ERPENIUS, Thomas. Grammatica arabica. (...) Cui accedunt Locmanni fabulae et adagia quaedam

Leiden, Joannes Maire, exc. Willem Christiaens van der Boxe, typ. Johannes Janssonius, 1636


4to, 2 works in one, separate t-ps., pp. (iv) 171 (i); pp. 56, 55-60 (ii). Arabic and Roman letter, some Italic, woodcut floriated initials and headpieces, Maire’s device to t-ps, van der Boxe’s device to last. First t-p a bit dusty, minor fingersoiling to second, very slight waterstains to blank margins of a couple of initial ll., small light ink smudge to one fol. not affecting text. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary English calf, covers triple blind ruled, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, rubbed at joints, a.e.r. Early ms. “7.b” to first t-p, ‘Gaddesden Park’ in pencil on flyleaf with shelf mark above, c.1900 Gaddesden Library armorial bookplate (Halsey family of Gaddesden, Hertfordshire) to front paste-down.

A very good copy of the second edition, enlarged and corrected, of this milestone of early modern Arabic linguistics. This edition is the first to incorporate the second work, the Fables of Luqman edited by Erpenius, first printed separately in 1615. 

Thomas Erpenius (Thomas von Erpe, 1584-1624) was a Dutch orientalist and one of the most important linguists of his time. Encouraged by Scaliger to undertake the study of Oriental languages, he graduated at Leiden and was later appointed professor of Arabic. He travelled extensively around Europe, became a close friend of the important philologist Casaubon, and perfected his knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, Persic and Ethiopic languages in Paris and Venice. A prolific editor and translator of oriental texts, he established his own printing press in Leiden. 

“Erpenius’s Grammatica arabica, (…) represents a watershed in the history of the European Arabic grammatical tradition. It was more accurate and better presented than all previous attempts at describing the grammar of  standard Arabic; it also became the single most influential European guide to the rudiments of Arabic down to the present. (…) as an epitome of the whole of Arabic grammar – and this is how Erpenius styled his work – there is little else that could challenge the accuracy and concision of the Grammatica arabica. No European publication on Arabic grammar saw so many reprints, translations and adaptations.” (Jones) “This astonishing success was due to Erpenius’ great familiarity with the works of Arab grammarians and his singular ability to transform and present the grammatical rules in a manner accessible to Europeans students schooled in Latin.” (Loop) Erpenius’ grammar was superseded only in the C19.

Erpenius’ manual, in five books, was based on the works of Arab grammarians (e.g. the important ‘Ājurrūmiyya’, a 13th century syntax), as well as on his own observations and studies of the Quran and other Arabic texts. The first book is concerned with the alphabet, presenting the graphic form and phonetic value of the letters. Here, Erpenius dedicates considerable attention to the hand-written form of the language, describing various calligraphic styles: this is because the number of printed Arabic books available in northern Europe was still small, and students had to consult manuscripts. The second book is on the verb, the third on the noun, the fourth on the particle and the fifth on syntax. 

The classic Fables of Luqman, “the Arab Aesop”, intended as a reading exercise, was the first Arabic work printed by Erpenius’ Oriental press. In addition to the fables, this publications also included a collection of 100 Arabic ‘adages’, or proverbs (here reproduced). A few of these proverbs, and a few ‘colloquialisms’, appear to be of Lebanese origin, suggesting that Erpenius was consulting Arabic speakers from those territories. Remarkably, this second edition was printed using Erpenius’ improved set of Arabic types, now featuring vowel signs and ligatures which were missing in the first. The Arabic text of the fables is followed by a Latin translation and a short explanation of their meaning ad grammar.

USTC 1011861; STCN 061244732. This ed not in BM STC Low Countries 17th century, Brunet or Graesse. R. Jones \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'Learning Arabic in renaissance Europe (2020). J. Loop, \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe (2017).