First from the Arabic - "the standard English version well into the twentieth century"

[QUR’AN] – SALE, George (translator)

The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed, Translated from the Original Arabic.

Publication: London, C. Ackers for J. Wilcox, 1734.

[QUR’AN] – SALE, George (translator), The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed, Translated from the Original Arabic.

Probably the most successful translation of the Qur’an in English – first edition of this translation.

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Our Notes & References

A landmark edition: the first publication of the Qur’an in English directly translated from the Arabic, and not from the French as was previously published.

The translator, George Sale, added a lengthy preface and numerous notes, providing the literal translation where it differs from the idiom of the body text, and giving alternate variant readings and supplementary historical and contextual information. Sale made extensive use (“a translation of its own” argues Bevilacqua, p. 130) of Maracci’s 1698 scholarly edition of the Arabic text with a Latin translation; but he also had access to earlier Arabic Qur’an manuscripts, and he owned himself a collection of mostly Persian, Turkish and Arabic manuscripts, now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

A production of quality, in the more imposing Quarto format, this Koran is also illustrated, notably with a large map of Arabia and a view and a plan of Mecca.

Sale’s edition was hailed by its contemporaries, and had a lasting influence, with over 120 editions during about 200 years: “Voltaire wrote to his friend Nicolas-Claude Thieriot, in 1738: ‘there is a devil of an Englishman who has done a very beautiful translation of the holy Alcoran, preceded by a preface much more beautiful than all the alcorans of the world’. […] Sale’s work remained the standard English version well into the twentieth century, mediating knowledge of Islam for Voltaire, Gibbon, Jeferson and many others.” (Bevilacqua p. 93) Voltaire went on to publish his own De l’Alcoran et de Mahomet in 1748.

A trained lawyer turned orientalist, the British George Sale (1697–1736) “worked on several prominent editorial projects—an Arabic New Testament for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), an Anglican missionary organisation founded in 1698; the Qurʾan; a dictionary based on Bayle’s; and a universal history —and died prematurely in 1736” (Bevilacqua p. 101). Little else is known about him.

Interestingly, Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, was sworn in in January 2007 using a 1764 edition of Sale’s translation of the Quran, sold to the Library of Congress in 1815 by Thomas Jefferson.


A. Bevilacqua, ‘The Qur’an Translations of Marracci and Sale’ in ‘Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes’, 2013, pp. 93-130

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Physical Description

Quarto. Complete with engraved folding map, III engraved genealogical plates and an engraved folding plate, title printed in red and black.


Contemporary calf, boards with blind rollwork, later spine with raised bands, gilt fillets and ornaments, red label lettered in gilt.


Rebacked, boards with some rubbing, soiling and scratching; occasional spotting or foxing, one larger stain, edges of block browned, but otherwise in rather appealing condition internally.

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