Three Collections of Proverbs and Sayings


This printed book was published in 1883 at the famous Jawa’ib Press founded by the Arab printer, author, and journalist Ahmad Fāris al-Shidiyāq. As is often the case with early printed books, the publication itself has received more attention than the contents of the work. Jawa’ib Press was established in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1860 and operated for about 20 years publishing the newspaper al-Jawa’ib (begun in 1861) as well as more than 70 Arabic classics and tracts. Books were printed in runs of several thousand and distributed throughout the Empire. Like the progenitor of Ottoman printing, the ethnically Hungarian Ibrahim Müteferrika (circa 1670–1745), al-Shidiyāq came from outside the tightly structured expectations of the majority culture. Al-Jawa’ib Press belongs as much to Ottoman as to Arab cultural history. Largely neglected in academic research, al-Shidiyāq has recently received increased biographic, bibliographic, and literary attention. The three works in this volume are typical of collections of proverbs and “wisdom literature,” a genre that continues to occupy the popular and scholarly imagination. They are careful but not critical editions of manuscript originals, no doubt transcripts of works al-Shidyāq found in libraries in Istanbul or transcribed on his travels. Typical of works from this press, the volume is printed in a pleasing, readable format. There is an informative colophon giving production details. The three works contained in the volume are Amthal al-‘Arab (Arab proverbs) by Mufaḍḍal al-Dabbī, Asrar al-Hukama’ (Secrets of the wise) attributed to the famous calligrapher Yāqūt al-Mustaʻṣimī, and a collection of sayings and anecdotes from “the ancient philosophers,” notably Plato.

Date Created

Publication Information

al-Jawa’ib Press, Istanbul


Title in Original Language

أمثال العرب، أسرار الحكماء، الأمثال الحكيمة

Type of Item

Physical Description

165 pages ; 24 centimeters


  1. Mohammed B. Alwan, “The History and Publications of al-Jawa’ib Press.” MELA Notes, number 11, May 1977.
  2. Ami Ayalon, The Press in the Arab Middle East: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
  3. Geoffrey Roper, “Faris Al-Shidyaq and the Transition from Scribal to Print Culture in the Middle East,” in Atiyeh, George N., editor, The Book in the Islamic World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).
  4. Barbara Winckler, “Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq's Literary Investigations,”

Last updated: July 21, 2014