Small 4°: 90 pp. letterpress on thick paper, original black cloth binding with cloth spine, printed annotations in margins, some pages folded in white margins, as always (binding slightly rubbed on the corners, minor worm holes in the gutter of the first and last page, otherwise in a good, clean condition).
The text on Napoleon Bonaparte by the Bulaq Press in Cairo in Ottoman language is based upon the French work Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène by Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases (1766 –1842), originally published in 1823. The text was based on the authors talks with Napoleon during his exile on Saint Helena.
The author of this shorter Ottoman text was Hasan Efendi.
This is the second edition. The first edition was printed in 1247 (1831) in Bulaq on 50 pages. The work is often titled also as Afrika cezayirinden Santa Elene nâm cezireden vâsıl olup and therefore sometimes mentioned in literature as Tarikh Afriqa, Tarih Afrika, Tarif Affrika and consequentially Tarikh Amriqa (Hsu Cheng Hsiang, The Checklist; no. 500.
Napoleon’s Biography for an Egyptian Audience: Muhammad Ali’s ‘Intellectual Propaganda’
Muhammad Ali (1769 – 1849) was a towering figure in the history of the Muslim World, hailed as the founder of modern Egypt. A native of Albania, though a series of daring and brilliant moves, he became the Vali (Governor) of Egypt in 1805, remaining in that office until 1849. He pursued a radical programme of reform of the country’ economy, civil administration, laws, social systems and military, rapidly transforming Egypt into a powerful, modern state, autonomous of the Ottoman Empire (even as it remained a de jure subject of the Sublime Porte). Important to our story, Muhammad Ali personally revived printing in Egypt, as it was on his initiative that the Bulaq Press and most of the country’s other early printing houses (such as in Alexandria) were established. While the Vali enjoyed significant popular support, many of the country’ traditional, conservative elites felt threatened by his new order and were sceptical of his reforms.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt (1798 – 1801) brought much carnage and injustice, however, it also introduced the notions of modernity to the country that Muhammad Ali admired (including the introduction of the printing press). The Vali a great fan of the Napoleon, and was thought to have personally identified with him; both men were born in relative backwaters of their empires (Corsica, Albania) in the same year, 1769, and only through the application of their own brilliance, both managed to establish themselves as the dictators of the largest and most prestigious countries in the spheres (France, Egypt), before embarking upon unprecedented programmes of reform.
For these reasons, it was on Muhammad Ali’s direct orders that the work on Napoleon were translated and published by the Bulaq Press and the press at Alexandria. The Vali wanted the literate elite of Egypt to learn and appreciate the value of Napoleon’s bold charisma and modernizing agenda, and in doing so hopefully gain a new appreciation of Muhammad Ali’s rule. However, despite his admiration of the French Emperor’s personality and notions of governance, Muhammad Ali was not a fan of Western imperialistic adventurism; he did not believe that France or any other power should rule Egypt (as such, he successfully rebelled against the Ottomans). Accordingly, Napoleon’s example came as both an inspiration and as a warning: If Egypt did not continue to modernize, it would become weak, and would, once again, be invaded by a foreign power. Muhammad Ali’s message to the Egypt’s elite was clear: Either embrace me and my reforming agenda or allow Egypt and everything you care about to be taken away by outsiders.
Muhammad Ali’s play of ‘intellectual propaganda’ was resoundingly successful, as the official Egyptian issues of Napoleon’s biography, such as the present work, proved to be incredibly popular and influential. Several editions were issued over the succeeding decades, and the work become mainstay of Egyptian (an to a degree Ottoman) political literature for the remainder of the 19th Century.
We could trace 8 institutional examples in on Worldcat.
References: OCLC 935136439, 777091409. Hsu Cheng Hsiang, The First Years of Arabic Printing in Egypt 1238-1269. 1822-1851. The Checklist; no. 500 – only 1247 edition.