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OTTOMAN ALEFBE / PRIMER FOR THE ARABIC SCRIPT: الفبا حزئى (title on the cover) / الفبا حزوى (title on the title page) [Primer]



A rare, beautiful expensively lithographed Ottoman Alefbe or a primer of the Arabic basic script


8°, 36 pp. colour and gilt lithograph, original binding with illustrated boards, red cloth spine (slightly stained, title page and last page slightly age-toned, small folds in the corners, repaired two split gutters in the first and last part of the book, binding lightly rubbed and battered on the corners with tiny loss of image)





An elaborate beautifully lithographed Ottoman book with elaborate gold details tries to copy a traditional Alefbe (also Alifbe), or a primer of the Arabic script. The name derives from the first two letters of the Arabic script: Alef and Be.

The representations follow the classic composition of an Alefbe:

The first two pages, elaborately illuminated with floral patterns and gilt background in the margins, list in charts the basic letters. Written over the right chart are the verses from the Quran:

اعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم [I seek refuge in Allah from the cursed Satan] and

رب يسر ولا تعسر رب تمم بالخير [My Lord, make things easy, never make them hard, my Lord complement this matter with goodness].

The study of script of Arabic letters in traditional schools always started with the latter phrase. The teacher writes the phrase and the student re-writes it until he or she reaches an acceptable level to move to the letters.

The sign on the upper part of the left part says:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم [In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate].

The first two elaborately made pages are followed by 28 pages with gilt charts including various combinations of the letters.

The last four pages are inscribed by verses on the alphabet, starting with the joined letters of the Arabic alphabet:

أبجد هوز حطي كلمن سعفص قرشت ثخذ ضظغ

and with verses from the Quran, which the students had to transcribe to perfect their writing after finishing the basic writing course.

This is the most elaborate lithographed Alefbe, that we have ever encountered and was probably meant for the pupils of the upper scale private schools of the late Ottoman Empire.

We could not find any institutional examples on Worldcat.

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