Edward William Lane

Edward William Lane (17 September 1801 – 10 August 1876) was a British Orientalist, translator and lexicographer. He is known for his Arabic-English Lexicon and translation of One Thousand and One Nights, which he censored, with the usual 19th-century view on "Victorian morality".

Edward William Lane
Lane, in Turkish costume
Edward William Lane by Richard James Lane, 1829
Edward William Lane by Richard James Lane, 1829


Early years

Lane was born at Hereford, England, the third son of the Rev. Dr Theopilus Lane, and grandnephew of Gainsborough on his mother's side.[1] After his father's death in 1814, Lane was sent to grammar school at Bath and then Hereford, where he showed a talent for mathematics. He visited Cambridge, but did not enroll in any of its colleges.[2]

Instead, Lane joined his brother Richard in London, studying engraving with him. At the same time Lane began his study of Arabic on his own. However, his health soon deteriorated. For the sake of his health and of a new career, he set sail to Egypt.[3]


Lane arrived in Alexandria in September 1825, and soon left for Cairo. He remained in Egypt for two and a half years, mingling with the locals, dressed as a Turk (the ethnicity of the then-dominant Ottoman Empire) and taking notes of everything he saw and heard. In Old Cairo, he lived near Bab al-Hadid, and studied Arabic, among others, with Sheikh Muhammad 'Ayyad al-Tantawi (1810–1861), who was later invited to teach at Saint Petersburg, Russia. He returned to England with his voluminous notes in the autumn of 1828.[4]

Lane's interest in ancient Egypt may have been first aroused by seeing a presentation by Giovanni Battista Belzoni.[5] His original ambition was to publish an account of what had remained of Ancient Egypt. The London publisher John Murray showed early interest in publishing the mighty project (known as Description of Egypt), but then retracted. At the suggestion of Murray, Lane expanded a chapter of the original project into a whole book. The result was his Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The work was partly modeled on Alexander Russell's The Natural History of Aleppo (1756).[6] Lane visited Egypt again, in order to collect materials to expand and revise the work, after the society accepted the publication.[7] The book became a bestseller (still in print), and won Lane a reputation.

Lane was conscious that his research was handicapped by the fact that gender segregation prevented him from getting a close-up view of Egyptian women - an aspect of Egyptian life that was of particular interest to his readers. He was forced to rely on information passed on by Egyptian men, as he explains:

Many husbands of the middle classes, and some of the higher orders, freely talk of the affairs of the ḥareem with one who professes to agree with them in their general moral sentiments, if they have not to converse through the medium of an interpreter.[8]

However, in order to gain further information, years later he would send for his sister, Sophia Lane Poole, so that she could gain access to women-only areas such as hareems and bathhouses and report on what she found.[9] The result was The Englishwoman in Egypt: Letters from Cairo, written during a residence there in 1842, 3 & 4, with E.W. Lane Esq., Author of "The Modern Egyptians" By His Sister. (Poole’s own name does not appear.) The Englishwoman in Egypt contains large sections of Lane's own unpublished work, altered so that it appears from Poole's perspective (for example "my brother" being substituted for "I").[10] Billie Melman, Women’s Orients: English Women in the Middle East, 1718-1918.[11] However, it also relates Poole's own experiences in visiting the hareems that were closed to male visitors such as her brother

The One Thousand and One Nights

Lane's next major project was a translation of the One Thousand and One Nights. His version first saw light in monthly parts in the years 1838 to 1840, and was published in three volumes in 1840. A revised edition came out in 1859. The encyclopedic annotations were published, after his death, separately in 1883 by his great-nephew Stanley Lane-Poole, as Arabian Society in the Middle Ages.[12] Lane's version is bowdlerized, and illustrated by William Harvey.

Opinions vary on the quality of Lane's translation. One comments, "... Lane's version is markedly superior to any other that has appeared in English, if superiority is allowed to be measured by accuracy and an honest and unambitious desire to reproduce the authentic spirit as well as the letter of the original."[13] Yet another, "... [Lane's] style tends towards the grandiose and mock-biblical... Word order is frequently and pointlessly inverted. Where the style is not pompously high-flown, it is often painfully and uninspiringly literal... It is also peppered with Latinisms."[14]

Lane himself saw the Nights as an edifying work, as he had expressed earlier in a note in his preface to the Manners and Customs,

There is one work, however, which represents most admirable pictures of the manners and customs of the Arabs, and particularly of those of the Egyptians; it is 'The Thousand and One Nights; or, Arabian Nights' Entertainments:' if the English reader had possessed a close translation of it with sufficient illustrative notes, I might almost have spared myself the labour of the present undertaking.[15]


In 1840, Lane married Nafeesah, a Greek-Egyptian woman who had originally been either presented to him or purchased by him as a slave when she was around eight years old, and whom he had undertaken to educate.[9]

Dictionary and other works

From 1842 onwards, Lane devoted himself to the monumental Arabic-English Lexicon, although he found time to contribute several articles to the journal of Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft.[16]

Lane's Selections from the Kur-án appeared in 1843. It was neither a critical nor a commercial success. Moreover, it was misprint-ridden, as Lane was for the third time in Egypt, along with his wife, sister and two nephews, to collect materials for the planned dictionary, the Arabic-English Lexicon, when it was being printed.[17]

Lane was unable to complete the dictionary. He had arrived at the letter Qāf, the 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet, but in 1876 he died at Worthing, Sussex. Lane's great-nephew Stanley Lane-Poole finished the work based on his incomplete notes and published it in the twenty years following his death.[18]

In 1854, an anonymous work entitled The Genesis of the Earth and of Man was published, edited by Lane's nephew Reginald Stuart Poole. The work is attributed by some to Lane.[16]

The part concerning Cairo's early history and topography in Description of Egypt, based on Al-Maqrizi's work and Lane's own observations, was revised by Reginald Stuart Poole in 1847 and published in 1896 as Cairo Fifty Years Ago.[19] The whole Description of Egypt was published by the American University in Cairo Press in 2000.[9]

Lane's manuscripts and drawings are in the archive of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford.

Lane died on 10 August 1876 and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.


  1. ^ Arberry, 87
  2. ^ Arberry, 87-8
  3. ^ Arberry, 88
  4. ^ Arberry, 89-92; Irwin (2006), 164
  5. ^ Roper, 244; Irwin (2006), 163
  6. ^ Roper, 244; Irwin (2006), 122 & 164
  7. ^ Arberry, 92
  8. ^ Lane, 175
  9. ^ a b c Thompson, Jason. "An Account of the Journeys and Writings of the Indefatigable Mr. Lane". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  10. ^ Thompson, 574
  11. ^ (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992) 73-74
  12. ^ Arberry, 104
  13. ^ Arberry, 105
  14. ^ Irwin (1994), 24
  15. ^ Lane, xxiv
  16. ^ a b Roper, 249
  17. ^ Arberry, 106-7
  18. ^ Arberry, 115
  19. ^ Roper, 245


  • Arberry, A.J. (1960). Oriental Essays. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Irwin, Robert (1994). The Arabian Nights: A Companion. London: Allen Lane.
  • Irwin, Robert (2006). For Lust of Knowing. London: Allen Lane.
  • Lane, Edward William (1973 [1860]). An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. With a new introduction by John Manchip White. New York: Dover Publications.
  • Roper, Geoffrey (1998). "Texts from Nineteenth-Century Egypt: The Role of E. W. Lane", in Paul and Janet Starky (eds) Travellers in Egypt, London; New York: I.B. Tauris, pp. 244–254.
  • Thompson, Jason (1996). "Edward William Lane's 'Description of Egypt'". International Journal of Middle East Studies, 28 (4): 565-583.


  • Ahmed, Leila (1978). Edward W Lane. London: Longman.
  • Lane-Poole, Stanley (1877). Life of Edward William Lane. London: Williams and Norgate.
  • Thompson, Jason (2010). Edward William Lane: The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and Orientalist, 1801-1876. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

External links

Ab (Semitic)

Ab or Av (related to Akkadian abu), sometimes Abba, means "father" in most Semitic languages.

Arabic-English Lexicon

The Arabic–English Lexicon is an Arabic–English dictionary compiled by Edward William Lane (died 1876). It was published in eight volumes during the second half of the 19th century. It consists of Arabic words defined and explained in the English language. But Lane does not use his own knowledge of Arabic to give definitions to the words. Instead, the definitions are taken from older Arabic dictionaries, primarily medieval Arabic dictionaries. Lane translates these definitions into English, and he carefully notes which dictionaries are giving which definitions.

In 1842, Lane, who had already won fame as an Arabist for his Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians and his version of the One Thousand and One Nights, received a sponsorship from Lord Prudhoe, later Duke of Northumberland, to compile an Arabic–English dictionary.Lane set to work at once, making his third voyage to Cairo to collect materials in the same year. Since the Muslim scholars there were reluctant to lend manuscripts to Lane, the acquisition of materials was commissioned to Ibrahim Al-Dasuqi (1811–1883), a graduate of Azhar and a teacher in Boulaq. In order to collect and collate the materials, Lane stayed in Cairo for seven years, working arduously with little rest and recreation. The acquisition of materials, which took 13 years, was left in the hands of Al-Dasuqi when Lane returned to England in 1849.

Back to England, Lane continued to work on the dictionary with zeal, complaining that he was so used to the cursive calligraphy of his Arabic manuscripts that the Western print strained his eyes. He had arrived at the letter Qāf, the 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet, when he died in 1876.Lane's lexicon is based on medieval Arabic dictionaries plus the dictionary Taj al-ʿArus ("Crown of the Bride") by al-Zabidi which was completed in the early 19th century. In total, 112 lexicographic sources are cited in the work. Lane also read widely in order to provide examples for the entries.The lexicon was designed to consist of two "Books" or Divisions: one for the common, classical words, another for the rare ones. Volume I of the First Division was published in 1863; Volume II in 1865; Volume III in 1867; Volumes IV and V in 1872. A total of 2,219 pages were proofread by Lane himself. Lane's great-nephew Stanley Lane-Poole published Volumes VI, VII and VIII from 1877–1893 using Lane's incomplete notes left behind him. Those later volumes are sketchy and full of gaps. In total, the First Division comprises 3,064 pages. Nothing has come out of the planned Second Division. Thus the work has never been completed.Lane's work focuses on classical vocabulary, thus later scholars found it necessary to compile supplements to the work for post-classical usage, such as the Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes (1881; 2nd ed., 1927) by the Dutch Arabist Reinhart Dozy; also, the Wörterbuch der klassischen arabischen Sprache, being published from 1970 onwards by the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, starts from Kāf, thus supplementing Lane's work in effect.The first draft of the lexicon, as well as the whole Taj al-ʿArus copied by Al-Dasuqi for Lane in 24 volumes, are now preserved in the British Library.

Description de l'Égypte (disambiguation)

Description de l'Égypte is the title of several books.

Description de l'Égypte - Description de l'Égypte ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'expédition de l'armée française Pub; First Edition (23 books), L'Imprimerie Imperiale, 1809-1813; l'Imprimerie Royale, 1817-1822. Pub; Second Edition (37 books), Charles Louis Fleury Panckoucke, Paris, 1821-1830.

Description de l'Égypte - Description de l'Égypte, contenant plusieurs remarques curieuses sur la Geographie ancienne et moderne de ce pais.... Benoît de Maillet and Jean-Baptiste Le Mascrier Pub; Louis Genneau and Jacques Rollin, Paris, 1735.

Description of Egypt - Description of Egypt; Notes and views in Egypt and Nubia made during the years 1825-1828, Edward William Lane Pub; The American University in Cairo Press, 2000 (This manuscript lay dormant in the British Library for 170 years)


"Hamra'" (Arabic "حمراء", "the red" or "of the colour termed red" or, "enduring" as in "tolerant" or "enduring to bear difficulty" when referring to a she-camel) is the feminine noun deriving from the triletteral Arabic root "ح م ر" which is read as "ḥā mīm rā"; Arabic words derived from triletteral roots have many meanings which are grammatically qualified by the context of their application . Triletteral roots constitute the basic morphemes from which Arabic words are formed. The masculine word "Ahmar" or "احمر" is rendered feminine by the addition of "اء", called the "alif Mamdūdah", at the end of the noun .

Islam and cats

The domestic cat is a revered animal in Islam. Admired for its cleanliness as well as for being loved by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the cat is considered "the quintessential pet" by Muslims.


Jinn (Arabic: الجن‎, al-jinn), also Romanized as djinn or Anglicized as genies (with the more broad meaning of spirits or demons, depending on source), are supernatural creatures in early pre-Islamic Arabian and later Islamic mythology and theology. Jinn are not a strictly Islamic concept; rather, they may be various pagan beings integrated into Islam. Since jinn are not inevitably evil (nor good), Islam was able to adapt spirits from other religions during its expansion.

Besides the jinn, Islam acknowledges the existence of demons (Shayāṭīn). The lines between demons and jinn are blurred, since malevolent jinn are also called shayāṭīn. However both Islam and non-Islamic scholarship generally distinguishes between angels, jinn and demons (shayāṭīn) as three different types of spiritual entities in Islamic traditions. The jinn are distinguished from demons, by that they can be both evil or good, while genuine demons are steeped in evil.In an Islamic context, the term jinn is used for both a collective designation for any supernatural creature and also to refer to a specific type of supernatural creature.


The khawal (plural khawalat) ar: خول was traditional 1911 native Egyptian male dancer cross-dressed in feminine attire and was popular up until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


Kurna (also Gourna, Gurna, Qurna, Qurnah or Qurneh) are various spelling for a group of three closely related villages (New Qurna, Qurna and Sheikh ‘Adb el-Qurna) located on the West Bank of the River Nile opposite the modern city of Luxor in Egypt near the Theban Hills.

New Qurna was designed and built in the late 1940s and early 1950s by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy to house people living in Qurna which is now uninhabited. New Qurna was added to the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites to bring attention to the site's importance to modern town planning and vernacular architecture due to the loss of much of the original form of the village since it was built.

Orientalism (book)

Orientalism is a 1978 book by Edward W. Said, in which the author discusses Orientalism, defined as the West's patronizing representations of "The East"—the societies and peoples who inhabit the places of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. According to Said, orientalism (the Western scholarship about the Eastern World) is inextricably tied to the imperialist societies who produced it, which makes much Orientalist work inherently political and servile to power.According to Said, in the Middle East, the social, economic, and cultural practices of the ruling Arab élites indicate they are imperial satraps who have internalized the romanticized "Arab Culture" created by French, British and, later, American Orientalists; the examples include critical analyses of the colonial literature of Joseph Conrad, which conflates a people, a time, and a place into a narrative of incident and adventure in an exotic land.The critical application of post-structuralism in the scholarship of Orientalism influenced the development of literary theory, cultural criticism, and the field of Middle Eastern studies, especially regarding how academics practice their intellectual enquiry when examining, describing, and explaining the Middle East. The scope of Said's scholarship established Orientalism as a foundation text in the field of post-colonial culture studies, which examines the denotations and connotations of Orientalism, and the history of a country's post-colonial period.As a public intellectual, Edward Said debated Orientalism with historians and scholars of area studies, notably, the historian Bernard Lewis, who described the thesis of Orientalism as "anti-Western". For subsequent editions of Orientalism, Said wrote an "Afterword" (1995) and a "Preface" (2003) addressing criticisms of the content, substance, and style of the work as cultural criticism.


The Qarmatians (Arabic: قرامطة‎, translit. Qarāmiṭa; also transliterated Carmathians, Qarmathians, Karmathians) were a syncretic branch of Sevener Ismaili Shia Islam that combined elements of Zoroastrianism. They were centered in al-Hasa (Eastern Arabia), where they worked to create a religious utopian republic in 899 CE. They are most known for their revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate. Mecca was sacked by the sect’s leader, Abu Tahir al-Jannabi, outraging the Muslim world, particularly with their theft of the Black Stone and desecration of the Zamzam Well with corpses during the Hajj season of 930 CE.

Reginald Lane Poole

Reginald Lane Poole, FBA (1857–1939) was a British historian. He was Keeper of the Archives and a lecturer in diplomacy at the University of Oxford, where he gave the Ford Lectures in 1912 on the subject of "The Exchequer in the Twelfth Century". Son of Edward Stanley Poole, the "Lane" in his surname comes from his paternal grandmother Sophia Lane Poole, author of An Englishwoman in Egypt (1844). He was the father of Austin Lane Poole (1889–1963), also a historian and Ford's Lecturer; the brother of the orientalist Stanley Lane-Poole; the nephew of Reginald Stuart Poole; and the great-nephew of Edward William Lane.He edited, among other works, with W. Hunt, Political History of England (twelve volumes, 1905–10).His works include:

History of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (1880)

Illustrations of the History of Modern Thought (1884)

Wycliffe and Movements for Reform (1889)

Historical Atlas of Modern Europe (1897–1902)

Lectures on the History of the Papal Chancery (1915)

Richard James Lane

Richard James Lane (16 February 1800 – 21 November 1872) was a prolific English Victorian engraver and lithographer. The National Portrait Gallery has some 850 lithographs of his portraits and figure studies, done between 1825 and 1850. The images include portraits of royalty, society notables and theatre personalities.

Sophia Lane Poole

Sophia Lane Poole (1804–1891) was an English orientalist.

She was the estranged wife of Edward Poole and sister of the famous orientalist Edward William Lane, who suggested that she and her sons join him in Egypt so that she could report on the female side of Egypt's gender-segregated society. The result was her book of letters The Englishwoman in Egypt: Letters from Cairo (subtitled written during a residence there in 1842). She wrote that

The opportunities I might enjoy of obtaining an insight into the mode of life of the higher classes of the ladies in this country, and of seeing many things highly interesting in themselves, and rendered more so by their being accessible only to a lady, suggested to him the idea that I might both gratify my own curiosity and collect much information of a novel and interesting nature, which he proposed I should embody in a series of familiar letters to a friend.

Like her brother, Poole adopted local customs and dress in order to gain acceptance in Egyptian social circles. An Egyptian acquaintance of Edward Lane wrote that his household consisted of his mother and sister, "[both of whom] always wore the Egyptian dress, and never left the house except heavily swathed and veiled. The Sheykh al-Dessouki, who frequented Lane’s house regularly, never saw their faces." However, Poole herself hated veiling, and writes that she veiled only in order to gain access to harems, bathhouses, and other "women-only" areas.

She died on 6 May 1891 at the home of her eldest son, Reginald Stuart Poole (1822–1895), at the British Museum, and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery. Another son, Edward Stanley Poole (1830–1867), became an Arabic scholar and editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Stanley Lane-Poole

Stanley Edward Lane-Poole (18 December 1854 – 29 December 1931) was a British orientalist and archaeologist. His uncle was Edward William Lane.


The tambourine is a musical instrument in the percussion family consisting of a frame, often of wood or plastic, with pairs of small metal jingles, called "zills". Classically the term tambourine denotes an instrument with a drumhead, though some variants may not have a head at all. Tambourines are often used with regular percussion sets. They can be mounted, for example on a stand as part of a drum kit (and played with drum sticks), or they can be held in the hands and played by tapping or hitting the instrument.

Tambourines come in many shapes with the most common being circular. It is found in many forms of music: Turkish folk music, Greek folk music, Italian folk music, classical music, Persian music, samba, gospel music, pop music, country music, and rock music.

Thieves' guild

A thieves' guild is a concept in fantasy fiction consisting of a formal association of criminals who participate in theft-related organized crime. Examples appear in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story "Thieves' House" by Fritz Leiber, and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Though these more modern works are fictitious, there are real world examples as well, such as Jonathan Wild and his gang of thieves.

Translations of One Thousand and One Nights

The translations of One Thousand and One Nights have been made into virtually every major language of the world. They began with the French translation by Antoine Galland (titled Les mille et une nuits, finished in 1717). Galland's translation was essentially an adapted Arabic manuscript of Syrian origins and oral tales recorded by him in Paris from a Maronite Arab from Aleppo named Youhenna Diab or Hanna Diab.The first English translation appeared in 1706 and was made from Galland's version; being anonymous, it is known as the Grub Street edition. It exists in two known copies kept in the Bodleian Library and in the Princeton University Library. Since then several English reissues appeared simultaneously in 1708. As early as the end of the 18th century the English translation based on Galland was brought to Halifax, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York and Sydney. Galland-based English translations were superseded by that made by Edward William Lane in 1839–41. In the 1880s an unexpurgated and complete English translation, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, was made by Richard Francis Burton.

The original scattered Arabic texts were collected in four corpuses: the so-called Calcutta I or the Shirwanee Edition (1814–18, 2 volumes), Bulaq or the Cairo Edition (1835, 2 volumes), Breslau Edition (1825–38, 8 volumes) and Calcutta II or the W.H. Macnaghten Edition (1839–42, 4 volumes). Some translations starting from Galland were censored due to lewd content.


Tâb is the Egyptian name of a running-fight board game played in several Muslim (mostly Arab) countries, and a family of similar board games played in North Africa (as sîg) and Western Asia, from Iran to West Africa and from Turkey to Somalia, where a variant called deleb is played. The rules and boards can vary widely across the region though almost all consist of boards with three or four rows. A reference to "at-tâb wa-d-dukk" (likely a similar game) occurs in a poem of 1310 CE.


The zummárah-bi-soan (or sumara-el-kurbe) is a type of small Egyptian double-chantered bagpipe made from a goatskin. An 1871 Western source noted that it is "sometimes, but rarely, seen in Egypt." The South Kensington museum also noted the term zouggarah as an Egyptian Arabic term for a bagpipe.

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