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BEIRUT IMPRINT / BIBLE / AMERICAN MISSION PRESS: الكتاب المقدس اي كتب العهد القديم والعهد الجديد [The Bible. That is the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament]


An early example of a Bible in Arabic language, translated by Eli Smith and Cornelius Van Alen Van Dyck, printed in the elegant “al-Amerikani” font by the American Mission Press in Beirut


8°, 920 pp., [2 pp.] title page, 295 pp., publisher’s dark brown full calf with debossed decoration, gilt lettering in Arabic on the spine (slightly age-toned, stained and with light foxing, sporadic ink stains, mostly to the edges, old annotations in Latin, Arabic and scribbles in ink on endpapers, otherwise in a good condition).


1 in stock


A Bible in Arabic language was printed in Beirut in 1884.

The project of the translation of the Bible into Arabic by the American Mission Press goes back to 1848, when Eli Smith (1801-1857) started translating the New Testament. After Smith’s death in 1857 the project was taken over by Cornelius Van Dyke. Van Dyke was a scholar, educator, professor of medicine, author, fluent in many modern and ancient languages and a co-founder of American University of Beirut.

The New Testament was completed in 1860 and the Old Testament five years later, when the Bible was published for the first time. This so called Van Dyck Bible remains most popular translation of this Holy Book in the Arabic speaking countries until today.


American Mission Press in Beirut

The American Mission Press moved from Malta (founded in 1822) in 1834 to Beirut, where the conditions were more favourable. At the time only four other mission presses existed for the Near East: the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society, both on Malta, the American Episcopalians in Athens and the ABCFM in Smyrna.

The person in charge of the American Press was Eli Smith, who arrived to Malta in 1826. In the following years he explored large areas east of the Jordan for the purpose of the mission.

Eli Smith’s important contribution for the press was choosing the right type of the Arabic letters. In the first decade the American Press on Malta and later in Beirut was using types, imported from England, which were not suitable for the Arabic readers, by the time used of the Ottoman naskh style.

Based on his detailed researches of the fonts and possibilities and collecting books from various Ottoman and Middle Eastern presses Smith decided for an elegant, clear font with distinctive ligatures. The types were designed and punch-typed by Homan Hallock (1803-1894) in Istanbul and casted in Leipzig by the Tauschnitz foundry in 1841. The type soon became known as al-Amerikani type.


References: Faith L. WINGER, Books and the Early Missionaries in the near East. In: The Journal of Library History (1966-1972)Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 21-33; Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Arabic Typography and the Shaping of a Modern Print Culture. In: By the Pen and What they Write. Writing in Islamic Art and Culture, 2017, pp. 227-253.

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