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Re: [BKARTS] Early Printed Korans

Thank you for this very interesting information.


-----Original Message-----
From: Book_Arts-L [mailto:BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]On Behalf Of
Arjan van Dijk
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 5:56 AM
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Early Printed Korans

Dear all,

As to printing and translating the Koran, there were several =
difficulties editors, translators and printers had to cope with, =
especially in the 16th century.

In the Islamic world it has long been forbidden to print books, let =
alone Holy Books. Printing was considered a dangerous invention and Holy =
Books should only be copied by hand. Therefore, the first printed Koran =
appeared outside the Islamic world, in Venice. It was printed by the =
Paganini Press in 1537/38. This Koran contained many orthographic =
errors, changing the meaning of some words of the "eternal and =
unchangeable" text. Given the fatwah on printing books, the errors and =
the fact that the 56th Surah of the Koran prohibits those who are not =
"purified" to touch the Koran, it is no surprise that, when Alessandro =
Paganini tried to sell his Koran in Istanbul, the Ottomans destroyed the =
whole print run and chopped of the printer's hand. It wasn't until 1987 =
that an Italian bibliographer discovered a surviving copy (the only one =
so far) in a monastery in Venice. This copy is reproduced in our =

The first printed translation was about as controversial. It was a Latin =
translation printed in Basel by Johannes Oporinus in 1543. Although the =
Pope had prohibited the printing of the "dangerous" Koran, some argued =
that the only possibilty to refute it was by knowing its contents. =
Hence, a printed translation was deemed necassary. Although at first the =
Basel authorities were against the plan, after fierce debate and =
mediation by Martin Luther Oporinus got their permission. However, the =
title page was not to mention Basel and the Koran was not to be sold in =
this city. Oporinus printed a Latin translation that dated from 1143. It =
was prepared by the British scholar Robert of Ketton at the request of =
Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny. Oporinus' edition, that also =
contained a large refutation, would be the source for translations into =
Italian, German and Dutch. In 1559, it was placed on the Roman Index of =
forbidden books by Pope Paul IV.

So, a text from 1143 has been the basis for the Western perception of =
the Koran until well into the 17th century. The first Dutch edition from =
1641 for example was a translation of the first German edition from =
1616, which was based on the first vernacular translation (in Italian) =
from 1547, which on its turn was based on the Latin translation from =

Most of the early editions included refutations of the Koran. The titles =
of these Western Korans are somewhat biased. A German edition from 1772 =
is called "The Turkish Bible" and the subtitle of a German edition from =
1616 reads (translated here in English): "from which one can learn about =
the origins of their false prophet Mohammed and to which occasion he has =
invented his fable work and his ridiculous and foolish teachings".

Apart from the editions mentioned above, our collection features another =
60 rare korans and koran translations into seven languages, all printed =
between 1537 and 1857. They are brought together from seven libraries. =
More information and a title list can be obtained from our web site: =
www.idc.nl/catalog/referer.php?c=3D437. The title list contains some =
suggestions for furher reading as well.

Hope this sheds some light on the discussion.
Arjan van Dijk

Arjan van Dijk
Project Manager Early Printed Korans=20

IDC Publishers
P.O. Box 11205
2301 EE  Leiden
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)71 514 27 00
Fax: +31 (0)71 513 17 21
Internet: http://www.idc.nl

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                   ENTRY DEADLINE -- September 1, 2004

      Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive at: <http://www.philobiblon.com>

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