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EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.
EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.
EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.
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EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.
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EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.

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EUCLID (fl. 300 BC). Elementa geometria, in Arabic. Recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Rome: Typographia Medicea, 1594.

The first Arabic edition of Euclid, printed by the Typographia Medicea—a very rare copy in a contemporary presentation binding for an Ottoman owner. Euclid's book has been a standard for over two millennia, and “exercised an influence upon the human mind greater than that of any other work except the Bible” (DSB). This Arabic edition reproduces the recension of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, himself an important mathematical innovator. It is perhaps appropriate that this first Arabic edition was printed in Europe, as Euclid was first re-introduced to medieval Europe through Adelard of Bath’s Latin translation of an Arabic manuscript of the Elements—a testament to the enduring importance of intellectual exchange between Europe and the Islamic world.

The present copy, in a presentation binding made for the Albanian pasha Mehmet Issuf, is a rare survival demonstrating the non-European reach of the Typographia Medicea. Established in Rome by Ferdinando de’ Medici under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII, the press was devoted to Eastern languages and overseen by mathematician Giovanni Battista Raimondi as the chief printer. Although one of the stated objectives of the press was to counteract the spread of reformation ideas in the Ottoman Empire, four of the first six books produced by the press—including this work—were scientific treatises, and the print run of this Euclid was twice that of their Arabic Bible. It may have been the intention to support the press by selling these practical texts both at home and abroad—the Arabic Euclid was sold at the Frankfurt bookfair, while other copies (including this one) have on the final leaf the text of a Sultan Murad III’s ferman allowing the import of European books with Arabic types (the first appearance of Ottoman Turkish in print). This marketing scheme was ultimately a failure, with the press collapsing after the death of Raimondi, but its remarkable products played an important part in the dissemination of knowledge and had an ongoing influence on Arabic book design. There were two issues of the Arabic Euclid, one with only 12 chapters and 400 pages and another (as here) with the full 13 chapters and 454 pages; some copies contain English title pages. This is the only copy with Ottoman provenance to ever appear at auction, according to RBH and ABPC. Adams E-990; Brunet II: 1087; Honeyman 1015; Mortimer Italian 175; Thomas-Stanford 46a. See Zsuzsa Barbarics-Hermanik, “European Books for the Ottoman Market,” in Specialist Markets in the Early Modern Book World.

Folio (320 x 200mm). Arabic type in 2 sizes by Robert Granjon. Arabic title page, diagrams and mathematical figures throughout, all pages within double-rule border, woodcut headpieces (repaired closed tear to title, a few wormholes affecting text). Contemporary calf presentation binding, paneled in gilt with crescent moon ornament, Arabic fore-edge inscription (gilt inscription flaking with some restoration, expertly rebacked with the original spine). Provenance: Mehmet Issuf (presentation binding) – Muhammad ?Ubaydullah (stamp on title) – Muftizadeh Muhammad Sa?id (stamp on title) – Sa?id Muhammad Rushdi b. sayyid Muhammad Shakir (stamp on title, dated 1275 [1858/1859]).




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