Making Arabic Literature Accessible – Joep Lameer

I was delighted to hear that somebody had sorted out Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, and produced an English translation.  This was a Herculean job, and the man who did it was Dutch scholar Joep Lameer.  I was even more delighted to hear that he is at work on translating Sezgin’s Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, and has produced four volumes already.  I find that he is doing a whole raft of useful things, using a rare combination of skills and dedication, particularly with reference to Islamic philosophy.

I was curious to know how somebody ends up doing all this.  In response to my enquiry, Dr Lameer very kindly sent me an outline of himself and his work, which I reproduce here.

PhD Arabic Leiden 1992; I lived and worked in Holland, France, Iran, and, since 2007, again Holland, mostly outside academia but publishing books and articles nonetheless. My focus is the history of Islamic philosophy and logic, mostly epistemology. I work with Arabic and Persian sources.

My translation of Brockelmann’s Geschichte der Arabische Litteratur (History of the Arabic Written Tradition. 6 vols, 2016-2019)  turned out to be a success, so Brill Publishers decided to publish Fuat Sezgin’s 17-volume Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums in English translation as well (The Arabic Writing Tradition, an Historical Survey). So far, three volumes have been published.   I spend most of my time on this. Nevertheless, I am also working with young Iranian scholars on two text editions: the Physics of Abu l-‘Abbas Lawkari’s Bayan al-haqq (a philosophical encyclopaedia by a second-generation student of Avicenna). This is an Arabic text; the other is a 25-page Shi’a creed by Nasir al-Din Tusi, Fusul dar usul, which we shall publish in Persian (original), two ancient Arabic translations, and an English translation by me. Besides, I am working on an inventory of all the manuscripts of Abu Nasr Farabi’s works on logic with a scholar from Germany. If I had more time I would do more, especially on the term tasdiq in epistemology (I’m sure you know Cantwell-Smith’s “Faith as tasdiq”).[1]

That is about it. Oh, I almost forgot: I recently also oversaw the second, completed edition of C.A. Storey’s Persian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey in 5 volumes and one Index volume. And I also just submitted an article on extant Persian – Arabic and Arabic – Persian translations of philosophical texts in the libraries of Iran. It will be part of a future volume in a series on philosophy in the Islamic world by Ulrich Rudolph and Peter Adamson.

I think this is a simply remarkable body of work, using skills that most of us can only dream of.  Well done!

  1. [1]W. Cantwell-Smith, “Faith as Taṣdīq”, In: Parviz Morewedge, Islamic Philosophical Theology, State University of NY (1979), p. 96-119.