ERPENIUS, Thomas. Arabicae linguae tirocinium

Leiden, J. Maire, 1656


Small 4to. pp. (xii) 172, 282 [i.e., 284]. Roman letter, with Arabic, some Italic. T-p in red and black with engraved vignette, woodcut initials and ornaments. Minor mainly marginal foxing, few ll. slightly browned. A very good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, edges sprinkled red, curious early red stamp (Arabic?) to lower outer blank corner of t-p, editorial annotation on E1.

Very good copy of the much enlarged, definitive edition of this milestone of early modern Arabic linguistics by the major scholar Thomas Erpen. First published in 1613 as ‘Grammatica Arabica’ and substantially enlarged by his former student Jacobus Golius in 1656, this grammar marked ‘a breakthrough in European attempts to render Arabic grammar accessible to students who had been educated in the Latin tradition’ (Loop, ‘Introduction’, 5). Encouraged by Scaliger to undertake the study of Oriental languages, Erpenius (or van Erpe, 1584-1624) became one of the most important linguists of his time, a prolific editor of oriental texts, and professor at Leiden, where he delivered the inaugural lecture ‘On the Excellence and Dignity of the Arabic Language’. This enlarged edition is ‘by far the most comprehensive and the most didactically accomplished version of Erpenius’s grammar ever to appear’ (Loop, ‘Arabic Poetry’, 247). It includes the original, accessible sections on grammar—from orthography to syllabation, phonetics, verbs, nouns, pronouns, etc.—and, as reading exercises with a Latin translation, the fables of Luqman and 200 proverbs (from the 1636 edition). Golius, who had succeeded Erpenius as professor at Leiden and published a revolutionary Arabic-Latin dictionary in 1653, added further reading exercises, some without translation. In particular, a brief history of the Qur’an and its structure, three ‘suras’ (Luqman, al-S af and al-Sajda), texts by al-H ar r and al-Ma arr , and a sermon by Eliya III. Reprinted dozens of times, Erpenius’s grammar was superseded only in the C19.

Brunet II, 1050; Graesse II, 499. The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe, ed. J. Loop et al. (Leiden, 2017).
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