Institute for Middle East Studies, The George Washington University
Among the more than 700 volumes in Gelman Library's new Middle East rare book collection are sacred and classical texts dating as far back as the 17th century, a famous translation of the classic “Arabian Nights” and scrapbooks documenting 19th-century travel through the Ottoman Empire.
The collection includes literature and scholarly works covering the history, culture, politics, religion and languages of the Islamic world. The works span not only the Middle East, but also Central Asia, Africa, Europe and India. Now available to researchers, the collection was acquired from the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Institute.
“I am thrilled that we have acquired this phenomenal collection of books, which complements our holdings of maps and lithographs and brings together some of the oldest and rarest materials regarding Middle East culture and history in this country,” says Meredith Evans Raiford, director of Gelman Library's Special Collections Research Center.
The collection's highlights include a 1688 edition of “The Alcoran of Mahomet”—the first English language translation of the Quran—and a 1638 Spanish translation of rabbi and scholar Moses Almosnino's “Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla.” A large part of the collection is comprised of travelogues and historical studies of North Africa and many parts of the Orient.
Ms. Raiford singles out Edward Lane's English version of The Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “Arabian Nights,” as a particular favorite. “His translation was one of the best known of this famous Arabic book, and it's full of medieval tales that are immensely enjoyable,” she says.
The purchase of the rare books from the Middle East Institute is part of continuing efforts to augment Gelman Library's holdings in the area of Middle Eastern studies, says Ms. Raiford. “I hope this new collection will further stimulate the study of the history and culture of the Middle East and the Islamic world at GW,” she says.