Primordial History, Print Capitalism, and Egyptology in Nineteenth-Century Cairo: Mustafa Salama al-Naggari's. The Garden of Ismail's Praise

Adam Mestyan


Institute Francais D'Archeologies Orientale

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How old is the world? This question was a central problem for Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the face of the new scientific discoveries in the nineteenth century. This book introduces the answer from a Muslim point of view, outside of official institutions. The extended introduction - a microhistory in the Middle East - explores the life and oeuvre of a forgotten Egyptian intellectual and poet, Mustafa Salama al-Naggari (d. 1870). Next, A. Mestyan provides the English translation and Arabic transcription of the surviving fragments of al-Naggari's manuscript, The Garden of Ismail's Praise. This is a universal history of Egypt, written while the Suez Canal was under construction to praise the governor Khedive Ismail (r. 1863-1879). The author advocates a unique solution to computing the period of primordial history, before the Deluge, in the age of steam and print. Al-Naggari's alternative Nahda voice is available for the first time in this edition.