I realised this evening that I really do need to look at the definitive work on Arabic literature, the Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur by Carl Brockelmann. He did a first edition back in 1898, and a second edition in 1943. The second edition is the standard work. It was issued in two volumes, and there were three volumes of supplements.
I discover this evening that it is available for sale at the Brill website, in a single volume form. Oh goodie, I thought — until I saw the price. They wanted, for this lump of paper costing around $25 to manufacture at most, nearly $1,000! And the resale value is almost nothing.
There is an Arabic translation, but not an English translation. The Arabic translation has been bootlegged and is freely accessible online.
As a publisher myself, I don’t deny Brill the right to a reasonable profit. But a price like that means that no-one can afford a copy.
It’s ridiculous. It’s also very short-sighted. And it is hardly fair to Prof. Brockelmann, now long dead, who doubtless was paid little or nothing for his efforts. He died in 1956, which means his work will come out of copyright in 2026. But that does none of us any good now.
Yet … to read it means a paper copy, at least for most of us, where corners can be turned down and bits underlined and notes written in the margin.
Because it is a reference volume, just borrowing it from a library is probably difficult. But I’ve had a go this evening. Let’s see if anyone will lend me a copy of vol. 1, which covers literature to the end of the Ummayad period. It’s worth a try.
If it does work, I will probably make a copy of it for my own purposes, and get around the problem that way. But I am perfectly willing to buy a copy, at say $50, if only they would sell them at that price.