History of Arab Literature


Jirjī Zaydān was born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a Syrian Orthodox family of modest means. After a mediocre experience at local schools, he moved to Egypt to study at al-Qaṣr al-ʻAynī medical college, but he abandoned medicine in favor of a literary and publishing career. He founded Dar al-Hilal printing and publishing house and in 1892 brought out the weekly al-Hilal magazine, which continues publication to this day. Al-Ahram newspaper and al-Hilal became the most long-lived and influential media advocates for Egyptian national causes and modernizing progress based on Western models. Zaydān was one of the most influential media figures of his generation. With Zaydān as editor, publisher, and contributor, al-Hilal reached a wide regional audience. His commitment to national pride, intellectual curiosity, and energetic entrepreneurship derived from the book Self-Help by the Scottish author Samuel Smiles, which had been translated into Arabic in 1886. Zaydān did not limit himself to popular journals. His History of Arabic Literature consists of four volumes, of which the first two volumes are presented here bound together and covering the pre-Islamic period to the 11th century. In his support for modernization, Zaydān ran afoul of some contemporaries who claimed he was a Mason. The work is illustrated with graphics from European sources. Each volume has a table of contents and a price list of Zaydān’s books available for sale, in person or by mail order. These up-to-date features of bookmaking give this work a modern feel quite different from the manuscript tradition or the early works of the Bulaq Press.

Date Created

Publication Information

Dar al-Hilal Printing House, Al-Faggala, Egypt


Title in Original Language

تاريخ آداب اللغة العربية

Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 book containing volumes 1 and 2 ; 24 centimeters


  1. “Jirji Zaydan and Masonry,” http://www.djelfa.info/vb/showthread.php?t=83751.
  2. Donald M. Reid, “Syrian Christians, the Rags-to-Riches Story, and Free Enterprise,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 1, number 4, October 1970.

Last updated: July 21, 2014