Maggs Bros Ltd

Al Masalek Wal Mamalek.

ISTAKHRY (1961.)

£1000.00  [First Edition]

Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.

First Edition. Arabic text (with an Arabic and an English language title-page). Illustrated with 21 black and white half-tone maps (1 folding). 4to. Half calf over paper covered boards, gilt tiling to spine, binding mildly rubbed. Original wrappers bound in, interior in near fine condition. 214, [ii] pp. The United Arab Republic, Ministry of Culture and National Guidance, General Culture Administration, Cairo,

Al-Istakhri (or, Estakhri), was a Persian medieval geographer who lived and worked in the 10th Century. This 20th century printing of Al Masalek wal Mamalek (‘Traditions of Countries’), edited by Muh. G. Abd el Aal el Hini, contains twenty-one of al-Istakhri’s remarkable maps, reproduced photographically in black and white.

In his study of the Arab geographers of the middle ages, the French orientalist Regis Blanchere noted that a number works (including that by al-Istakhri) bore the title of ‘Kitab al-Masalik wa ’l-mamalik’ (translated by Blanchere to ‘Routes and Kingdoms’) and shared certain characteristics. He saw that the geographers who produced the works all lived at around the same time (in the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries) and displayed a similar tendency toward a change of form in their creations.

The shift is nicely described by Bosworth in volume 6 of The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill pp.639-640): ‘Regarding the form given to these works, these authors … do not follow the division of the world into climates, but distinguish large regions, roughly corresponding to the mamalik, within which they describe the routes that they traverse, their localities and the men who live there’.

This change led to a new focus: on introducing first-hand research and documentation to the picture of the world they had already gained from studying previous works (most of which were partly based on Greek science and, in particular, Ptolemy). In doing so, the geographers built a description of contemporary life into their works, a development that led the eminent French arabist Andre Miquel to devote a chapter in La geographie humaine du monde musulman (1967) to the genre, titled ‘advent of human geography’.

OCLC locates only four holdings worldwide, at Brown University, the University of Melbourne, the National Library of Australia and the National Library of Israel (although the description for this last copy gives the number of pages at 124, instead of 214).

Stock Code: 217549