Essential Pages in the Evolution of Learning


Zubdat al-saha’if fi siyahat al-ma’arif (Essential pages in the evolution of learning) is the second volume of a three-volume universal history by the Lebanese writer and intellectual Nawfal al-Tarabulsi (1812−87). In this volume, al-Tarabulsi covers, in a relentlessly narrative style, dynastic history from the earliest times to the 19th century. In 550 closely written pages, he traces the “three phases of history as recognized by afranj (Western) historians,” namely, the “first centuries” from the Creation to the fall of Rome in the fourth century, a period of 4,400 years “according to the reckoning of the Torah.” This is followed by the “middle centuries,” ending with the discovery of America in 1492. Al-qurun al-akhirah (the latest centuries) bring the story up to the 19th century, including the Ottoman Empire. The narrative is unsourced and contains no footnotes or bibliography. From a historiographical point of view, the work is important as the first comprehensive rendering of “world civilization” in Arabic. It must have been based on al-Tarabulsi’s private book collection, which is said to have been extensive. Born in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to an educated Arab Christian family, al-Tarabulsi soon developed a facility in foreign languages, including Turkish and a half-dozen European languages. As a youth, he traveled with his father to Cairo, where he studied and worked for a time in the administration of Egyptian ruler Muhammad ‘Ali (reigned 1805−48), before returning to Lebanon where he spent the rest of his life. Al-Tarabulsi was translator for the German and American consulates in Tripoli and he became closely associated with both American and British missionary enterprises. At the end of his life, he donated his personal library to the Syrian Evangelical College, later the American University of Beirut. The first volume of this three-volume series was published in 1874 with the title Zubdat al-saha’if fi usul al-ma’arif (Essential pages in the foundations of learning). The third volume is entitled Sinājat al-ṭarab fī taqaddumāt al-ʻArab (Deriving enjoyment from Arab achievement).

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زبدة الصحائف في سياحة المعارف


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555 pages ; 21 centimeters

Last updated: January 16, 2015