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UAE : Ancient book containing first Arabic words ever printed on sale in Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, taking place from May 22 to 28 in the UAE capital, aims to be a major highlight for the attendees, offering a wide range of historical and literary relics.

All eyes are on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

The centerpiece of this year’s exhibition is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an early printing book produced less than a century after the invention of the printing press. Considered a Renaissance encyclopedia, it contains the first printed Arabic text and features impressive woodcuts. This work also has the distinction of containing two of the first three published Arabic inscriptions in the world.



According to Pomm Harrington, owner of the famous Peter Harrington bookstore, this work is valuable not only for its historical significance, but also for its aesthetic beauty. The inclusion of Arabic words in a printed format for the first time, as well as the intricate woodcuts that accompany two of the inscriptions, add to its appeal. Woodcuts, a printing technique using carved wooden blocks, played a key role in the creation of the illustrations. One in particular depicts a hero’s journey through three doors, symbolizing the quest for universal knowledge. “It additionally honours Arabic as one of the world’s four sacred languages alongside Greek, Roman and Hebrew,” said the owner of the book.

Other historical gems of the book fair

In addition to the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is presenting other renowned literary works. Among them is the first Arabic dictionary ever printed in the Arab world, the French-Arabic Vocabulary by Jean-Joseph Marcels, published in Cairo in 1798 to support Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt. Another important work is the first edition of the two fundamental grammars of Thomas Erpenius, which had a great influence on Arabic studies in the West.

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Published on 25 May 2023

#United Arab Emirates