The Pearl-strings: A History of the Resúliyy Dynasty of Yemen, Volume 3, Part 2


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E. J. Brill
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Dec 31, 1907
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A Literary History of the Arabs, published by T. Fisher Unwin in 1907 and twice re-issued without alteration, now appears under new auspices, and I wish to thank the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press for the opportunity they have given me of making it in some respects more accurate and useful than it has hitherto been. Since the present edition is printed from the original plates, there could be no question of revising the book throughout and recasting it where necessary; but while only a few pages have been rewritten, the Bibliography has been brought up to date and I have removed several mistakes from the text and corrected others in an appendix which includes a certain amount of supplementary matter. As stated in the preface to the first edition, I hoped "to compile a work which should serve as a general introduction to the subject, and which should be neither too popular for students nor too scientific for ordinary readers. It has been my chief aim to sketch in broad outlines what the Arabs thought, and to indicate as far as possible the influences which moulded their thought.... Experience has convinced me that young students of Arabic, to whom this volume is principally addressed, often find difficulty in understanding what they read, since they are not in touch with the political, intellectual, and religious notions which are presented to them. The pages of almost every Arabic book abound in allusions to names, events, movements, and ideas of which Moslems require no explanation, but which puzzle the Western reader unless he have some general knowledge of Arabian history in the widest meaning of the word. Such a survey is not to be found, I believe, in any single European book; and if mine supply the want, however partially and inadequately, I shall feel that my labour has been amply rewarded.... As regards the choice of topics, I agree with the author of a famous anthology who declares that it is harder to select than compose (ikhtiyáru ’l-kalám aṣ‘abu min ta’lífihi). Perhaps an epitomist may be excused for not doing equal justice all round. To me the literary side of the subject appeals more than the historical, and I have followed my bent without hesitation; for in order to interest others a writer must first be interested himself.... Considering the importance of Arabic poetry as, in the main, a true mirror of Arabian life, I do not think the space devoted to it is excessive. Other branches of literature could not receive the same attention. Many an eminent writer has been dismissed in a few lines, many well-known names have been passed over. But, as before said, this work is a sketch of ideas in their historical environment rather than a record of authors, books, and dates. The exact transliteration of Arabic words, though superfluous for scholars and for persons entirely ignorant of the language, is an almost indispensable aid to the class of readers whom I have especially in view.
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