828 he entered the University of Heidelberg, devoting himself to the study of philology and history; at the same time he studied Arabic under Umbreit. Though without means, he nevertheless went to study under De Sacy in Paris in 1830, and thence followed the French military expedition to Algiers, acting as correspondent at Algiers for the Augsburger “Allgemeine Zeitung.” This position he resigned in 1831, and journeyed to Cairo, where he was appointed instructor of French at the Egyptian Medical School of Abu-Zabel. He utilised the opportunity to study with the Arabic philologists Mohammed Ayyad al-Tantawi and A?mad al-Tunsi. Here also he acquired Neo-Persian and Turkish, and, save for a short interruption occasioned by a visit to Europe, he remained in Egypt till March, 1835″ (The Jewish Encyclopaedia). On his return to Europe a dispute with Hammer-Purgstall blocked his way to becoming privat-docent at Heidelberg until the intervention of de Sacy, after which Weil was made assistant librarian, becoming librarian in 1838. Weil’s Thousand and One Nights (1837-41), the first complete translation into German, was intended to be a “philologically exact version”, however it was badly marred by the intervention of the publisher who changed “many objectionable passages, and thus made of it a popular and saleable work. This perversion caused Weil much vexation”. His life of the prophet (1843), was the first to go back to the earliest sources available in Europe, and was later acknowledged by Washington Irving as a major source for his own The Life of Mahomet (1850). The present work is widely considered to be Weil’s most comprehensive being “virtually an elaboration of the original works of Mohammedan historians, whom he in large part studied from manuscripts”. Two pendant volumes under the title Geschichte des Abbasidenchalifats in Egypten were published nearly a decade later. After 1866 Weil limited his literary activity to reviewing, being pensioned off the year before his death. His collection of Arabic manuscripts was presented to the University of Heidelberg by his children.

3 volumes octavo (218 136 mm) Near contemporary green half calf, marbled boards and endpapers, title gilt direct to the spine, top edges gilt others uncut. Bookplates to the front pastedowns of the bequest of the great British Arabist Col. S. B. Miles, an excellent association. Light browning and some spotting, occasional blind stamps, but overall very good indeed.

Bibliography: Gay 3451 for a biographical summary.

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