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ArabicandtheArtofPrinting

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by:SaudiAramcoWorldMagazine

Inthisspecialsectionreproducedfrom
AramcoWorld(issueMarch/April1981),
distinguishedauthorscovertopicsrelatedtoprintingintheIslamiccivilisation.Itisshowed,in
particular,thatcontrarytothenotionthatthetechnologyofprintingsomehowbypassedMuslims,
theIslamiccivilisationhaveleftsubstantialevidencethatblockprintingwasacraftfamiliartomany
inthemedievalIslamicworldbetweenthe10thandthe15thcenturies,longbeforeGutenberg
inventedpressprinting.Themostcommontextstohavesurvivedareamulets,ofwhichseveral
dozenssurvived,someofwhicharepreservedinEuropeanandUSlibrariesandmuseums.
SaudiAramcoWorldMagazine*
ThissectioncomposedoffivearticlesappearedinAramcoWorld[nowSaudiAramcoWorld],issue
March/April1981,pp.2035thewebversionisat:ArabicandtheArtofPrinting.WearegratefultoSaudi
AramcoWorld,especiallytoMrRobertArndt,forthekindpermissiongrantedtoustoreproducethearticles
ofthisspecialsection.Thefiguresandcaptionsillustratingthearticleswereaddedbytheeditorialboard
ofwww.MuslimHeritage.com.
Tableofcontents
1.Preface,byAramcoWorldeditorialboard
2.ArabicandtheArtofPrintingbyPaulLunde
3.FacingTheFuturebyJohnM.Munro
4.AMissingLinkbyPaulLunde**
5.OnPaperbyCarolineStone
***
1.Preface,byAramcoWorldeditorialboard
By1980,theComputerRevolutionorDataProcessingRevolutionhadbeguntotransformworld
communicationsalmostasdrasticallyastheinventionofmovabletypeandtheprintingpressin1454,the
rotarypressin1844andthelinotypemachinein1886.Indeed,ChristopherEvans,inhisbookTheMighty
Micro,flatlypredictedthatinthe1980'stheprintedwordwillslowlybutsteadily"slideintooblivion".
Dr.Evans,tobesure,basedhispredictionsondevicesstillintheexperimentalstage:computerterminals
thesizeofabook'spage,automatic"pageturning"andceilingscreensforcomfortablereadinginbed.But
healsonotesthatpractical"electronicnewspapers"arealreadyinexistencesuchasEngland'sPrestel,
thatin1980begantoprovideuptothesecondnews,airlineschedulesandmagazinearticlesforTV
screens.Andthereisnodenyingthattheintroductionofcomputerizedtypesettinginthe1970'svirtually
eliminatedthetypewriterandthelinotypemachinefrommostAmericannewspapersandpublishinghouses.

Tosomeinthepublishingandprintingindustries,suchchangeswereasshatteringanexperienceasthe
introductionofprintingmusthavebeentothemedievalscribe.Suddenlyforcedtoswaptheirbattered
typewritersandclankinglinotypemachinesforthefuturistickeyboardingandgreenletteredtelevision
terminalsofthecomputer,agingreporters,veteraneditorsandtrainedprintersoftenquailedandquit.Asso
oftenhappens,thecasualtiesofprogresswerehigh.
Butthetrendisirreversible.Fast,silentandefficient,thecomputersavestime,reducesnoise,cutscosts
andpromisesatransformationincommunicationsassignificantastheeffectsofthetwoseminalinventions
inthehistoryofcommunications:paperandprinting.Bothpaperandprintingwhichchangedtheworldsinto
whichtheywereintroducedoriginatedintheFarEast,andpaperatleastwastransmittedtoEurope
throughtheIslamicworld.Liketheinventionofthealphabetitself,alsoofEasternorigin,theramificationsof
bothinventionswerefarreaching.
Intoday'sprintsaturatedworld,Gutenberg'sinventionofmovabletypemaynotseemasremarkableasit
actuallywas.Butgiventhetechnologyof1454,makingtypefaceswasproportionatelymoredifficultthan
makingtransistorsasJ.BenLiebermanmakesclearinTypeandTypefaces.Craftsmenhadtocutouta
mirrorimageoftheshapeofeachletterontheendofasteelrod,hammertheoutlineofthesteel"letter"
intoaflatpieceofbrasstocreateamatrixandcarefullypouramoltenmixtureoflead,tinandantimony
intothemold,thuscreatingaoneinchhighpieceof"type"withoneletterontheend.Thishadtobedone
foreachletterandonepageofGutenberg'sBibleneededupto5,000individualpiecesoftype.Thenew
printers,therefore,hadtohaveupto25,000piecesoftypeonhandplusanother25,000spacesto
separatethetypeiftheywishedtokeepsettingotherpageswhileonewasbeingprinted.
Apivotaladvance,movabletype,togetherwiththeprintingpress,madebooksandthusliteracyand
learningavailabletothemasses,adevelopmentthatwastohaveincalculableresults.HadColumbusbeen
bornearlier,forexample,heprobablywouldnothavehadaccesstosuchworksasthewritingsofPtolemy,
whichspurredhimtowardthediscoveryoftheNewWorld.Movabletypewasintroducedjustoneyearafter
thefallofConstantinoplesentByzantinescholarsstreamingintoItalywiththeirpreciouscollectionsofGreek
manuscriptswheretheprintingpressprovidedachannelforthecirculationofGreeklearningthroughout
Europe.
Furthermore,printingfrommovabletype,comingasitdidatthepeakoftheRenaissance,wasakeyfactor
intheswiftdisseminationofadvancesinscientific,technologicalandindustrialknowledgeitthuscontributed
toEurope'sgradualemergencefirsttoequality,eventuallytodominanceinaworldlongintheshadowof
theOttomanEmpire.Conversely,theabsenceofprintingwasanimportantelementintheeventualdecline
oftheOttomans.Lackingprinting,theOttomanswereslowertoassimilateandcirculatethenewlearning
andthus,toanextent,failedtostayabreastofRenaissanceEurope,particularlyintechnology.
Today,ofcourse,printingisfirmlyestablishedintheArabworldandArabictypographyisamongthemost
interesting.Indeedprinting,onceitwasestablishedintheArabEast,developedalmostasrapidlyasitdidin
theWestearlierandhashadsimilarresults.Thisisthestoryofhowthatcameabout.
2.ArabicandtheArtofPrinting
TheBeginnings
HistoriansgenerallycreditNapoleonwithintroducingtheprintingpresstotheArabworldwhenheinvaded
Egyptin1798.ButthoughNapoleondidbringprintingpressesandArabictypetoEgypt,thestoryof
Arabicprintingis,inasense,evenolderthanprinting.Itbeginsin1311,whenthePapacyestablishedchairs
forthestudyofArabicandotherorientallanguagesatthreeEuropeanuniversitiesandatRome.

ThismovetoencourageArabicstudieswastheresultofanumberoffactors:Papalcorrespondencewith
theMongolcourt[1],closetieswiththeCrusaderstatesintheLevant,longstandingtraderelationsbetween
theItalianmaritimerepublicsandtheeasternMediterraneanandthePapacy'sprimeinterestadesireto
propagatetheCatholicfaithamongtheArabicspeakingChristiancommunitiesofSyria,Lebanonand
Palestine.
Therewereother,lesspolitical,considerations,too.TranslationsfromArabicthelanguageinwhichGreek
philosophyandsciencehadbeenpreservedwereessentialtoSt.ThomasAquinasandotherChristian
theologiansintheirformulationsofmedievaltheologyandphilosophytoproperlyunderstandAristotle,the
foundationformuchmedievalthinking,theologianshadtoreadtranslationsofthegreatcommentariesupon
himcomposedinArabicbysuchMuslimscholarsasAvicennaandAverroes.Butmostwereunsatisfactory.
ItisthereforenotsurprisingthatitwasinItaly,theEuropeancountrywiththebroadestinterestintheArabic
speakingworld,thatthefirstArabicbookwasprintedfrommovabletype,in1514.
Arabictypehadbeenusedsporadicallybefore1514,butnoentirebookprintedinArabicwasproduceduntil
GregoriodeGregorii,aVenetian,publishedaBookofHoursentitledKitabSalatalSawa'i,probablyfor
exporttotheChristiancommunitiesofSyria.
Thebookwasnotagreatsuccess.Thoughtheborders,depictingarabesqueflowersandbirds,are
charming,thetypeiscrude:squarish,illformedlettersthatareunpleasantandvirtuallyunreadable.Itwas,
nevertheless,aboldattempt,aswellasthefirst,tosolvetheproblemsofprintingintheArabicalphabet:
designingandmakingbyhandhundredsofcharactersandtheconnectionsbetweencharactersneeded
toduplicatethecursivenatureofArabicscript.DeGregoriistypeface,moreover,wasmoresuccessfulthan
theArabictypeusedbyWilliamPostelinhisUnguarumduodecim,printedinParisin1538ortheeccentric
faceusedinRutgherSpey'sEpistolaadGalatas,doneinHeidelbergin1583.
ThemanwhodidbegintosolvetheproblemsofArabicprintingwastheFrenchtypedesignerRobert
Granjon,whosenameisstillassociatedwithawiderangeofunsurpassedLatinandGreektypefacesand
thestoryofhowhecametodesignArabictypebeginswiththeattemptsbythePapacytounitetheChristian
churchesoftheLevantwithRome.AstheseChristianminoritiesMaronites,GreekOrthodox,Jacobite,
NestorianandCopticwerestronglyrepresentedintheimportanttradingcentersoftheLevant,
Constantinople,Aleppo,andAlexandria,PopeGregoryXIII,in1576,determinedtomakethisconnection
spiritualaswellascommercial.AsastarthefocusedontheMaronites,whohadparticularlyclose
commerciallinkswithItaly.In1584,hefoundedaMaroniteCollegeinRometotrainEuropeanmissionaries
invariousorientallanguages,andtotrainorientalChristiansinthelanguagesofEurope.Responding
enthusiastically,theMaronitesthrewthemselvesintothetaskofediting,writing,andtranslatingbooksinto
andfromLatin,ArabicandSyriac.Butasitsoonbecameobviousthatthetimehadcometoseriously
undertaketheprintingofArabicandotherorientallanguages,GregoryappointedCardinalFerdinandode
MedicidirectorofwhatcametobecalledtheMediciPress.CardinaldeMedici,inturn,soughtsomeone
versedinorientallanguagestooverseetheoperationofthepress,andwasluckyenoughtofindGiovan
BattistaRaimondi.
GiovanBattistaRaimondiwasthearchetypeoftheRenaissanceman:anaccomplishedclassicist,a
philosopher,amathematicianandachemist.Moretothepoint,hewasalsowellqualifiedwithregardto
Arabicprinting.DuringatriptotheEast,hehadlearnedArabic,TurkishandPersianandcollected
grammarsanddictionariesofthoselanguages.HehadalsotranslatedbooksfrombothGreekandArabic,
andwrittenlearnedcommentariesonGreekscientificworks.
TosetupanArabicpress,RaimondirentedsomebuildingsonthepiazzadelMonted'OroinRome,ordered

presses,ink,paperandothernecessarystocksandthroughaprinternamedDomenicoBasa,obtained
puncheswithwhichtocutanArabicalphabetpunchesdesignedbyGranjon.Basasoldthepunchesto
Raimondiandsignedanagreementunderwhichtheywouldworktogetherandsharematerials.
ThefirstbooksprintedunderthisarrangementandbearingDomenicoBasa'simprintweretheLiberVII
precationum(1584),abookofChristianArabicprayers,andtheHortusrerummirabilium(1584),an
historicalworkbyAbualAbbasAhmadibnKhalilalSalihi,thefullArabictitleofwhichisTheBookofthe
GardenoftheWondersoftheWorld.ThiscombinationofChristianliturgicalandMuslimscientifictextswas
alsotobecharacteristicoftheproductionsoftheMediciPress.
Meanwhile,RaimondihadquicklyrealizedthatthesuccessoftheMediciPresswoulddependlargelyonthe
skillofRobertGranjonandtoinducehimtostayinRome,offeredarentfreehouse,astipendof10gold
scudiamonth,plusonegoldscudoforeverysteelmatrixhecutandabonusof300scudiromaniforevery
completedalphabet.Althoughhewas72yearsold,Granjonacceptedtheseexcellenttermsandsettowork
immediately.
InafewyearsGranjonhadcutalargenumberoforientalcharacters,followingsuperbcalligraphicdesigns
providedbyRaimondi.OnSeptember6,1586,hecompletedthesmallArabictypefaceusedforthetextof
thefolioofAvicennaof1593(seefig.1).Legibleandmuchmore"oriental"infeelthanthoseofdeGregorii,
PostelorSpey,thisfacewasnotimproveduponuntilthetimeofIbrahimMuteferrikaintheearly
18thcentury.
Granjon,whodiedin1589,wassucceededbyGiovanni
Cavaglion,whocutthemediumandlargeArabic
alphabetsusedinthe1593Avicennachapterheadings,
aswellasasmallandalargePersiantypeface,anda
verybeautifulCopticalphabet.
CardinalFerdinandodeMedici,inthemeantime,formed
acommitteetodirectthepressandsenttwospecialists
toEthiopiaandtheLevantwithorderstoobtainArabic,
Syriac,CopticandEthiopicmanuscriptsofthe
scriptures.Themanuscriptsweretobeusedtoestablish
criticaltextsoftheBible.

Atthesametime,thespecialistswereurgedtocollect
Arabicscientifictextssothattheycouldbeprintedand
thenexportedtoMuslimcountriesinordertoacquaint
Muslimswiththeadvantagesofprinting.In1587two
Italianmerchantsactuallyreceivedafirmanaroyal
permitfromtheOttomanSultanMuradIIIauthorizing
themtoexportArabicbookstotheOttomanEmpire.
Acopyofthisfirmanwasprintedasthefinalsheetinthe
folioArabiceditionofEuclidprintedbytheMediciPress
in1594.ItisthefirstprinteddocumentinTurkish,andis
setinGranjon'ssmallArabictypeface,withsome
modifications.

Figure1:CanonofmedicinebyAvicenna(IbnSina)
publishedinRomein1593attheLibraryoftheAmerican
UniversityofBeirut(Source).(AUBLibraries,20022007).

BecausecuttingtheArabictypefacestooksuchalong

time,establishmentoftheMediciPresswentslowly.
ThoughthecontractsformallysettingupthepressweresignedonMarch6,1584,thefirstbooktobearits
imprintdidnotappearuntil1591:itwasafolioeditionof4,000copiesofthefourGospelsinArabic,alarge
editionforthetime.ThesameArabictextwasreprinted,thesameyear,thistimewithaninterlinearLatin
translationbytheMaronitescholarGabrielSionita,whosemanyworks,includingashorthistoryofthe
Arabs,wereamongtheearliesttobebasedonafirsthandknowledgeofArabicsources.
Onceunderway,however,theMediciPresswasveryproductive.In1592itissuedaprospectusofitsArabic
typefacesunderthetitleAlphabetumarabicuma64pagemasterpieceofdesignwhichnotonlydisplays
Granjon'sbeautifultypes,butcontainsacarefulLatinEssayontheArabicwritingsystem(seefig.2)two
classicalworksonArabicgrammar,theCaphiah(alKafiya)andtheGiarrumia,(alAjurrumiya)andthe
abridgededitionofalIdrisi'sfamousgeography[2],composed,fittinglyenough,inSicilyinthe11thcentury.
Theyear1593sawtheappearanceofoneofthemost
famousproductionsoftheMediciPress:thefolioedition
ofAvicenna'sfamousCanonofMedicine(alQanunfial
Tibb),abeautifulbookemployingallthreeofGranjon's
typefaces,thesmall,mediumandlarge.Thebookitself
hadbeenthestandardreferencebookonmedical
practiceduringtheMiddleAges,bothinEuropeandin
theMuslimworld,andcontinuedtobesothroughthe
Renaissance.
In1594theMediciPresspublishedstillanother
importantwork,theArabictranslationofEuclidwith
commentarybyNasiralDinalTusi,thefamous
13thcenturymathematicianandcourtier,thusproviding,
inthefirstfewyearsofoperation,coverageofmedicine,
mathematics,geographyandgrammar,thefour
subjectsparticularlycultivatedbytheArabs.

Beforethepressactuallypublishedtheseworks,
however,theGrandDukeofTuscanydiedandCardinal
deMedici,hisbrother,becametheGrandDuke.This
wasadisasterfortheMediciPressbecausethe
CardinalmovedtoFlorence,severedhistieswith
Raimondiandlater,aftertheArabicGospelsappeared
in1591,decidedtosellthepress.Worse,healso
decidedtosellthebooks,manuscripts,typefacesand
unsoldcopiesoftheMedicipublications.

Figure2:CoveroftheAlphabetumArabicumunacum
OrationeDominicali,SalutationeAngelica,&Simbolo
Apostolico(Rome,1715)(Source).

Appalledatthis,Raimondiboughtthepresshimself,but
quicklyfoundhehadpurchasedawhiteelephant.Books
senttotheFrankfurtBookFairin1593then,asnow,Europe'scenterforthedistributionofbooksdidnot
dowell.Andthenextyearanemployeeofthepressstolealargenumberofbooksandsoldthemcheaplyat
thefair,thusdestroyingthemarketfortheremainingcopies.
AfterRaimondidiedin1614,everythingthatremainedoftheMediciPresspaperstocks,type,presses,
unsoldbooksandthereferencelibraryofmanuscriptswastransferredtotheVillaMediciatthetopofthe
SpanishStepsinRome.AllthesematerialswerelatertransferredtoPisa,andin1684woundupinthe
PalazzoVecchioinFlorence.Duringthesemoves,someofthetypeandmatriceshadfoundtheirwayto

thePropagandaFide,whichusedthemforitsorientalpublications.
Inthe18thcentury,amazinglyenough,manyofthebooksprintedbyRaimondiwerestillin
thePalazzoVecchiostackedinwardrobes.Aninventorytakenatthetimeshowsthat1,039copiesofthe
ArabicLatinGospels,566oftheArabicGospels,810oftheAvicenna,1,967oftheEuclid,1,129oftheIdrisi,
stillremainedunsold,alongwithseveralothertitles.Butearlyinthe19thcenturytheAgeofEnlightenment
thegovernmentsoldtheremainingbooksforaderisorysumtoabooksellerwhodestroyedthebulkofthem
toincreasetherarityoftheremainder.TheremainingtypeandmatriceswoundupinthePittiPalace,where
NapoleonwasabletolootthemathiseasewhenheconqueredItaly.In1808Napoleonorderedthe
punchesandmatricestobetakentoParis,wheretheywereusedtoprintArabicproclamationsfor
distributionintheNearEastEightyearslater,afterNapoleon'sexile,theywerebroughtbacktoFlorence.
Meanwhilein1610,theyearthelastArabicbookcameofftheMediciPressabookinArabicwasprintedin
theMiddleEastitself:thefamousQuzhayyaPsaltertheBible'sbookofpsalms.
TheQuzhayyaPsalterisasmallfoliocontaining260pages,eachdividedintotwocolumns,therighthand
columncontainingtheSyriactext,thelefthandcolumntheArabictranslationprintedinasmallerSyriac
typeface.Atthebottomofthepage,inthecolophon,arecluestothestoryofthePsalter.Itreads:"Printedin
thehonoredmonasteryofWadiQuzhayya,onMountLebanon,theworkofmasterPasqualeEliandofthe
humbleYusufibnAmimafromKarmSadde1610."
PasqualeEliwasanItalianprinterwhileYusufibnAmimahadbeenastudentattheMaronitecollegein
Rome,andwasamemberofadelegationsenttoRomein1610.Sincehisnameappearsinthecolophon,it
isprobablethedelegationbroughtbackapresstoprintthepsalter.Thispsalterwasuniquesincenoother
booksfollowedfromthepressatQuzhayyaandalmostacenturywastoelapsebetweentheprintingofthe
QuzhayyaPsalterandthenextbookprintedinArabicintheEastthistimeintheArabicalphabet.
Strangelyenough,thistookplaceintheOttomanprotectorateofWalachia,nowinRomania,wherethe
GreekOrthodoxPatriarchofSyria,AthanasiusDabbas,setupapresswhichprintedliturgicalworksin
ArabictheyarenowamongtherarestofprintedArabicworks.In1704AthanasiusreturnedtoAleppoand
establishedanewArabicpress,atwhich,itissaid,AbdAllahZakhir,anapprenticegoldsmith,withthehelp
ofhisbrother,notonlysetupthepress,butengravedallthematrices,madethetools,andcastthetypeall
withouteverhavingseenaprintingpressinoperation.
InthestoryofArabicprinting,AbdAllahZakhirplayedaninterestingrolehisfirsttypefacewasusedin1706
toprintaPsalterandthoughthelettersarecrude,twomorebookswereorintedwithit.Butthenhe
abandoneditandcuttwonewfacesbothmoreelegantandclosertothenaskhistyleofArabichandwriting
whichwereusedintheeditionoftheParacleticpublishedin1711.Between1706and1711,somenine
titleswereprintedbytheAleppanpress.
Inexplicably,afterthepublicationin1711ofatreatisebythePatriarchhimself,thepressinAlepposuddenly
ceasedoperating,butZakhirlatersetupanotherpressatChoueirinLebanon,andonceagainsetabout
cuttingtypemoldsandfoundinghistypeface.ThepressitselfwasbroughtfromEurope,andin1734he
printedhisfirstbookthispresscontinuedtobeusedatthemonasteryofSaintJohnatChoueiruntil1899.
LikehiscontemporaryIbrahimMuteferrika,AbdAllahZakhirhadtoovercomedifficultieswhichwouldhave
provedinsurmountabletoalesserman.Withnoformaltraining,hemasteredadifficultcraftwithoutteachers
andwithfewguides.ButhistrueimportanceisthathewasthefirstmantoprintbooksinArabicwith
movabletypeintheMiddleEast.

TheOttomanContribution
Fiveyearsbefore'AbdAllahZakhirsetuphisownpress,amomentouseventoccurredinIstanbul,capitalof
theOttomanEmpire.InJanuary,1729thesameyearBenjaminFranklin'srecentlyformedprintinghouse
receiveditsfirstgovernmentcontractthefirstbookprintedintheArabicalphabetundertheauspicesofan
Islamicgovernmentcameoffthepress.
ItwasmomentousbecauseitsignaledofficialrecognitionofthedisturbingdeclineofOttomanpowerandof
theimportanceofprintingintheriseofEuropeanpower.Italsosignaledavictoryforthemanwho,more
thananyother,persuadedtheOttomanSultanthatonlywidedisseminationofEurope'sscientificand
technologicalknowledgecouldenabletheempiretoarrestthedeclineandfoundedapresstodoso.This
wasIbrahimMuteferrika,theBenjaminFranklinoftheMuslimworld.Bornabout1674,IbrahimMuteferrika
wasanextraordinarycombinationofsoldier,scholar,diplomatandwriterwho,asachild,mayhave
witnessedthelongdisconsolateretreatofthegreatOttomanarmyfromitsunsuccessfulsiegeofViennathe
inescapablesignofthedeclineinOttomanmilitarymight.
Thereasonsforthedeclineweremanyandcomplex,buttoIbrahimMuteferrikaandotherfarsightedmen,
thesolutionwasnot.TheybelievedthatunlessEuropeanmilitaryinnovationswereadopted,theantiquated
OttomanarmywouldbeunabletodefendtheEmpire,andthattheonlyroutetosuchreformwasrapidand
widedisseminationofthescientificideaswhichunderlayEuropeanmilitarypower.Inshorthethoughtthe
OttomansmustestablishaprintingpressandtranslatekeyEuropeanworksintoTurkish.
Theseambitiousplansweremoreeasilymadethancarriedout.Asidefromthetechnicalproblemsof
obtainingmaterials,eitherbuyingorcuttinganArabictypefacesinceTurkishwasthenwritteninArabic
scriptandlearningthecraft,therewastheproblemoftheimmenseconservatismoftheOttomanstate.
AlthoughHebrewandArmenianpresseshadexistedinConstantinopleforalongtime,noonehadever
printedwithArabictype.Itwasperfectlypossiblethattheinnovationwouldbeopposedsimplyonthe
groundsthatnoonehaddoneitbefore.
Fortunately,Ibrahimhadtwopowerfulallies.ThesewereMehmedChelebiPashaYirmisekizandhisson
Sa'id,whoin1721,hadreturnedfromadiplomaticmissiontoParisfilledwithenthusiasmforvariousaspects
ofFrenchcultureamongthemprintingandhadconveyedthisenthusiasmtotheSultanandhiscourt.
Eventually,therefore,theGrandVizier,IbrahimPasha,encouragedIbrahimMuteferrikatoaddressapetition
totheSultanwhichIbrahimdidintheformofanessayentitledWasilatalTiba'a,"TheUtilityofPrinting."
"TheUtilityofPrinting"isaremarkabledocument.Itopenswithacloselyreasonedwarningonthe
importanceofpreservinganation'slawsandonthedifficultiesofdoingso.
Ancientpeoples,Ibrahimargues,engravedtheirlawsontabletsorwrotethemdowninbooks,but
throughouthistorybothtabletsandbookshavebeendestroyedonereasonwhyMuslimscarefullyguarded
thetextoftheKoranandtheTraditionsbymakingcopiesandcirculatingthemamongthebelievers,who
learnedthembyheart.
Unhappily,Ibrahimgoeson,eventhepowerofthestatecannotalwaysprotectbooksfromtheravagesof
war.GenghisKhanandHulagu,theMongolconquerorsofthe12thcentury,indestroyingtheempireofthe
Abbasids,burnedorspoiledalltheworksofartandsciencewhichtheyfoundandtheChristianscaptured
thousandsofirreplaceablebookswhentheyconqueredMuslimSpain.
TheseeventsdidirreparableharmtoMuslimlearning,Ibrahimwrites,becausewhiletheChristiansretained
possessionofagreatnumberofArabicworksontheusefulsciences,theMuslimsweredeprivedofthem

forever."Alloftheseconsiderationsshouldbeborneinmindwhenconsideringtheutilityofthe
establishmentofaprintingpressinConstantinople."
Ibrahimgoesontolisthisspecificaims:ArabicisthelanguageofscienceTurkishspeakersneedgood
dictionariestoacquirethelanguageprintingcanproducesuchdictionaries,aswellasworksonastronomy
philosophy,historyandgeographycheaplyandexactly.
Withprintedbooks,Ibrahimargues,scholarsandstudentscanbesureofthefaithfulnessoftheirtexttoits
original,andwillbesparedthelaboriousjobofcollatingmanuscripts.
Moreover,hegoeson,theinkusedformanuscriptsiseffacedbydampness,whileprinter'sink,whichisoil
based,isimpervious.Asprintedbooksarecheap,bothpoorandrichcannowdevotethemselvestostudy
withoutworryingaboutthecosts.Sincepubliclibrariesintheprovincescanbesuppliedwithprintedbooks,
learningwilltherebybespreadthroughouttheEmpire.
IbrahimalsopointsoutthattherearemanyMuslimsthroughouttheworldwhoarenotOttomansubjectsand
printingcouldsupplythemwithbooksbywhichtheymightinstructthemselves.
"Thefamineofbookswillbeatanend.Allnationswillbeabletoacquirebooksatlowcost.Whatgloryfor
ourEmpire,andwhatprayersforitsperpetuitywillbemade,whentheyseesomanygoodbookswhich
communicateknowledgetothem,ofwhichtillthentheyhadbeendestitute.Thismotivealoneshouldsuffice
forourInvincibleEmperortoprotectandpermittheestablishmentofprinting."
Inthecourseofhisenumerationoftheadvantagesofprinting,Ibrahimalsocastsacriticaleyeonthe
productsofEuropeanpresseswhichhadprintedArabicbooks.
"EuropeanrulershaverecognizedtheimportanceofworkswritteninArabic,PersianandTurkish,andhave
printedbooksinalllanguages...but...thebooksarefilledwitherrorsandthetypeisugly...."
But,hegoeson,thistooisanargumentforsettingupaprintingpressinConstantinople."IftheseEuropean
pressesshouldcuttypebaseduponagoodorientalhand,thetradeintheirbookswillprovedetrimentalto
ourinterests,formoneywillflowfromustothem.
"ItisthereforevitalfortheMuslims,"heconcluded,"formerlyinadvanceoftheWestinthesciences,notto
letthemselvesbeeclipsedbythem."
WhentheSultanAhmedIIIreceivedIbrahimMuteferrika'spetition,hesubmittedittotheMufti,ShaikhAbd
Allah,theleadingauthorityonIslamiclaw,withthisquestion"Acertainmanhascastmetallettersinorderto
printtheclassicalworksofliteratureandscience,suchasdictionaries,worksonlogic,philosophy,
astronomy,andsoon,andhasofferedtoundertaketoprintthem.Canhe,inaccordancewiththerulesof
justice,executehisdesign?"
Shaikh'AbdAllah'sresponseverylikeaSupremeCourtdecisionwasyes,hecould:"Ifsuchaonehas
masteredtheartofprintingtheaforesaidworkscorrectlywithmetalcharacters,providingasuremeansof
savingworkandofmakingmultiplecopiesatlowcost,thusmakingtheiracquisitioneasyandlesscostly,
thenIrulethatthisart,becauseofitsgreatadvantages,mustbeencouraged.Inordertoavoidmisprints,
ableandintelligentmenmustbechosen,who,beforethebooksissuefromthepress,shallcorrectthem,by
comparingthemwiththebestavailablemanuscripttexts."
Farfromopposingtheinnovation,then,thereligiousauthoritieswelcomedit.Butastheynaturallystipulated

thateveryeffortshouldbemadetoavoidmisprints,thegovernmentappointedfoureminentqadisasproof
readersthefirstinIslamtoundertakethislaboriousandthanklesstask.Theauthoritiesalsoruledthatonly
secularworksmightbeprintedtoprotectthemorethan4,000professionalcopyistsofConstantinople,
whoseworkconsistedalmostentirelyincopyingtheKoran,thecollectionsofcanonicaltraditions,andlegal
texts.
Shaikh'AbdAllah'sdecisionwasissuedin1726,butitwasmorethantwoyearsbeforeIbrahimwasreadyto
printhefirsthadtogathermaterials,learnhowtoprintanddesignandcutthetype.
SomehistoriansassumethatIbrahimimportedhisArabictypefacefromEurope,butOttomandocuments
unequivocallystatethatIbrahimdesignedandcuthistypehimselfanditiscertainlydifferentfromEuropean
Arabictypefacesofthesameperiod.Itisclosertonaskhi,thestandardbookhandoftheMuslimworld,very
similartotypefacesusedintheMiddleEasttoday,and,forseveralreasons,aremarkableachievement.
PrintingwiththeArabicalphabetinvolvesanumberofdifficultieswhicharenotfoundwiththeLatinalphabet,
orevenwithotherSemiticalphabets.OneisthateachArabicletterhasfourdifferentforms,dependingupon
itspositionintheword,andanotheristhatArabicisacursivescriptthatis,mostlettersarelinkedtothe
precedingandfollowingletterbyaligature,whichvariesinbothlengthanddirection.Athirdproblemisthat
sincecalligraphyisthesupremeIslamicart[3],readerstendtobecritical,evenoflegibletypefaces,on
estheticgrounds.Todayforexample,fewreadersareentirelyhappywiththecomputerizedtypeinArabic
newspapers.YetIbrahim,workingwithnotrainingortechnicalbackground,notonlyproducedalegibletype
face,butonethatpleasedhisreaders.Whenthefirstbookrolledoffthepressesin1729,theMuftiwhohad
authorizeditsprintingwrote,"Thisbookmustberegardedasapearl."
ThebookreferredtowasaTurkishtranslationofanArabicdictionary,intwovolumes,thefirstcontaining
666pages,thesecond756.KnownastheSahah("TheCorrect"),itwascomposedinthe10thcenturybyal
Jawhari,andisoneoftheclassicsofArabiclexicography.Itcontainsmorethan22,000rootwords,and
eachusageisillustratedbyquotationsfromthepoets.Thesecondbook,amaritimehistoryoftheTurksby
thegreatOttomanwriterHajjKhalifa,waslessformidable:only150pageslong.Butlikethetwovolumesof
theSahah,itwasissuedinaneditionof1,000copiesalargeprintingforthetimeandcontainedfive
illustrations:oneshowingthetwohemispheres,anothershowingtheMediterraneanandtheBlackSea,
anothertheislandsunderOttomanrule,thefourthamapoftheAdriaticanditsislands,andthefiftha
doublemariner'scompass,beautifullyengraved,withthenamesofthewindsinTurkish,Persianandother
languages.TheseillustrationstestifytoIbrahimMuteferrika'sskillasamapmakerandengraver.
TheMaritimeWarsalsocontainsinformationoncities,ports,borders,islandsandsitesofimportantnaval
battlesitgivesanaccountofOttomannavalbattlesintheArchipelago,theBlackSea,theRedSea,Arabian
GulfandtheGulfofVenice,listsfamousOttomanadmirals,includingPiriReis[4],anddescribesdifferent
methodsofnavigation.
AnotherinterestingbookpublishedbyIbrahimMuteferrikawasahistoryofthediscoveryofAmerica.Printed
towardsthebeginningofApril,1730,itisthefirstIslamicprintedbookwithfiguralillustrations.Basedpartly
onLatinsources,theHistoryoftheWestIndiescontainsanintroductiononthegeographicalviewsof
ancientwritersshowingtheirignoranceoftheNewWorldandthengivesanaccountoftheSpanish
discoveries,includingfabulousstoriesofthefloraandfaunaoftheNewWorld,illustratedby13printsand
fourmaps,engravedbyIbrahim(fig.35).

Figure3:BooksprintedattheIbrahimMteferrikaPress.

Oneofthemostimportantbookswhichcameoffthe
pressinConstantinoplewaswrittenbyIbrahim
Muteferrikahimself,andwasdevotedtothedeclineof
theOttomanEmpirewhichhadledIbrahimtofoundthe
pressinthefirstplace.CalledtheNizamal
Umam("OrderingoftheNations"),thisbookwaswritten
toconvincetheSultanandthecourttointroduce
Europeantacticsandorganizationalmethodsintothe
Ottomanarmy.
Thisbookwasbothboldandinnovative.Bystressingthe
needfororderandwrittenlegislationinthegoverningof
anation,andindiscussingpoliticalandmilitary
geographyandEuropeanmilitaryarts,tacticsand
weapons,Ibrahim,ineffect,wascriticizingtheOttoman's
proudandpowerfulmilitarycomplex.Althoughthebook
seemstohavehadlittleeffect,itmarksoneofthefirst
stagesinthemodernizationofTurkey.

Ibrahim'spressalsopublishedtheJihanNumah,
("MirroroftheWorld"),byHajjiKhalifa,thesameman
whowrote"TheMaritimeWarsoftheTurks,"probably
themostbeautifulbookinitscatalog,aswellasthe
mostambitious.PublishedonJuly3,1732,itcontains
698pages,and39illustrations,amongthem24maps.
ItalsoincludesthefirstdiscussionintheIslamicworldof
theideasofGalileo,Copernicus,andTychoBrahe.
BasedonbothEuropeanandIslamicsources,itgives
thelatitudesandlongitudesofmanyAsiantownswith
greateraccuracythananypreviouswork,andforthis

Figure5:AbuNasrIsmailalJawhari'sVankuluLugati(an
ArabicTurkishdictionary)waspublishedbyIbrahim
Muteferrikain1729itwasthefirstbookprintedbyMuslims
makinguseofmovabletype(Source).

reasonwasmuchesteemedbyEuropeancartographers.InthePreface,IbrahimMuteferrikamakesaplea
forprintinguptodatemaps."Otherwise",hesays,"wewillmakenoprogressinthescienceofgeography."
ThelastbookprintedbyIbrahim,likethefirst,wasadictionary,thistimePersianTurkish.Itwasprintedin
1742,13yearsafterthefoundationofthepress.Threeyearslater,in1745,IbrahimMuteferrikadiedandthe
pressvirtuallyceasedproductionuntil1783,when,withthehelpoftwooldmenwhohadworkedwithhim,
printinginTurkeywasrevived,thistimetostay.

Figure4:IllustrationsfromTarihlHindilGarbielmsemmabiHadisinev(Istanbul:IbrahimMteferrika
Press,1142H[1729]),91leaves(Source).
NapoleoninEgypt
In1798Napoleon,freshfromtheconquestofItaly,decidedtoinvadeEgypttogainnavalcontrolofthe
easternMediterraneanandcutBritain'sroutetoIndiaandinMaytheFrenchfleetsetsailfromtheportof
ToulonforAlexandria.
Twomonthsbeforethedepartureofthefleet,NapoleongaveorderstopacktheArabic,GreekandFrench
typeoftheImprimerieNationaleandshipittoToulon,andonApril3alsoarrangedtosendthefamous
pressofthePropagandaFideanditsorientaltypefacestoEgypt.Sobyoneofhistory'scurious
coincidences,oneofthepressesintimatelyassociatedwiththebirthofArabicprintinginEuropewas
destinedtointroduceGutenberg'sarttothelandofthePharaohs.
Napoleontookapersonalinterestinpackingandshippingofthepressesandthetypeandinrecruiting34
printers,translators,andtypesetters.Hiscorrespondenceisfullofurgentrequestsrelatingtoallthese
matters,andnodetailwastoosmalltoescapehisattention.Itmayseemoddthatthecommanderofa
militaryoperation,besetwiththousandsofdetails,shouldhavebeensoconcernedwithprinting.Theanswer
isthatNapoleonwasoneofthefirstmodernleadersforbetterorforworsetosystematicallymakeuseof
printedpropaganda,whichhehadusedforthefirsttimeduringhisItaliancampaigns.Heplannedtousethe
samemethodsinEgypt,andquietthefearsofthepopulacebydistributingpamphletsandproclamations
assuringtheEgyptiansthathecamenotastheirconquerorbutastheirliberator.
Hehadother,moreelevatedmotives,too.LikeAlexandertheGreat,anotherfamousconquerorofEgypt,

Napoleontookwithhimalargegroupofsavantshistorians,geographers,engineers,linguists,orientalists,
astronomersandphysicianswhosemissionwastoprepareacompletedescriptionoftheclimate,floraand
fauna,antiquities,architectureandlanguagesofancientandmodernEgypt.TheresultwastheDescription
deI'Egypte[5].Bydoingso,NapoleonperhapssoughttojustifyhisinvasionintheeyesofEurope.The
reportsofthevarioussavantsweretobeprintedinEgypt,andperhapstranslatedintoArabictoacquaintthe
EgyptianswithEuropeanscience.Theseplanswereonlypartiallyfulfilled,fortheFrenchstayinEgyptwas
short,anditwasnotuntillongafterthearmiesofNapoleonhadleftthebanksoftheNilethattheDescription
deI'Egyptewasprinted(fig.6).
Twomenwereputinchargeofthepresses.Onewastheorientalist
JeanJosephMarcel,grandsonofaformerFrenchConsulintheLevant,
andtheotherwasMarcAurel,anoldfriendofNapoleon,whomethim
asayoungmaninValencewherehisfatherprintedanewspaper.

Frenchscholarshavesoughttodeterminewhichofthetwomenshould
becreditedwithintroducingprintingtoEgypt.Infact,thefirstArabic
printeddocumentoftheFrenchexpeditionwasnotprintedonEgyptian
soilatall,butonthehighseasonboardtheaptlynamedOrientunder
thesupervisionofMarcel,theexpedition'sofficialprinter.
ThisfirstdocumentwasaproclamationbyNapoleonintendedto
reassuretheinhabitantsofAlexandriaitwasreadaloudtoanumberof
Egyptianswhowereforciblytakenonboardtheflagshipintheharborof
Alexandriathedaybeforethedebarkationofthetroops,andthecity's
capture,onJuly1.

Figure6:FrontispieceofDescriptiond

el'Egypte(paris,1809)(Source).

Copieswerealsodistributedthroughoutthecity,andonJuly7,theday
NapoleonleftAlexandriaforCairo,heleftexplicitinstructionsthatthe
pressbesetupinthehouseoftheVenetianConsul,whowasexpelled

forthepurpose.
Meanwhile,MarcAurel,theexpedition'sprivateprinter,accompaniedNapoleontoCairo,andsoonbegan
printingthefirstjournalintheArabicspeakingworld,theCourrierdeI'Egypte,apoliticaljournal,published
every10days,inFrench,fortheoccupyingtroops.ThefirstnumberappearedonAugust28,1798.Later
MarcAurelalsobeganprintingthemoreinterestingLaDcadeEgyptienne,aliteraryjournal,untilNapoleon,
dissatisfiedwiththenumberoftypographicalerrorsitcontainedanditspoorstyle,decidedtobringthe
pressesinAlexandriatoCairo,andtoreplacethediscreditedMarcAurelwithMarcel.
ItwasnotuntilOctoberthatthepressesarrivedinCairo.Thedelay,oddlyenough,wascausedbythe
difficultyinhiringenoughcamelstocarryallthecasesoftypeandthepresses.Finally,Marceldecidedto
sendeverythingbyboat,andthepresswassetupinAzbakiyahSquare,inthesamebuildingwhichhoused
theInstitutd'Egypte,theheadquartersofthescientificexpedition.Butitwasstillsometimebeforeprinting
couldbegin.TowardstheendofNovember,wefindNapoleonwritingoncemoretoAlexandria,askingfor
"fortycasesoftype"tobesentontoCairo.Eventually,though,onJanuary14,thepresswasreadyandthe
newImprimerieNationalebegantoturnoutboththeCourrierandtheDcade.
UnderMarcel,LaDcadeEgyptiennepresentedarticlesonart,architecture,antiquitiesandmedicine,as
wellaschroniclingtheculturallifeofEgyptduringtheFrenchoccupation.Themostinterestingarticlesare
thosebyMarcelhimself.Heprintedhisowntranslations,accompaniedbylearnednoteswhichgavehima
chancetoshowoffthevarietyoforientaltypefaceshehadbroughtfromRomeofArabictextsrelatingto

Egyptandotherscholarlytopics.In1799hepublishedasmalleditionofthefablesofLuqman[6]inArabic,
oneofthefewfulllengthArabicbookstobeprintedbytheFrenchexpedition.Anotherwasa
treatiseonsmallpoxbyaFrenchdoctor,whichthecontemporaryEgyptianhistorianalJabartidescribedas
"notbadofitskind."
WhatimpressiondidprintingmakeonintellectualcirclesinEgypt?Itiscommonlyassumedthatthepresses
ofNapoleonwerethefirsteverheardofinEgypt.Thisisnotso.AlJabarti'sdetailedhistoryoftheFrench
invasion,ofwhichhewasaneyewitness,oftenmentionstheprintedannouncementsdistributedbythe
occupyingpower,butheevinceslittlesurpriseattheprocessitself.TheCopticcommunitieshadbeenusing
printedArabicliturgicalworkssentfromRomesince1738,andthereislittledoubtthatIbrahimMuteferrika's
pioneerexperimentwaswellknowninEgypt.
Still,therewasadifferencebetweenknowingofanewprocessandactuallyseeingitinoperation.Anarticle
appearingintheCourrierforFebruary13,1801givessomeinformationofhowprintingstruckeducated
Egyptians:"OfallthethingswhichhaveexcitedtheastonishmentandadmirationoftheinhabitantsofEgypt
sinceourarrivalintheircountry,thethingwhichhasmadethemostimpressionuponthem...wastheartof
printing.Lastyear,theprincipalmembersofthegovernment,amongthemtheShaikhsalMuhdi,al
Fayyumi,alSawiandothers,camemanytimestotheImprimerieNationaleandtheresawwithamixtureof
pleasureandsurprise...thevariousprocessesofprinting,bothinFrenchandinorientallanguages.Shaikh
MuhammadalFasi,whohadalreadyseenprintinginConstantinople,andseveralSyrianswhoknewthe
pressestablishedin...Kisruwan(Choueir)amongthemountainsoftheAntiLebanon,werealsoastonished
atthespeedandprecisionwithwhichtheFrenchprintersworked...ShaikhalBakri,whohadnotyetseen
theImprimerieNationale,cameseveraldaysagotovisittheestablishment.Afterhavingsatisfiedhis
curiosity...heaskedseveralquestionsabouttheartofprinting.Amongotherthings,heaskedifFrancehad
manyprintingpresses,andwhethertheyexistedinotherEuropeancountriesaswell,andifso,inwhich
weretheymostnumerous?Whenhisquestionshadbeenanswered,heaskedifprintingexistedinRussia,
andwasastonishedattheanswerthatthatcountryhadnotbeguntobecomecivilizeduntiltheintroduction
ofprinting.Hethenaskedwhatinfluenceprintinghadonthecivilizationofapeople,andseemedto
understand,andapproveof,theanswerthatwasgivenhim,aboveall:(1)the"easeofmultiplyingmany
copiesofgoodbooks,whichinmanuscriptcouldonlybeknowntoafewand(2)theimpossibilitythatall
thesecopiesshouldbelostordestroyedunderanyconceivablecircumstancesathingwhichcaneasily
happentomanuscripts.HethensaidthatthereexistedagreatnumberofgoodArabicbookswhose
publicationwouldbeinfinitelyusefultothecountry,wheremostpeoplewereunawareofthem,andthathe
sincerelydesiredthattheyreachawideraudiencethroughprinting.Heleftsayingthatallthesciencescame
fromGod,andthatifGodwished,therewasnothingmenundertookthattheycouldnotsucceedin."
Thoseofficials,itturnedout,werenottheonlyEgyptianstoseetheutilityofprinting.Fouryearslaterafter
theFrenchforceshadleftayoungmilitaryofficercametopowerand,realizingtheimportanceof
education,begantoputprintinginEgyptonafirmfoundation.HisnamewasMuhammadAli.
TheBulaqPress
InthehistoryofmodernEgypt,fewmenhavecontributedmorethanMuhammadAli.Ayoungofficerwhen
Napoleoncame,MuhammadAliseizedpowerin1805fouryearsaftertheFrenchlefteliminatedthe
Mamlukaristocracy,assertedhisindependenceofOttomanruleand,perhapsmoreimportant,established
theBulaqPress,asymbolofmodernizationfortheMiddleEast.
Thoughpoorlyeducatedhimself,MuhammadAlisoonsawtheneedformassivereformifEgyptwasto
successfullyopposeboththemightoftheOttomanEmpireandaggressiveEuropeanadventurerslike
Napoleon.HealsorealizedthatthekeytothemodernizationofEgyptlayineducationalongWesternlines,
particularlyinpractical,technicalsubjectslikeshipbuilding,engineering,mathematicsandmedicine,andin

1809hesentthefirstofwhatweretobemanymissionsofEgyptianstudentstoEurope.
Littleisknownofthisfirstmissionexceptthenameofoneofthemenwhowassent'UthmanNuralDin,who
laterbecamethefirstdirectoroftheBulaqPress.'UthmanspentfiveyearsinItaly,mainlyinPisaand
LeghornbothatthetimeruledbytheGrandDukeofTuscanywhoseancestorshaddonesomuchfor
Arabicprintinginthe16thand17thcenturieswentontoParis,andreturnedtoEgyptin1817withhuge
ordersofbooksontechnicalsubjects.
Meanwhile,ithadbecomeobvioustoMuhammadAlithatthesystemofschoolshehadestablishedcould
notfunctionwithoutprintedtextbooks,andin1815hesentNicolasMusabikitoRomeandMilantostudy
typefoundingandprinting.MuhammadAlialsoorderedthreepressesfromMilanalongwiththenecessary
paperandinkfromLeghornandTriesteand,whenMusabikireturned,madehimmanageroftheBulaq
Press,workingunder'UthmanNuralDin.Thepressitself,inthemeantime,hadbeenestablishedintheold
NileportofBulaq,nowasuburbofCairo,andshortlyafterwards,thesecond,andlargest,studentmission
itnumbered44studentshadreturnedfromParis.Thesemen,undertheleadershipofRifa'aBeyRafi'al
Tahtawi,hadstudiedFrenchwithaviewtothetranslationoftechnicalbooksintoArabic.Themostprolificof
thesetranslatorsturnedouttobealTahtawihimself.
AlTahtawihadbeeneducatedatalAzharUniversity,thenandnowthemostprestigiouscenterforthestudy
oftheIslamicsciencesintheMuslimworld.TherewasapparentlynooppositionbytheShaikhsofalAzhar
totheinnovationofprintingwehavealreadyseenhowenthusiasticShaikhalBakrihadbeenaboutthe
ImprimerieNationaleofNapoleon.MuhammadAliattachedseveralprofessorsfromalAzhartotheBulaq
Presstolearntheartofprintingonebecameheadofthefoundry,anotherprinterinchief,andothers
workedascompositorsandproofreaders.
Between1822and1842,thepressatBulaqpublished243titles.Aglanceattheseisthequickestwayof
seeingwheretheinterestsofMuhammadAliandhisreformerslay.Byfarthelargestnumberofbooks48
wereonmilitaryandnavalsubjects.MuhammadAlihadseenboththeFrenchandtheEnglishfleetsin
action,andrealizedhowvulnerableEgyptwastoinvasionfromthesea.Hehadalsonotedhowsuccessful
themodernarmsoftheFrenchhadbeenagainsttheantiquatedweaponsoftheMamluks.
Interestinglythough,thenextlargestcategoryofbookspublishedbytheBulaqPresswaspoetry.Twentysix
worksofpoetryinTurkish,PersianandArabicwerepublishedinthefirst20yearsofthepress'operation
clearlythemenassociatedwiththeBulaqPresswereasinterestedintraditionalIslamicliteratureasthey
wereintranslationsofEuropeanworksonmilitarytactics.Afterpoetrycomesgrammar,with21titles,
mathematicsandmechanics,with16,medicinewith15andveterinarymedicinewith12.Therestofthe
bookspublishedbythepresswereonreligion,botany,agriculture,politicaladministrationandsoforth(see
fig.78).

Figure7:TheEgyptianscholarRafa'aAl
Tahtawywhopublishedseveralbooksinthe
1840sinBulaqPress(Source).

Figure8:ExtractfromthejournalEl
Waqa'eAlMasriyapublishedby
BulaqPress(Source).

In1836MuhammadAliopenedhisfamousSchoolofTranslationintheAzbakiyahquarter,notfarfrom
whereNapoleon'sImprimerieNationalehadbeensetup.ThefollowingyearalTahtawiwasappointed
director,andoverthenext20yearshewroteortranslatedatleast38books,oneverythingfrommining
technologytothehistoryofancientEgypt.ManyofthesewerepublishedbythepressinBulaq.
TheSchoolofTranslationwasfacedwithalmostinsurmountablelinguisiticproblems.Thetranslatorshadto
findArabicequivalentsforwesterntechnologicalterminology,andinmanycasestheirinformantsItalians,
FrenchmenandTurksdidnotspeakArabic.SomebookswerefirsttranslatedfromFrenchintoItalianso
thatanItalianspeakingdoctorcouldhelppreparearoughTurkishtranslationthatcouldthenbeturnedinto
ArabicandrevisedbytheprofessorsfromalAzhar.Undertheseconditions,onecanonlymarvelatthe
productivityofthesepioneersoftheArabiclinguisticrevival.
TheonlybookproducedbytheBulaqPresswhichtellsusanythingofwhatthemenwhotookpartinthe
modernizationofEgyptunderMuhammadAlithoughtandfeltisalTahtawi'sengagingaccountofhisstayin
Paris.Thisismuchmorethanasimpletravelbookittellsusagreatdeal,bothimplicitlyandexplicitly,about
theimpactof19thcenturyEuropeansocietyonatraditionallyeducatedMuslim.AlTahtawiwasenthusiastic
aboutmanyaspectsofFrenchsociety,lesssoaboutothers.Hewasimpressedbyprinting,educationand
publicworks,butfoundmuchtocriticize,particularlyinthesphereofmorals.Helikedtheintellectualferment
ofFrance,andtheopenessofthepeopletonewideas:"TheParisians,"hesays,"aredistinguishedamong
theEuropeansforthesubtletyoftheirintelligence,theirvivacityandthedepthoftheirunderstanding.They
lovetoknowthingsindepth,andareonlyconvincedinargumentbydefiniteproof.Evenordinarypeople
knowhowtoreadandwrite.Theythinkdeeplyaboutthings,andeverymanformshisownideas.They
composebooksonallsubjects,eventhemostmundane,suchascooking,whichmeansthatevencraftsmen
mustknowhowtoreadinordertoacquireacompleteknowledgeoftheircraft.Everycraftsmanseeksto
createsomethingneverthoughtofbeforeortoperfectanother'sinvention...TheParisiansarecurious,and
haveapassionfornovelty.Theylovechangeinallthings,particularlyfashion,whichchangesallthetime."
In1862,theBulaqPresspassedintoprivatehandsandbytheendofthecenturyitsmonopolyofprintingin
Egypthadbeenbrokenasanumberofprivatelyownedpresseswereestablished.Itsimportance,however,
cannotbeexaggerated.TheBulaqPresswasatonceasymbolofmodernizationintheMiddleEastanda
concretesourceofthebookstechnicaltranslationsaswellasfamousclassicsofArabicliteraturethat
spreadliteracy,speededdevelopmentandpavedthewayforthedevelopmentofmodernArabicliterature.
AnAmericanContribution

WhiletheBulaqPresswasbeingfoundedinEgypt,anotherimportantArabicpresswassetupontheisland
ofMaltabyagroupofAmericanProtestants,andthatpress,inturn,spawnedwhatwouldbecomethemost
influentialArabicpressaftertheBulaqPress:theAmericanPressofBeirut.
ThepressinMaltawasinoperationfor20yearsduringwhichitpublishedsome20titles,bothsecularand
religious,includingabookbyAbdAllahZakhir,thefirstArabicprinterintheMiddleEast,andinvolvedaman
calledFarisalShidyaq,laterakeyfigureintherenaissanceofmodernArabicliteratureandthefirst
newspapereditorintheMiddleEast.
In1833EliSmith,theassistantdirectorofthepressinMaltawenttoBeirutandinstalledaprintingpressin
hishomenearBabYa'qub.ThispresstheAmericanPressofBeirutwastobecomeoneofthemost
productiveandimportantArabicpressesintheMiddleEast.UnderthedirectorshipofDr.Corneliusvan
Dyck,whosucceededtothedirectorshipin1857theAmericanPressofBeirutprobablyreachedthewidest
audienceofanyintheMiddleEastbypublishingwritersintheforefrontoftheArabicliteraryrevivallike
IbrahimalYaziji,whoseArabictranslationoftheBiblewonagoldmedalattheParisexpositionof1878.By
1922theAmericanPresshadturnedouttheunbelievabletotalof1,240,000,000printedpagesinArabic,
English,French,Turkish,Armenian,PersianandKurdish.
TheLithographedBook
The19thcenturyalsowitnessedanotherinnovationinprintingtechnologythatgreatlyaffectedArabicbook
productiontheintroductionoflithographyinthe1820's.Becauselithographyallowstheexactduplicationof
handwriting,itwasofparticularimportanceintheMuslimworld,whichwasneververyhappyaboutthelook
ofArabictype.ItisnoaccidentthatitwasinareasoftheMuslimworldwhichdidnothabituallyemploythe
scriptcallednaskhisuchasIndia,NorthAfricaandIranthatlithographywasmostpopularitpermittedthe
reproductionofthevisualnuancesofcalligraphy.
Someofthelithographedbooksproducedinthe19thcenturyareverybeautifulindeed.Theywereoften
writtenoutonthelithographicblockbyfamouscalligraphers,andsomeofthem,withtheirhandcoloredtitle
pagesanddecorativeborders,arealmostindistinguishablefrommanuscripts.Lithographywasthought
particularlysuitableforprintingtheKoran,formanypiousMuslimsfeltthatsincetheKoranwasinevery
sense"scripture"itshouldbewrittenoutbyhand.
InIndiaandIran,whereArabicprintinghadbeenintroducedin1814and1817respectively,thelithographed
bookalmostbecameatraditionalcraft.AbdulHalimSharar,thenotedUrduauthor,haspreservedsome
detailsofearly19thcenturylithographyinhisfascinatingbookLucknow:TheLastPhaseofanOriental
Culture:"Atfirstprintingwasnotundertakenonacommercialbasisbutpurelyasaprivatepursuit.The
finestqualitypaper,highlyappropriateforlithography,wasusedandthebestcalligraphistswereemployed
athighsalaries.Theywereshowngreatfavorwithoutanystipulationsastoworkingconditionsorhowmuch
theywroteinadayorevenwhethertheywroteanythingatall.Inthesamewaytheprinterswerenever
askedhowmanypagestheyhadprintedinaday.Fortheink,thousandsoflampsofmustardoilwere
lightedtoproducefinequalitylampblack.Insteadofacid,fineskinnedlemonswereusedandspongestook
theplaceofcloth.Inshort,onlythefinestmaterialswereemployed.Asaresult,PersianandArabic
educationalandreligiousbooksinthedaysofthemonarchycouldnothavebeenprintedanywhereelsebut
inLucknow,wheretheywereproduced,irrespectiveofcost,fordiscriminatingeyes.Booksprintedatthat
timerepresentafortunetothosewhopossessthem.Peoplesearchforthembutcannotfindthem."
CharminglyillustratedpopularromancesproducedinIranandIndia,wherelithographypracticallyeclipsed
printingafter1824,arecollector'sitemstodayillustrations17,19and20.Anumberofverybeautiful
th

lithographedbookswerealsoproducedinNorthAfricainthelate19thcentury,particularlyinFez.
Today,ofcourse,printingwithmovabletype,ratherthanbythelithographicprocess,hastakenoverinmost
oftheMiddleEast,andcomputerizedtypesettingisabsorbingtheenergiesandtalentsoftypographersand
graphicdesigners.YetthenewtypographersarestillgrapplingwiththesameproblemsthatfacedGranjon,
Zakhir,Muteferrikaandothers:howtomarrythebeautyofcalligraphytotheefficiencyofprinting,aprocess
that,inthehistoryoftheworld,rankswiththealphabetandthecomputerinimportanceandwasavital
factorinthemodernizationoftheMuslimworld.
3.FacingTheFuture
Sincetheinventionofprintinginthe15thcentury,artists,techniciansandtypographershaveconstantly
experimentedwithnewtypedesignstomaketheprintedpageeasierandmoreattractivetoread.But
typographersintheArabworld,despitesimilarefforts,havealwaysfacedmuchmoredifficultproblemsthan
thoseintheWest.
PrintinginaWesternEuropeanlanguage,whichusestheLatinalphabet,involvesapproximately60letter
forms,includingsmallletters,capitalletters,commas,apostrophes,dashesandsoforth.PrintinginArabic,
however,dependingonthetypefaceused,caninvolveupto450formsmorethanseventimesasmany.
ItisnotthattheArabicalphabetcontainsmanymorelettersthandoestheLatinthereare28lettersinthe
Arabicalphabetasopposedto26intheLatin.ButmostlettersoftheArabicalphabethavefourdifferent
forms,dependingupontheirpositioninthewordthatis,whethertheycomeatthebeginning,middle,end
orstandinisolation.This,ofcourse,isaresultofthecursivenatureofArabicscriptmanyofthesame
problemswouldresultfromanattempttoprintaEuropeancursivehand.InArabic,forexample,theletterh,
or"ha",mayappearinanyofthefollowingforms:(seeoriginalcopyforgraphics).
Inpractice,however,somelettershavemorethanfourdifferentforms,dependingontheshapeoftheletter
whichprecedesandfollowsthem.Thelettermforexamplemayappearinasmanyas73differentguises.
Inmostcultures,handwritingdevelopedfromtheprintedformofthelanguage.Arabic,however,hasbeen
cursivefromthebeginningwithonlyafewexceptionsthelettersformingeachwordmustbejoinedtoeach
otherandthereisnosuchthingas"printing"inArabic,fortheletterscannotstandinisolation.Itisthe
printingoftheligatureswhichjointheletters,attachedastheyareatdifferentpoints,thatmakesprinting
Arabicsodifficult.
Gutenberg,whenhesethisfamousBibleinMainzmorethan500yearsago,onlyneededonebasicpieceof
typeforeachletterofthealphabetnotcounting,ofcourse,multipleformsofthesameletterwhilein
1849,whentheAmericanMissionPressinBeirutprintedanArabicBible,nolessthan900characterswere
usedandeventhisnumberwasfelttobeinsufficient.Theclosertheprinterwishestoapproximateelegant
handwriting,withitsvariationsinthesizeandheightoftheletters,themorecharactersheneeds.Thegreat
complaintleveledbyIbrahimMuteferrikaagainsttheproductionsoftheMediciPresswasthattheArabic
typewasineleganthewasreferringtotherestrictednumberofbasicletterformswhichgavethepagea
mechanicallookinconsistentwiththecanonsofArabiccalligraphy.
AslongasprintedtextsinArabicweresetbyhand,compositionwasslowandlaborious,butstillquite
practicable.Oncethetypesetterhadfamiliarizedhimselfwiththephysicalpositionsofthemultiplicityof
charactersonhisworkingtable,hewouldpursuehistaskandeventuallyproduceaframeoftypeforprinting
althoughinamuchlongerperiodoftimethanhisWesterncounterpart.

TherealchallengetoArabicprintingcamewiththeintroductionofmechanicalcompositionthelinotype
machinebywhichtypesetters,atakeyboardsimilartothatofatypewriter,typedoutafullcolumnwidthline
oftypeinmetal.AWesterninventiondesignedtofacilitatetheprintingoftextsinWesternlanguages,
linotypekeyboardswereconstructedtoutilizethenumberofcharactersusedbyWesternprintersand
werethereforenotreadilyadaptableforprintingArabicscript.
Fortunately,however,linotypemachineshadlargerkeyboardsthanthoseofanordinarytypewriter,asthey
weredesignedtoaccommodatetwofontsatthesametime:RomanandItalic,orRomanandBold.This
meantthattherewasroomfortheintegrationofabout120characterswithinthemachine,andaLebanese
immigrantjournalistintheUnitedStates,SalloumMkarzel,noticingthis,wasable,afterWorldWarI,to
composehisArabicdailyAlHudaonalinotypenewspapermachineutilizing122forms.
Inthe1950sthelateKamelMrowa,apublisherinLebanon,reducedMkarzel'sfontto88charactersand
untilitsdemiseduringtherecentcivilwarinLebanon,thedailyAlHayatwasregularlyprintedwithit.Asa
resultofsuchadvances,ArabiclinotypemachineshavedevelopedrapidlyintheArabworldduringthepast
20years.
ButasArabiclinotypemachineswerebeingintroducedintheArabworld,alongwithmonotypesetting,type
settingtechnologyintheUnitedStatesandEuropewaschangingagain.Themostsignificantdevelopment
wasundoubtedlytheintroductionofaprocesswherebythetextissetphotographicallyacomputer
controlledlight,flashingthroughafilmedletter,registersitdirectlyonasheetoffilm,likealensregisteringa
photographonfilm.Thesenewsystemsareatleast10timesfasterthantheoldlinotypeprocesswhich
stampedthelettersinmetal.
InArabicprinting,computerizedtypesettingisdistinctlysuperiortothelinotypesincethecomputers
"matrices"arecapableofaccommodatingasmanyas600letterforms,eventhoughthekeyboardshave
remainedessentiallythesamesizeasthoseoftraditionalcomposing.Moreimportant,filmedtypefacesand
computersciencecanproducethecorrectformofaparticularArabicletter,whosedesignisdeterminedby
theletterswhichprecedeandfollowfreeingthecompositorfromhavingtodecidehimselfwhichformtouse.
Onthesenewmachines,Arabictextscannowbetypesetmorerapidlyandmorecorrectlythaneverbefore.
Inspiteofsuchdramaticinnovations,therearestillproblems.SinceArabicprintingtechniqueshaveuntil
veryrecentlybeenadaptationsofWesterntechnology,littleresearchhasbeendoneintothereadabilityof
variousArabictypefaces.
ThoughArabictypographyhasreflectedchangesofesthetictaste,ascriptpleasingtotheeyeisnot
necessarilythemostreadable.IntheWestconsiderableresearchhasbeenundertakentodesignfontsthat
arebothelegantandeasytoread,butwhetherthesediscoverieshaverelevanceforArabicreadersisnot
yetknown,andmoreresearchisneededtoascertaintheArabicreader'sresponsetothevarietyoftype
faceswithwhichheisdailyconfronted.Arethetypefacesdifficulttoread?Dotheyslowreadingspeeds?Is
thereaseriousestheticloss?
FromthebeginningofArabictypedesignbyRaimondiandGranjonin16thcenturyItaly,typographershave
unanimouslybasedtheirtypefacesonsomeformoftheArabiccalligraphicstylecallednaskhiandmost
stilldo.Butastypefaceshavedeveloped,theyhavetendedtobecomeheavierandlessattractive,andare
nowafarcryfromtheelegantnaskhihandofthecalligraphers,withitsirregularheights,gentlestems,and
delicatecurves.Asaresultnewspaperheadlinesareusuallytheworkofcalligraphersratherthan
typesetters,becausetheuglinessofpresentdaytypestendstobeaccentuatedwhenenlarged.Inmany
modernnewspapers,moreover,awidevarietyofcalligraphicstylesisusedinadditiontothenaskhiform
usedformostofthetext.Arabchildrenlearningtoreadmust,therefore,learntodistinguishbetweena

multiplicityofvariationsintheformsoftheiralphabet.
TheproblemsandchallengesofArabicprintingareofseriousconcerntotypographers,printersand
educatorsthroughouttheArabicspeakingworld.
Recently,seriouseffortsincludingopencompetitionshavebeenmadetoseeknewsolutionstothe
problemsofArabictypedesign.Anyonewhoisabletodesignasimplified,elegantstandardizedtypeface,
whichcompositorscanusequicklyandeffectively,andreadersreadilyunderstand,willmakeasignificant
contributiontotheartoftypography.
4.AMissingLink
Inthelate19thcentury,amidacollectionofpapyrusandpaperdocumentsfoundintheFayyumoasisin
Egypt,ascholarnamedKarabacekmadeanastonishingdiscovery:fragmentsofblockprintedArabictexts.
AlongwithothersthathavecometolightinEuropeanandAmericanlibrariessubsequentlythesetexts
shouldhaverevolutionizedtheoriesaboutthedevelopmentofprinting.Butthediscoveryhasneverbeen
publicizedandonlyrarelydiscussed,outsideasmallcircleofspecialists.
Theearliestofthesetextsmaydatebacktothe10thcenturysomeareprintedintwocolors,andallshowa
widevarietyofcalligraphicstyles:fromanarchaiclookingKufictoanelegantnaskhi.Oneexampleisprinted
onalinenenvelopewhileanothercontainsthefirstsixversesofthe34thSuraoftheKoran.
Buttheirsignificanceliesinthefactthatthefragmentsareprintedineffectthediscoverychallengesthe
longheldWesternbeliefthattheIslamicworldblockedthetransmissionofprintingfromtheFarEastto
Europe.IndeedtheFayyumfragmentssuggestjustthereverseinsteadofbarringthetransmissionof
printingprocesses,theIslamicworldmighthavebeenthemeansbywhichthoseprocessesdidgetto
Europe.
Printingistraditionallyattributedtotheinvention,byanobscureGermannamedGutenberg,ofamethodof
printingbookswithmovabletypeandthepublication,in1454,oftheTurkenkalender,apamphletwarning
EuropeanleadersofthegrowingpoweroftheOttomanEmpire.Itwaspublishedoneyearafterthearmies
ofMehmettheConquerorbreachedthewallsofConstantinopleandoneyearbeforeGutenbergprintedhis
famousBible.
Actually,theartofprintinggoesbacklongbeforeGutenbergtoChina,wherepaperwasdevelopedinthe
secondcentury,andtoJapan,whereanoilbasedinkwasfirstproducedinthefifthcentury.Vitaltotheart
ofprinting,thedevelopmentofpaperandinkenabledtheEmpressShotokuofJapantoproducethefirst
printedworkknowninhistory:amillioncopiesofBuddhistprayers,producedonsinglesheetsbythe
processofblockprintingbetweenA.D.764and777.
Blockprintingtheantecedentofmovabletype,linotypeandthewordprocessorusedwoodenblockson
whichthetexttobereproducedwascarvedinrelief,inkedandtransferredbypressuretoasheetofpaper.
ItisvirtuallycertainthatthisprocesswasknowntotheChineseevenearlier.Inanycase,theChinesecan
claimthefirstknownprintedbookinhistory:aneditionoftheBuddhistwork,TheDiamondSutra.DatedMay
11,868,thisbook,liketheprayersoftheEmpressShotoku,wasblockprinted,amethodsosuccessfulfor
printingChinesecharactersthatin932aChinesegovernmentofficial,FongTao,sponsoredablockprinted
editionof300oftheclassicsofChineseliterature.TheChinese,furthermore,havingseentheadvantagesof
woodblockprinting,begantoexperimentwithstillothermethodsofbookproduction,andinthe11thcentury
amannamedPiShenginventedmovabletype400yearsbeforeGutenberg.PiSheng'scharacterswere

madeofclayandsetinamatrixwhichcouldbemeltedsothatthetypecouldbereused.Bythemiddleof
the13thcentury,printingwithmovabletypewasalsobeingdoneinKorea,andin1313theKoreanruler
WangChenorderedatypefontcontaining60,000characters,eachasinglecharacterinwood.Theearliest
extantbookprintedwithmovabletypeisKoreanandbearsthedate1361.Thesebreakthroughs,however,
werenotthedirectantecedentsofGutenberg'sinvention.
Infact,blockprinting,theprecursorofboththeChineseandtheGermansystemsofmovabletype,entered
EuropeonlyshortlybeforethetimeofGutenberg.Tohistorians,thishasalwaysposedaproblem.Why
didn'ttheIslamicworldtransmitthetechniqueofblockprintingtotheWest?Thoughapoliticalbarrier
betweentheFarEastandEurope,Islam,afterall,hadpreservedandtransmittedthemathematics,the
scienceandthephilosophyoftheancientGreekstotheWest,aswellastheprocessofmakingpaper.Why
thendidIslamnottransmitsuchaneminentlyusefultechniqueasblockprinting?
OnetheorywasthatbecausethereproductionofimageswasforbiddeninIslam,printingwasneveradopted
inMuslimlands,andwasthereforenotpassedontotheWest.Butthistheoryignoresseveralpoints.
Muslims,forexample,acceptedtheuseofsealswhicharebasedonthesameprincipleasblockprinting,
and,liketheChinese,stampedtheirsealsofownershiponletters,documentsandonthefirstandlastpages
oftheirbooks.TheProphethimselfhadasealringwhichborethelegend"Muhammad,MessengerofGod."
Thesameargumentappliestotheprocessofcoining.Apunchordieisusedtoreproduceidenticalcopies
ofadesign,oftenincorporatingareligioustext,andMuslimrulerssinceearlyUmayyadtimeshadissued
coinage.Whythen,sincetheprinciplesarethesame,wouldtheMuslimsacceptsealsandcoinage,but
rejectblockprinting?
Furthermore,thereisnoprohibitionagainstimagesintheKoran,andthoughsomeMuslimsopposedfigural
artinsomeplacesatcertainperiods,theygenerallyobjectedonlyto3dimensionalsculpture.Muslimsofthe
early14thcenturywereperfectlyacquaintedwithChineseprinting,asthefamoushistorianandstatesman
RashidalDin,viziertoGhazanKhan,theMongolrulerofIran,madeclearinthefirstvolumeofhisworld
historyin1307[7].TheChinese,hesaid,
...makecopiesofbooksinsuchawaythatnoalterationscancreepintothetext.Whentheywantanybook
containingimportantmaterialtobewellwrittenandcorrect,authenticandunaltered,theyorderaskillful
calligraphertocopyapageofthatbookonatabletinafairhand.Skilledengraversarethenorderedtocut
outtheletters.Whentheyhavethustakenacopyofallthepagesofthebook,numberingalltheblocks
consecutivelytheyplacetheminsealedbags,likethediesinamint,andentrustthemtoreliablepersons
keepingthemsecurelyinofficesspeciallydevotedtothis.Whenanyonewantsacopyofthisbookhegoes
beforeacommitteeandpaystheduesandchargesfixedbythegovernment.Theythenbringoutthe
tablets,stampthemonsheetsofpaperlikethediesusedincoininggold,anddeliverthesheetstohim...
Inhishistory,RashidalDinalsogaveanexampleofprintinginIranitself.In1294,Ghaikhatu,theMongol
rulerofIran,issuedblockprintedpapermoney,bearinginscriptionsinbothArabicandMongolian.Asit
turnedout,issuingpapermoneyproveddisastrous:themerchantsdistrustedit,thearmyrefusedtoacceptit
andriotsbrokeout.Nevertheless,theexperimentshowsthatwoodblockprintingwasknownintheMuslim
worldinthelate13thcenturyalmostacenturybeforeitreachedEurope.Finally,thereisthediscoveryof
blockprintedtextsintheFayyumoasiswhichsuggeststhattheMuslimworldwasabletomakeblockprints
asearlyasthe10thcenturynotverylongafterthefirstknownblockprintedbooksfromChina.
Theimportanceofthisdiscoverythoughoverlookeduntilnowshouldnotbeminimized.Quitesimply,it
destroysthelongheldWesterntheorythattheIslamicprohibitionagainstimagespreventedMuslimsfrom
eitheradoptingblockprintingortransmittingittoEuropeastheydidotherdiscoveriessuchaspaper.

Tothecontrary,theMuslimsmayhaveprovidedtheroutebywhichblockprintingdidgettoEurope.Thereis
anoldstoryaboutanItalianbrotherandsisterwhoproducedablockprintededitionoftheRomanceof
AlexandertheGreatinItalyinthe13thcentury,followingaprocessimportedfromEgyptinthelightofthe
Fayyumdiscovery,itdeservestobereexamined.
TheFayyumtexts,itistrue,containnocompletebooks.Whatsurvivearesinglesheetsofpaper,parchment
and,inonecase,linen.Buttheearliestofthemmaydatetotheearly10thcenturyjustaboutthetimeFong
TaowasproducinghiseditionoftheChineseclassicsandthelatestdatesbackto1350,afewyears
beforethefirstEuropeanblockprint.Thefragments,moreover,areattractivelydesignedandlaidout,and
makeuseoftwocolorprinting,redandblack.ThescriptscoverthewholerangeofArabiccalligraphy,from
anarchaicKufictoanelegantnaskhisuggestingthatArabicprintinginEgyptwastheproductoflong
evolutionandmusthaveemployedanumberofcraftsmen.
Admittedly,theinferencetobedrawnfromthesefindsishardtoaccept:thatthehistoryofprintinghasbeen
substantiallywrongforcenturies.Arabicliterature,afterall,containsnoreferencestoArabprinting.Onthe
otherhand,theblockprintsfromEgyptprovideirrefutableevidencethattheIslamicworldpossessedthe
techniqueofblockprintingbeforeEurope.Theseblockprintsare,ineffect,themissinglinkintheevolution
ofprinting.
5.OnPaper
CarolineStone
Withoutpaper,orsomethinglikeit,andwithoutink,printingwouldbevirtuallyimpossibleandcertainly
impractical.Indeed,light,cheapmaterialstowhichinkcouldeasilybeapplied,andaninkthatcouldbe
applied,wereasimportantinthehistoryofprintingasweremovabletypeandtheprintingpress.
Inasense,inkgoesbacktotheprehistoricmenwhofirstpaintedonthewallsoftheircaveswithochre,and
totheirdescendantswhouseddyesfromplantsandsepiasubstancesfromsquid,cuttlefishandoctopi.But
realinkwasnotdevelopeduntiltheChineseandtheEgyptians,havingdevelopedformsofwriting,beganto
searchforasubstancewithwhichtowriteandatsomepointdiscoveredsoot.
Untilthen,sootwasjustanuisance.Butscrapedoffcookingvesselsandmixedwithglueorgumsuchas
gumarabicitproduceddrymoldedstickswhichscribesthenmixedwithwatertocreatewhatiscalled
carbonink,IndiainkorChineseink.
Carbonink,probablytheearliestwritinginkdeveloped,isstillusedtoday,butoverthecenturiesmanalso
developedsubstitutes.DuringtheMiddleAges,forexample,inkinEuropewasmadewithsolubleironsalt.It
waseasiertoprepareandcouldnotbeerased,but,sinceitcontainedsulfuricacid,ultimatelydestroyedthe
materialonwhichitwasapplied.
AnotherinkwascalledenkaustonwhichwasusedbyByzantineemperorstosigntheirnamesandfrom
whichcomesourword"ink."Variouscoloredjuices,extractsandsuspensionsofsubstancesfromplants,
animalsandmineralshavealsobeenusedforinksincludingindigo,alizarin,pokeberries,cochinealand
sepia.ThereisevenarecipeforgoldinkinafourthcenturypapyrusnowinLeideninTheNetherlands.
Withtheadventofprinting,itbecameclearthatanoilbasedinkwasvitalandtheGermans,bymixing
varnishorboiledlinseedoilwithcarbonlampblack,developedsuchanink.Itwassosuccessfulthatformore
than300yearsitcontinuedinusewithlittlemodification.Later,varnishesofvaryingstiffnesswere
developedfordifferentpapersandpresses,butitwasnotuntilthe20thcenturythatinkmakingbecamea

complicatedchemicalindustrialprocess.
Paperisperhapsmoreimportantthanink,butitsoriginsarelessancient.Aboutthethirdmillennium,the
ancientEgyptianswentdowntothebanksoftheNileanddiscoveredanuncommonuseforacommonwild
reedgrowingthere.Thereed,ofcourse,waspapyrusandwhattheEgyptiansdiscoveredwasthatthey
couldcutpapyrus,extractitspith,anddampenandpressitintosheetsorlongrolls.Itwasthefirst"paper."
Theword"paper,"infact,isderivedfrom"papyrus"whiletheGreekwordkhartes,whichdenotesthe
papyrusleaf,became,inLatin,charta,meaningparchment,fromwhichcomesthemodernEnglishwords
"chart,""card,""charter"andtheArabicwordforbothparchmentandpaperqirtas.
Thefirstrealpaper,however,asdistinguishedfrompapyrus,wasinventedbytheChinese,aboutA.D.105.
Itwasmadefromtreebark,hempragsand,onefifthcenturyhistoryoftheHanDynastyclaims,fishnets.
TheuseofthenewdiscoveryspreadquicklythroughChina.Within30yearsofitsannouncementtothe
ChineseEmperorinA.D.105aChinesecouldwrite:"IsendyoutheworksofthephilosopherHsuin10
scrollsunabletoaffordacopyinsilk,Iamobligedtosendyouoneonpaper."
PapergraduallymovedwestfromChinaasnewtechniquesincreasedproductionandopenedthewayfor
differentandfinervarieties.Bythefifthandsixthcenturies,themanufactureofpaperhadspreadintocentral
AsiaaregionwhichwasthenwithintheChinesesphereofinfluenceandbytheseventhcenturypaper
wasbeingproducedatSamarkand.Then,afterthedeathoftheProphetMuhammadintheyear632,the
nascentIslamicempirespreadtowardcentralAsia,where,afterthedefeatofaChinesemilitaryforcebythe
TalasRiverin751,thesecretofmakingpaperwasdiscoveredbytheMuslims.The11thcenturyArabwriter,
alTha'alabi,saysthatpaperwasbroughttoSamarkandbyChineseprisoners,someofwhomwerepaper
makers.Theprisoners,alTha'alabiwrote,beganthemanufactureofthenewwritingmaterialinSamarkand
and"thusit(paper)cametoministertotheneedsandwellbeingofallmankind..."
ArabchroniclerssaythatthepaperintroducedintoSamarkandwasmadefrom"grassesandplants"
possiblybecause,althoughtheChinesecouldmakeragpaper,rawmaterialssuchaspapermulberry,
laurel,bambooandChinesegrasswerecheaperandmoreplentiful.TheArabs,ontheotherhand,
ultimatelyfavoredragpapermadefromhempandlinenprobablybecausetherawmaterialsusedbythe
ChinesewerenotreadilyavailablefarfromChina.
ItisuncertainwheretheArabsthemselvesfirstmadepaper.OneArabhistoriansaysthatthefirstArabto
useitforwritingwastheCaliph'UmaratMecca,andtraditionallytheBarmakidfamily,someofwhomwere
viziersandscribesundertheeighthcenturyAbbasidcaliphs,getcreditforintroducingtheuseofpaperto
Baghdad.ButhistoriansalsoknowthatDamascuswasamajorproductioncenter,andfactoriesthere
producedmuchofthepaperboughtbyEuropeuntilthe13thor14thcenturies.
Onething,though,isindisputable:theuseofpaperspreadquicklythroughtheIslamicworld.Thenewand
vibrantcivilizationstimulatedlearningandthegrowthofgovernmentalbureaucracyandthedemandfor
cheap,abundantwritingmaterialsgrewaccordingly.PapermetthosedemandsandbyA.D.1000,papyrus
productionhadalmostceased.
Paper,however,wasnotimmediatelyacceptedforalluses.Foralongtime,copiesoftheKoranandother
religiousworkswerecopiedonvellumorparchmentpartlyforreasonsoftraditionandpartlybecause
theseproductsweremoredurable.AndinNorthAfrica,parchmentcontinuedtobethemediumforordinary
lettersuntilthemiddleofthe11thcentury.
AsfortheragpaperproducedbytheArabs,adoctor,originallyfromBaghdad,wroteratherdisapprovingly
th

aboutonesourceofragsinthe12thcentury:"TheBedouinandfellahsearchtheancientcitiesofthedead
(inEgypt)torecovertheclothbandsinwhichthemummiesarebound,andwhenthesecannotbeusedfor
clothes,theysellthemtothefactorieswhichmakeofthempaperdestinedforthefoodmarkets."
Surprisingly,cottondoesnotseemtohavebeenusedinthemanufactureofpaperuntilaftertheindustry
hadreachedEurope,althoughcottonwasanimportantarticleoftradeintheMiddleEastlongbeforeEurope
haditsownpaperindustry.
Duringthe11thand12thcenturies,SyriawasthemajorArabpaperproducingregion.Factoriesturnedout
paperproductsinTripoli,Tyre,Tiberias,Hamaand,ofcourse,Damascus.An11thcenturyPersiantraveler
wroteofTripoli:"Theymakegoodpaperhere,likethatofSamarkand,butoffinerquality."FromSyria,paper
makingspreadtoEgyptwherethenascentindustrymaywellhavesupportedthosepeopleputoutofwork
bythedecliningpapyrusindustryandfromEgyptpapermanufacturingspreadacrossNorthAfricato
Morocco,whereFezbecamethemaincenterofproduction.
Oneanecdote,fromtheyear1145,showshowabundantpaperwasinFez.WhenAbdalMu'minofthe
Almohadsastrict,reformistIslamicsecttookthecity,theresidentsfearedthattheconquerorswould
destroythelovelycarvedarabesques,adornedwithgoldandpaint,whichdecoratedoneofthemosques.
Sotheycoveredtheentireinteriorwithsheetsofwhitepaperuntilthewallsappearedperfectlyplainand
attractednoundueattention.Therusewassuccessful.
FromNorthAfrica,papermakingultimatelyreachedSpainandby1150alIdrisicouldwriteofthecityof
Xativa:"Paperisfoundtheresuchascannotbefoundanywhereinthecivilizedworld,andissenttotheEast
andtheWest."ThiswasthebeginningoftheexportofpapertotheMiddleEast,whereSpanishpaperwas
particularlyprizedforcopyingbooksbecauseofitsfinequalityanddurability.Butthefirstpaperdocument
fromChristianEuropeisSicilian,probablybecauseSicilywasforseveralcenturiesunderMuslimdomination
andhadcontinuingcontactswiththeArabworld(seeAramcoWorld,NovemberDecember1970).This
documentisadeedofKingRoger,dated1109andwritteninArabicandLatin.Thefirstmanuscriptonpaper
datesfrom1154andisstillpreservedinthearchivesatGenoa.
InEuropetherewasaninitialresistancetotheuseofpaper.TheEmperorFrederickII,forexample,forbade
itsuseforpublicdocumentsin1221.Butpapercaughtonanyway,andin1157apaperfactorywas
establishedatVidalonontheFrenchsideofthePyrenees.Significantly,itsfounder,JeanMontgolfier,had
learnedhowtomakepaperwhilehewasaprisoneroftheMuslimsinDamascus.InItaly,thefirstpaper
factorydidnotcomeonstreamuntilmorethanacenturylater:in1276.Butitwasnotuntilthe14thcentury
thatItalyoutstrippedSyriaandNorthAfricaasEurope'smainsourceofsupplyforpaper.
DuringtheMiddleAgespapermakingbecameoneofthefewlargescaleindustriesasconsumptionsoared
anditbecameuneconomicaltoproduceitinsmallworkshops.AletterwrittenfromLebanoninthe
11thcentury,forexample,mentions28camelloadsabout14,000poundsofDamascuspaperbeingsent
toEgyptasasingleorder.Historianssaythatofthe600millsturningoutvariousgoodsinFezinthe
13thcentury,400ofthemwereprocessingpaper.
Theprimaryuseofpaper,ofcourse,wasasamaterialonwhichtowrite,butasearlyastheninthcentury,
ArabmerchantsinChinahadseenpapertowelsandeventoiletpaperandinmedievaltimesitwasalso
usedforpackaging.Giventherelativelyprimitivemeansoftransportinggoodsinmedievaltimes,thiswas
important.Tradersusedpaper,forexample,toprotectdelicategoods,suchassilkandcoralnecklaces,and
inthe10thcenturyIraqiconfectionerydealerswrappedsweetsinpaper.An11thcenturywriteralsomentions
citrusfruitprobablyorangeswrappedinpaper,andaPersiantravelerinCairo,aboutthesametime,
wrote:"Inthebazaarthegrocers,thepharmaciesanddrygoodsstoresprovidetheglassbottles,chinajars
andpaperneededtoholdorwrapwhattheysell.Thus,thebuyerdoesnothavetoworryaboutcontainers
forhispurchases."

TheadventofpaperintheMuslimworldalsocoincidedwithagreatexpansioninbankingtechniques.New
andcomplicatedfinancialtransactionscouldnothavebeencarriedoutwithoutpaper.
Anotheruseofpaperwasinitiatedin1294bytheMongolgovernorofKhorasanhetriedtointroducepaper
moneyinTabriz,thecapital(SeeAramcoWorldNovemberDecember1980).Governmentofficialsproduced
notesprintedinArabicandMongolian,setupanetworkofcentersfortheirdistributionand,inanArabic
inscriptiononthenotes,gavethedate,warnedoffforgersandpromisedthat"whenthesenotesareputinto
circulation,povertywouldvanish,provisionswouldbecomecheapandrichandpoorwouldbeequal."
Itwasaninterestingidea,butitdidn'tworktwoorthreedaysafterthenoteshitthebazaars,thepeopleof
Tabrizwereinrevolt.
EndNotes
[1]SeeAramcoWorld,JanuaryFebruary1980.
[2]SeeAramcoWorld,JulyAugust1977.
[3]SeeAramcoWorld,JulyAugust1977.
[4]SeeAramcoWorld,JanuaryFebruary1980.
[5]SeeAramcoWorldMarchApril1976.
[6]SeeAramcoWorld,MarchApril1974.
[7]AramcoWorld,JanuaryFebruary1981.
*SaudiAramcoWorldispublishedbySaudiAramco,theoilcompanybornasaninternationalenterprise75
yearsago.Thebimonthlymagazineaimstoincreasecrossculturalunderstandingandtobroaden
knowledgeofthecultures,historyandgeographyoftheArabandMuslimworldsandtheirconnectionswith
theWest.Fromitslaunchin1949untiltheMay/June2000issue,themagazine'snamewasAramcoWorld.
TheJuly/August2000issuewasthefirsttocarrythenameSaudiAramcoWorld.Themagazineis
publishedinHouston,TexasbyAramcoServicesCompany,asubsidiaryofSaudiAramco.Itispublishedin
printandontheInternet.Thewebsiteofthemagazineis:http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com.
**PaulLunde,anAramcoWorldstaffwriter,researchedthisspecialsectionattheVaticanLibrary,where,
untilmovingtoLondon,hewasengagedinstudyingArabicmanuscripts.