History of the Saracens/Advertisement
The Publisher of the Standard Library has much satisfaction in presenting to his subscribers an improved edition of a book so remarkable for curious, original, and instructive matter as Ockley’s History of the Saracens. Upon its first publication this work was received by scholars with marked approbation, as the most complete and authentic account of the Arabian Prophet and his successors which had yet been given to the world; and even at the present day, after the lapse of nearly a century, it continues to be regarded as the standard history of this eventful period.
The establishment of Islamism is undoubtedly to be numbered among those stupendous events which have changed the face of society in the East; and is a subject deserving not only of the careful study of the statesman and the divine, but of all who delight to search, patiently and reverently, into the ways of Providence. With the Koran in one hand, and the scimitar in the other, the impetuous and indomitable Arab achieved a series of splendid victories unparalleled in the history of nations; for in the short space of eighty years that mighty range of Saracenic conquest embraced a wider extent of territory than Rome had mastered in the course of eight hundred.
It is evident that a work designed for popular circulation, and which is intended to allure those whom business or indolence may prevent from more laborious reading, requires a nice combination of qualities which do not often meet together in the same intellect—accuracy, judgment, taste, and scholarship—all of which, it will be seen, are exhibited in Ockley’s pages.
The most unqualified praise has been awarded to the author for the laborious research and unwearied energy displayed under peculiar difficulties, which has resulted in the production of a work at once enriching the literature of our country, and furnishing materials of the highest importance to historians and travellers of every age. Gibbon made considerable use of this work, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” where he speaks of Ockley as “a learned and spirited interpreter of Arabian authorities, whose tales and traditions afford an artless picture of the men and the times;” and in his Autobiography he describes him as “an original in every sense, who had opened his eyes.” Professor Smyth, also, in his recent Lectures on Modern History, recommends “Ockley’s curious work as necessary to enable the student to comprehend the character of the Arabians, which is there displayed by their own writers in all its singularities.” A writer in the Quarterly Review (No. xxix.) likewise adds, that “the History of the Saracens is a splendid instance of success in this most difficult branch of authorship, and will considerably overpay a perusal, by the strong moral painting and dramatic vivacity with which the vigorous writer diversified and elevated his subjects.”
The literary character of the work being so well established, and the last edition having became extremely scarce, the reasons for its republication must be obvious. In preparing the present Edition for the Press, it is confidently hoped, that the various improvements introduced throughout, have enhanced its value, and will entitle it to a high degree of popular favour. The entire work is now compressed in a single volume, printed from the third and best edition of 1757, which appeared in two volumes, 8vo, and it has been enriched with considerable additions in the form of Notes, from the researches of later writers on Arabian History, particularly Major Price, Burckhardt, Mills, Lane, Dr. Weil, and Don Pascual de Gayangos. The orthography of the Oriental names, which in the work as left by Ockley was by no means uniform, has, as far as possible, been reduced to the standard now most generally acceptable to English readers. A memoir of the learned Author, a Table of Contents and Index, have also been added, with Chronological Dates of the Christian and Mohammedan years, as well as a Synoptical View of the later portion of Saracenic History not given by Ockley.
In a future volume it is intended to give a continuation of Ockley’s work, to the extinction of the Bagdad Caliphate, which will be found to contain information both interesting and instructive to the general reader.
York Street, March, 1847.