The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair presents a 15th century European book this year, known as the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Experts hail it as the most visually stunning book of the European Renaissance. What adds to its uniqueness is the presence of the earliest printed Arabic words ever found within its pages. The book emerged within the first 100 years of printing’s invention and possesses not only aesthetic allure but also significant historical value. It acknowledges Arabic as one of the four sacred languages, alongside Greek, Roman, and Hebrew. Middle Eastern museums would consider it a highly esteemed acquisition due to its historical and cultural importance.
Another remarkable discovery awaits visitors at the fair: the first ever Arabic dictionary printed in the Arab world. Jean Joseph Marcel’s Vocabulaire francais-arabe, published in Cairo in 1798, served as a valuable aid to Napoleon’s efforts. This exceedingly rare masterpiece carries a price tag of £37,500.
Additionally, the fair showcases the initial editions of two vital grammars by Thomas Erpenius, instrumental in shaping the study of Arabic in the Western world. These invaluable books, priced at £9,750, played a crucial role in advancing Arabic linguistic knowledge.