Medici Oriental Press, Rome 1584-1614
Advisor: Maurits van den Boogert
The Art of Printing
The press was founded by Cardinal Ferdinando I de’ Medici (1549-1609), who later became Grand Duke of Tuscany. Politically he supported several military campaigns against the Ottomans and the Barbary principalities, but at the same time he established a press that would have a significant impact on the study of Islam in the West. His considerable financial investments were used to employ an outstanding type-cutter, who manufactured moveable metal type, the superb technical skill of which continues to impress today. The cursive Arabic script reproduced in the works of the Medici Press bettered all previous attempts in Europe, and would remain unsurpassed long after the press had closed.
West meets East
The press was not only an intellectual enterprise, it was also a commercial one. Raimondi clearly hoped to sell his books in the East, rather than the West, because the selection of the works he produced showed little consideration with the type of material European scholars in this period needed. While the works failed to sell in the Ottoman Empire, however, they did significantly stimulate the study of the Middle East in Europe.
Ferdinando de’ Medici had ordered Raimondi to print ‘all available Arabic books on permissible human sciences which had no religious content in order to introduce the art of printing to the Mohamedan community.’ Only more than a century after the Medici Press in Rome had closed, did it finally have the envisaged impact in the Levant; Ibrahim Müteferrika, the first Muslim printer, referring to it in his plea to the sultan to allow him to open his own printing house at Istanbul, which happened in 1729.
IDC Publishers now brings together the publications of the Medici Press, the limited number of which is outweighed by their importance for the study of Middle Eastern science and literature; the study of the Muslim world in the West; and book history, both European and Middle Eastern.
The collection contains:
• 1590/91 - The Gospels in two versions (Arabic only, and Arabic and Latin)
• 1592 - Ibn al-Hājib’s (d. 1249) al-Kāfiyya, a tract on Arabic grammar
• 1592 - Al-Muqaddima al-ājurrūmiyya by the Moroccan scholar, Ibn Ājurrūm
• 1592 - The Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi dhikr al-amsār, an anonymous abridgement of the Geography composed by al-Idrīsī (1099-1166), who is known in the West as Dreses
• 1592 - Alphabetum Arabicum, a Latin introduction to the Arabic alphabet
• 1592/94 - A Missal in Syriac and Karshūnī
• 1593 - Two works by the famous Avicenna (Ibn Sīna), Al-Qānūn fi al-tibb, known in Europe as the Canon, and his philosophical work, Kitāb al-Najāt
• 1594 - Euclid’s Elements (Tahrīr usūl li-Uqlidas) in an Arabic recension attributed to Nāsir al-Din al-Tūsī (1201-1274), the Persian philosopher, scientist and mathematician
• 1595 - The Jesuit scholar, Giambattista Eliano’s I‘tiqād al-amānah al-urtūdūksiyyah (the Tenets of the Orthodox Religion) produced for Eastern Christians
• 1610 - The Kitāb al-Tasrīf (‘Book of Derivation’), a work on Arabic grammar, by al-Zanjānī (990/91-1078/9)
• The edition of the Gospels of 1619
Maurits H. van den Boogert (PhD Leiden, 2001), studied Arabic at Leiden, and is specialized in Ottoman history, particularly the Ottomans’ cultural, diplomatic and commercial relations with the West in the pre-modern period. He is the author of The Capitulations and the Ottoman Legal System (Leiden: Brill, 2005), and has co-edited, and contributed to, three other books.