Spring 2018 catalog cover

The Penn Press list for spring 2018 includes hardcover releases, first-time paperbacks, and ebook editions intended for scholars, students, and serious general readers worldwide. Click here to explore our forthcoming books, grouped by subject area.

The Venetian Qur'an
A Renaissance Companion to Islam

Pier Mattia Tommasino. Translated by Sylvia Notini

336 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth Apr 2018 | ISBN 9780812250121 | Add to cart $59.95s | Outside N. America £50.00
Ebook Apr 2018 | ISBN 9780812294972 | Add to cart $59.95s | £39.00 | About
A volume in the series Material Texts
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"The Venetian Qur'an is an impressively rich study of the first Italian translation of the Qur'an. It is a model of multidisciplinary research, drawing on historical, literary, and linguistic approaches."—Thomas E. Burman, University of Notre Dame
An anonymous book appeared in Venice in 1547 titled L'Alcorano di Macometto, and, according to the title page, it contained "the doctrine, life, customs, and laws [of Mohammed] . . . newly translated from Arabic into the Italian language." Were this true, the Alcorano di Macometto would have been the first printed translation of the Qur'an in a European vernacular language. The truth, however, was otherwise. As soon became clear, the Qur'anic sections of the book—about half the volume—were in fact translations of a twelfth-century Latin translation that had appeared in print in Basel in 1543. The other half included commentary that balanced anti-Islamic rhetoric with new interpretations of Muhammad's life and political role in pre-Islamic Arabia. Despite having been discredited almost immediately, the Alcorano was affordable, accessible, and widely distributed.

In The Venetian Qur'an, Pier Mattia Tommasino uncovers the Alcorano's mysterious origins, its previously unidentified author, and its broad, lasting influence. The Alcorano, Tommasino argues, served a dual purpose: it was a book for European refugees looking to relocate in the Ottoman Empire, as well as a general Renaissance reader's guide to Islamic history and stories. The book's translation and commentary were prepared by an unknown young scholar, Giovanni Battista Castrodardo, a complex and intellectually accomplished man, whose commentary in the Alcorano bridges Muhammad's biography and the text of the Qur'an with Machiavelli's The Prince and Dante's Divine Comedy. In the years following the Alcorano's publication, the book was dismissed by Arabists and banned by the Catholic Church. It was also, however, translated into German, Hebrew, and Spanish, and read by an extended lineage of missionaries, rabbis, renegades, and iconoclasts, including such figures as the miller Menocchio, Joseph Justus Scaliger, and Montesquieu. Through meticulous research and literary analysis, The Venetian Qur'an reveals the history and legacy of a fascinating historical and scholarly document.

Pier Mattia Tommasino teaches Italian literature at Columbia University.

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