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John Lewis Burckhardt’s Arabic proverbs, or, The manners and customs of the modern Egyptians (1830)

Bay 68 1830 BUR X

Johann Ludwig, or John Lewis Burckhardt, (1784- 1817), was a Swiss traveller, geographer and Orientalist. His book of 782 Arabic proverbs was largely drawn from an eighteenth-century collection, to which he added other proverbs written in both Cairene Arabic and English.

In his preface, Burckhardt described the proverbs as ‘dictated by wisdom and sagacity’ and as evidence that

the principles of virtue and honour, of friendship and true charity, of independence and generosity, are perfectly well known to the modern inhabitants of Egypt.

He collected proverbs piecemeal as he heard them ‘quoted in general society’ or in the local bazaars and was eager to explain that his work should be ‘regarded as the hasty work of a traveller subject to numerous inconveniences’ rather than as ‘the elaborate treatise of a learned Arabic scholar or grammarian, surrounded by all the means of making his composition perfect’.

The collection was published after his death, and he was buried under the alias he assumed during his travels, Sheik Ibrahim Ibn Abdallah.

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