QURAN. The Koran: Commonly called The Alcoran of Mohammed. Translated into English from the Original Arabic. With Explanatory Notes taken from the Most Approved Commentators. To which is prefixed a Preliminary Discourse. By George Sale. London, Frederick Warne, [c. 1890].
8vo. Original green cloth with bevelled edges, spine lettered in gilt arnamented all over in blind; pp. xv, 470, [4, advertisements], folsding genealogical table, folding plate; light wear to cloth, a little toned in places, a good copy.
This is George Sales' translation of the Quran, which had apeared first in 1734 and remained the standard version in English up to the end of the 20th century and with its commentary it is one of the most influential Quran editions in the West. It had been an Englishman, Robert of Chester (or Robert of Ketten), who produced the first translation of the Quran into Latin in the 12th century, and George Sales' is the most enduring translation into English.
'Sale's translation of the Koran was only the second English version of the work, the previous one being the work of Alexander Ross (1649), itself based on a French version (1647) by André du Ryer, the French consul in Alexandria. Shortly before the turn of the century, in 1698, a Latin translation had been published in Padua by Ludovico Marracci, confessor to Pope Innocent XI. The title of this work, Refutatio alcorani (‘Refutation of the Koran’), left no doubt as to the intentions of the translator ... Sale's presumed partiality to Islam earned him the criticism of his contemporaries. James Porter, ambassador to the Ottoman empire from 1746 to 1762, praised his translation but was ‘sorry to say, that he frequently discovers an inclination to apologize for it [i.e. the Koran]; and rather endeavours to reconcile and palliate the numerous absurdities he meets with, than to expose them in the light they deserve’ (Observations on the Religion, Law, Government and Manners of the Turks, 2nd edn, 1771, 55) ... Sale's careful and unemotional approach in both his preliminary discourse and translation secured the fame of his work well into the twentieth century. In 1921 Edward Denison Ross claimed that Sale's version had not been superseded by any subsequent translation, and that his discourse still remained the best introduction in any European language to the study of Islam. More than fifty years later Sale's objectivity still guarded him from criticism in Edward Said's Orientalism (1978)' (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).