Detail map of Venezia, Veneto, Italy,Al Qanawat, Damascus, Damascus Governorate, Syria,Fano, Marche, Italy

A: Venezia, Veneto, Italy, B: Al Qanawat, Damascus, Damascus Governorate, Syria, C: Fano, Marche, Italy

Gregorio de Gregorii Issues the First Book Printed in Arabic by Movable Type

1514 to 1517

Between 1514 and 1517 printer Gregorio de Gregorii, a Venetian, published from Fano, Italy, a Book of Hours entitled Kitab Salat al-Sawai, intended for distribution among the Christians of the Middle East, perhaps for export to the Melkite Christian communities of Syria. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, this was the first book printed in Arabic by movable type.

"The notes printed at the end of the work give us information about the printer, the location where it was printed and the year it was printed. The fact that the well-known Venetian printer, de Gergorij, had this book published not in Venice but in Fano may probably be explained by the fact that he wished to avoid the privileges that were in force in Venice relating to the printing of books in Oriental type. Only some of the at least ten surviving copies (for example the one housed in the Nuremberg Municipal Library) show a title page. It gives the Arabic title in red letters. Nine of the total of 240 pages of have noteworthy decorations in the form of edgings, which show a vareity of basic type faces, including three floral embellishments and flourth kind with a combination of birds and flower patterns" (Lehrstuhl für Türishche Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur, Universität Bamberg, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims [2001] no. 1).

Philip K. Hitti, "The First Book Printed in Arabic," The Princeton University Library Chronicle 4, no. 1 (November, 1942).

Miroslav Krek, "The Enigma of the First Arabic Book Printed from Movable Type," J. Near East. Stud., no. 3 (1979) 203-212. 

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