D E A R   S I R :

I think myself fortunate in having it in my power to dedicate to you the first-fruits of an Institution, which owes its origin and efficiency almost entirely to your exertions: and, as my author traversed and described many parts of the East, of which you, nearly five hundred years after his time, have given so many interesting and confirmatory accounts, this will constitute an additional reason for doing so.
l'he principal motive, however, which has induced me to inscribe this work to your name has been, the consideration of public utility. No one, perhaps, can better estimate than yourself the duty incumbent on this country to possess an accurate knowledge of the history, geography, commerce, manners, customs, and religious opinions of the East. Placed as we are in the proud situation of legislating to perhaps its richest and most important part, and hence looked up to by its almost countless inhabitants for protection, instruction, government--nothing can be more obvious, than, that it is just as binding upon us to acquaint ourselves with their wants, in order to [see to?] these being provided for and relieved, as it is that we should calculate upon the wealth of their commerce, or the rank and influence which our Governors, Judges, and Magistrates, should hold among them. Unhappily, however, prior to the times of Sir William Jones, knowledge of this kind was scarcely accessible to the bulk of Society; and, since that period, notwithstanding his glowing predictions to the contrary,. the study of Oriental literature has seldom been carried beyond its first elements. A few Scholars have, from time to time, appeared among the servants of the Honourable East-India Company: but when we take into the account the vastness of the means which we possess, together with the duty laid on us as a nation, accurately to know the condition of so many of our fellow subjects in the East, it must appear, that all which has been done, so far from being matter of exultation, must rather tend to lower us in the opinion we would entertain of ourselves, and much more in that of the surrounding nations. It is not my intention to dwell here, with the admirable Sir William Jones, on the beauty of their poetry, the value of their sentiments as moralists or philosophers, or the almost boundless extent and variety of their languages: but on the paramount necessity of our possessing an accurate knowledge of their countries, histories, laws, commerce, connexions, tactics, antiquities, and the like for purely practical purposes. Other considerations, indeed, will, and ought to weigh with the Divine, the Gentleman, and the Scholar; and, here, perhaps, our knowledge of philology may be mentioned as likely to receive as much improvement, as any science cultivated in polite society possibly can.

It is customary, I know, to look to the Universities for the tone of learning in any country: but, in this respect, these bodies are with us very inadequately provided for. The majority of students is interested in other pursuits; while those which are intended for the East are expected to keep Terms at one or other of the seminaries provided by the Honourable Company. The utmost, therefore, that can be brought to bear here upon the ardour of youth, or to stimulate the enterprising to the toil of years, which is indeed necessary to a moderate acquaintance with the languages of the East, is, perhaps, a Professorship with an endowment of forty pounds a year, accompanied with duties and restraints of no ordinary nature. And, the natural consequence has been, that, whatever may have been known on these subjects, few have been found hardy enough to undertake laborious and expensive works, with no other prospect than of being eulogized by their biographers, as having "immortalized and ruined themselves."

Our Institution, therefore, will, I trust, even here be the means of creating a stimulus to the cultivation of learning, for which, indeed, some provision has been made, and which the greatest ornaments of our Church and Nation have deemed of the very highest importance: I mean, that which immediately bears on the study of the Christian Scriptures, an acquaintance with the Hebrew and its sister dialects. As things formerly were, a Whelock, Castell, or Pococke, may have delivered lectures; but, as it was then facetiously said, "the Lecture-room would exhibit an Arabia deserta, rather than an Arabia felix:" and for the most obvious of all reasons, namely, that where neither emolument nor consideration are to be had, there will never be any considerable public effort made. In this point of view, therefore, I believe, that under prudent government our Institution may be productive of the greatest public good, in filling up a chasm in our means of information which nothing else could effect. And, I think I may say, that whether we consider the amazing extent of its operations, the unprecedented support which in so short a time it has experienced, the aggregate quantity of literary power concentrated in its Committee, or the number of works of the first importance which it already has in the progress of publication, to have projected and brought into active operation such an institution, cannot but be gratifying to every one (and particularly to yourself), who took any part in its formation.

I have the honour to be,
        DEAR SIR,
    Your most obliged humble Servant,

Cambridge, January 24th 1829.


The Arabic manuscripts of this work are three in number, and are all copies of the same abridgement. They were originally bequeathed to the library of the University of Cambridge by the late Mr. Burckhardt, where they may at any time be seen. It is, indeed, much to be regretted that they are only abridgments; but, as they contain much curious and valuable information, and that obtained at a time of very considerable interest; namely, when the Tartars were making progress in Asia Minor, and the empire of Hindustan was verging towards its final subjugation to the Mogul dynasty, I have thought it would be quite unpardonable to let the manuscript lie any longer untranslated....

In making my translation, I have followed those readings which appeared to me to be the most correct; and, where the differences have been important, I have marked them in the notes. It has not been thought worth while to print the Arabic text, as it presents nothing remarkable, being in general very plain and entirely void of every attempt at what is called fine writing. Where I have had any doubt, however, as to the sense of the passage, I have given the original Arabic in a note....

In translating I have followed the original as closely as our idiom would generally allow; and in a style as nearly assimilated to that of my author as the nature of the case would permit. My attempt to put the poetical extracts into verse will, I hope, be excused, my only object being to give my translation throughout the spirit of the original, as nearly as I could.

The notes which have been added will, I trust, be found neither tedious nor entirely uninteresting. I thought it important both to examine and to explain many of the statements of my author; and for this end the notes were added. That they are either so extensive or so good as the subject requires, I do not so much as suppose: and my apology must be, it has not been in my power to command either the time, or the opportunities, which many others can. I have done then, if not the best, the best in my power; and as such, I hope it will be received. My principal object in making these inquiries, was to ascertain the accuracy and fidelity of my author; and, in this point of view I have succeeded to my own satisfaction at least, having no doubt that he is worthy of all credit. Superstitious, and addicted to the marvellous, indeed, he occasionally is; but for this allowance must be made, as it occasionally must in travellers of much later times. It is for his historical, geographical, and botanical notices, that he is principally valuable....

In writing the proper names of persons and places, I have generally retained the Oriental orthography, as I deemed it proper to preserve these as nearly as possible, rather than attempt to follow the varying models of different travellers.... In a few very well known words, such as Oddin, Allah, and the like, I have not thought it worth while to depart from the usual orthography. The text too I have divided into chapters, to which an abstract of the contents of each is prefixed, for the convenience of the reader.

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