Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur and the greed of Brill

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.


18 thoughts on “Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur and the greed of Brill

  1. It seems to be pretty common in libraries. I bet you can get it through ILLiad. I got the Brill’s Nag Hammadi Codices, all five volumes, through ILLiad without problem.


  2. The 1898 version is on Google Books, I ran the first 300 pages thru OCR and then translated through google-translate, most of the quotes didn’t translate (ocr couldn’t read them?) but the authors text did translate quite well.

  3. I’ll send you what I’ve got and you can decide whether it’s worth the time; the neat info (list made by others he’s quoting) is in the quotes which ocr couldn’t handle…

  4. The three volumes of supplements can be found on Digital Library of India:
    They can be downloaded using the “DLI downloader” program:
    The barcodes to enter in “DLI downloader” are the following:
    99999990007889 (vol.1 supplement band)
    99999990007890 (vol.2 supplement band)
    99999990007891 (vol.3 supplement band)

    Some pages from vol. 2 (pp. 385-512) can be also downloaded using DLI downloader (barcode: 2030020037588).

  5. Dear Roger Pearson,

    You mentioned several times that an Arabic translation of Brockelmann’s exists.

    Can I have more information on that Arabic translations (title, editor, link…)?

    Best regards,

  6. I also find this entry on Abebooks:

    Tarikh Al Adab Al Arabi – Geschichte Der Arabischen Litteratur

    Carl Brockelmann

    Published by Al Hayah Al Masriyyah Lil Kitab, 1993

    ISBN 10: 9770132578 / ISBN 13: 9789770132579

    Yours for only … erm… lots and lots of dollars.

    Likewise here:

    al-Faharis al-Arabiyah li-kitab Tarikh al-adab al-Arabi [Unknown Binding]
    Carl Brockelmann (Author)
    Publisher: Jamiat Halab, Mahad al-Turath al-Ilmi al-Arabi (1984)

    And here at OpenLibrary: 1959, 1962.

    I state above that it is available online. Unfortunately, as a non-Arabic speaker, I can’t really access Arabic online sites. Why not have a look and see if you can find it? (And report back!)

  7. Thank you for the link.

    I am not really at ease with the Arabic language, but it simply says that students in Arabic literature have been hoping this translation for many years.

    But what I notice is the name of the translator: the Arabic version of Brockelmann’s page says that this translator (unfortunately) died before finishing his work, hence leaving the work uncompleted.

    This may explain why this book has been put online…

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