AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Early Arabic Books printed in Rome

© British Library Board (14501.c.37, pp. 2, 4).

اعتقاد الأمانة الأرتدكسية كنيسة رومية مفسرة وكسيرة التي تعلم وتقدم لكل النصارة الذين يرجعوا عن طغيانهم لصحة الإيمان الكاتوليكي ولمن أشا أن يتوافق معها وهو مستعد ليقدم الطاعة لبابا رومي الدي هو رييس جميع البطاركة والأساقفة وساير المومنين بالمسيح = Fidei orthodoxae brevis et explicita confessio quam Sacrosanta Romana Ecclesia docet

Elian, Johannes Baptista, translator. (1566). Rome: Collegio Societatis Iesu.

In Italy, Pope Pius IV, who wanted to spread the conclusions of the Trent Council (1545–1563) in the East, charged the Jesuit John Baptist Eliano to procure Arabic and Syriac characters for use in the Jesuits’ printing press in Rome. Eliano published various books including in 1566, Iʿtiqād al-amāna al-urtūduksiyya kanīsa rūmiyya [sic] – Fidei orthodoxae brevis et explicita confessio quam Sacrosanta Romana Ecclesia docet. An Arabic translation of the profession of faith, promulgated by Pius IV, intended for Eastern Christians who claimed to be united with the Catholic Church. In 1580, he also published an Arabic Catechism, Al taʿlim al masihi [8]



© British Library Board (OR.70.d.6, pp. 2, 3).

الانجيل المقدس لربنا يسوع المسيح المكتوب من اربع الانجيليين المقدسين، أعني متّى و مرقس و لوقا و يوحنّا  Evangelivm Sanctvm Domini Nostri Iesu Christi conscriptvm a qvatvor Evangelistis sanctis idest, Matthaeo, Marco, Lvca, et Iohanne

Raimondi, Giovanni Battista, editor. (1590-1591). Romae: Typographia Medicea.

After printing three books, the Jesuits’ printing press was supplanted by the Medici Oriental Press (also known as the Typographia Medicea), an Oriental printing press created in 1584 by Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici: it printed nine religious books in Arabic.


Picture credits and ownership BULAC Collection, IJ.IV.41


Ibn al-Ḥājib,ʿUthmān ibn ʿUmar (1592). Romae: Typographia Medicea.


In the second half of the sixteenth century, printing in Arabic began to spread to secular works. A book of Arabic grammar was published for the first time in 1592 by Ibn al-Hâjib. A copy of the book is owned by BULAC and another by Yale University.


Bibliteca Historica de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Sig: BH FLL 27409

Alphabetum Arabicum.

Norfolk, Henry Howard, Duke of. (1592). Romae: Typographia Medicea

Another book on the Arabic Alphabet is also published by the Typographia Medicea, the same year.


The American University of Beirut - University Libraries


كتب القانون في الطب: مع بعض تآليفه وهو علم المنطق وعلم الطبيعي وعلم الكلام

Ibn Sīnā, al-Ḥusayn ibn ʾAbd Allāh. (1593). Rome: Typographia Medicea.

Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine was also published in 1593. This work was translated into Latin at the end of the 12th centuries, and until the end of the 17th centuries, the translation became a reference in medical studies in European universities. The full text of Kutub al Qanu̅n fi Ttibb is available online at AUB libraries.


 © British Library Board (306.46A.18, pp. 2, 11, 13).

Liber Psalmorum Davidis regis et prophetae. Ex Arabico idiomate in Latinum translatus . A Victorio Scialac... & Gabriele Sionita... Recens in lucem editus munificentia... D. Francisci Savary de Breves...

Gabriel Sionita, and Vittorio Scialac, translators. (1614). Typographia Sauariana.

In 1578, Pope Gregory XIII opened a Maronite college in Rome, bringing together Arabic and Syriac scholars who would play a key role in the printing of Arabic texts in France and Italy. Scholars as Jibraʼil al-Sihyuni (Gabriel Sionita), Yuhanna al-Hasruni (John Hesronite), Sarkis, al-Razi, ʻAbd Allah Shalaq al-ʻAquri (Victorio Scialac), Ibrahim al-Haqlani (Abraham Ecchellensis) and Jirjis Amirah, etc. Almost all were former pupils at the Maronite school of Rome. In 1613, while in Rome Savary de Brèves (French ambassador into the sublime port in 1591 and 1604, who was also one of the leading Arabic and Turkish scholars of his time, thanks to his twenty years residence in the East) set up his own publishing house, the Typographia Savariana printing press, and had printed four Arabic books by 1619. He began to recruit collaborators: Gabriel Sionita, Victorio Scialac (Naṣrāllah Ṧalaq āl ʽĀqury, (158.-1635) was a Maronite priest. He taught Arabic at the Maronite College of Rome, and founded the Maronite College of Ravenna, Italy.


Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares, RES P-X-477 (3)

Totum arabicum alphabetum, ad unam tabellam cum suis vocalibus et signis, facilitatis causa, reductum

Scialac, Vittorio. (1622). Romae : Apud S. Paulinum.

A work co-authored by Sionita and Scialac and printed at the typographia Savariana


Some prominent Lebanese Scholars from the Maronite School of Rome in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.